Mantras, Bhajans and Kirtan
Kirtan (Sanskrit: कीर्तन) is a form of meditation through music, where we chant Sanskrit mantras and accompany them with melodies, often through Bhajans, which are call-and-response chants with one person or perhaps two leading, and the rest of the group (chorus) listening and echoing with their response.
My Kirtan journey began at the Yoga Sanctuary in Southampton in 2010 and when I moved to Austria in 2016, I found myself missing Kirtan desperately, so I helped to found a group of yogis and musicians called Valley Kirtaniyas (now Valley Kirtaniya Sangha), where we share our love of music and mantra from the Indian Bhakti tradition. It's all about vibration and stillness. You can find us at on Facebook:
Kirtan is a devotional practice, usually chanting the words of deities (or many names of the divine) and mantras to open our hearts and to melt into stillness between bhajans. Jai Uttal, a leader of Kirtans worldwide for at least 30 thirty years says that, "these ancient chants, contain a transformative power and healing energy. By singing these prayers we join a stream of consciousness and devotion that has been flowing for centuries."
In 2019 and 2020, I have been lucky enough to have shared Kirtan on retreat with the Satsang Foundation in Switzerland, at Ecstatic Dance St. Gallen, also in Switzerland and at Yogafestival Bodensee with Johannes Vogt & Friends in Germany.
I am very blessed to be a harmonium and singing student of Manish Vyas, whose musical genius and devotion are just hugely inspiring: https://www.manishvyas.com/
The seeds of kirtan can be found in Vedic literature, thousands of years old, mentioned in a quote from the Bhagavata Purana, an ancient Indian text: "My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the holy name of God, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom" (12.3.51). Kirtan was brought to the masses by Sri Chaitanya (believed to be an incarnation of Krishna), who founded the sankirtana movement.