What is the purpose of the new Kirtan Course at Radhadesh and what is it`s significance for devotees?
Krishna Kshetra Swami: Kirtan is our most essential activity. We have sravanam – hearing and kirtanam – chanting or glorifying the Lord. This is the movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in late 15th, early 16th century Bengal. He spread the chanting of the holy name, especially the Hare Krishna mantra all over India and it`s now being spread all over the world. In order to help facilitate this spreading process, musical ability in the practice of kirtan, following the tradition of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Bengali kirtan is very much wanted. Srila Prabhupada himself had some of his devotees actually rehearsing, practicing together. His intention was that they then travel worldwide and perform kirtan in an attractive way. So the Kirtan Course is a beginning attempt for Krishna devotees in the West to get some systematic training in this very nice tradition. It has run for the first time this summer in Radhadesh, Belgium with 10 to 12 students, devotees staying for a period of seven weeks, engaging fulltime in practice with resident teachers who are very qualified in their own musical practice of singing, playing instruments, especially mridanga, karatals and harmonium.
In addition to the regular teachers who were there keeping everyone engaged throughout the day, there are visiting teachers. I was asked to be one of those visiting teachers for a period of five days and my function was to give a kind of overview of different elements of Indian music in the broadest sense. So we spent some time looking at the ancient Vedic tradition, out of which classical music comes. Then we considered north Indian and south Indian music, we played some samples of the different styles. We also looked at some of the folk traditions of Indian music including dance, the Rajastani practice and Kerala, some dance drama from Kerala. Then we spent time focusing more on the area of the tradition that we follow, the Bengal tradition, where we focused also on different famous poets and saints of the bhakti tradition widely understood – that means across from South India to North, from the Alvars to Mirabai, to Tukaram and Surdas and so on – in order to give a very broad picture of the wider and extremely rich tradition of Indian music.Next Kirtan Course: read more and registrations
It seemed that for a first time the venture was quite successful. The response of the students was very positive and these were a broad variety of students. Some older, some younger. Some with more experience, some with less experience in music. I was told several times by the local teachers that the group, as a group, had worked very well together. They were all very happily studying, learning, experiencing and practicing together. They all felt challenged, whether they were beginners or more advanced, to progress from whatever position they were. So, I think all in all it`s very promising and we`re looking forward to this program expanding in the future.