Kirtan is the repetitious chanting of, generally, Sanskrit text in a call-and-response fashion. This practice has a long history stemming back some 500 years. It is well known in India and has been popularized here in the US by such musicians as Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Bhagavan Das, and, more recently, Wah! and Shantala.
The practice of Kirtan is meant to clear or "deliver" the mind from consciousness, according to Kirtan.org. A Kirtan typically lasts for 30 minutes or longer. Chants oftentimes begin slowly, build up in pace and intensity, and then slow again to completion. Since the style and length of the chanting session is typically improvised, there are no hard and fast rules about how a Kirtan will be run.
Though Kirtan is associated with Hinduism and the chants usually contain the names of Hindu Gods and Godesses, there are many sects that engage in this practice including Buddhism and Sikhism - each incorporating their own mantras and names for God.
Indeed, "chanting" is well-known in the Christian faith, whether it is the rythmic repetition of the Hail Mary, the singing of a well-known hymn, or the reading of biblical stories in Latin. These are all forms of chanting that take the focus of the mind away from the external, physical world and bring it inward.
There are many opportunities to participate in Kirtan. You may click on the links above to see when these musicians are performing in your area. There are also groups in various communities that organize Kirtan events. Here in Madison, WI, one such organization is Ananda Kirtan. At the time of this writing, they are organizing a Kirtan event with Wah! coming up on May 2nd. If you live in this region, it is certainly an event worth planning to attend.
If you are not able to attend a Kirtan, there are many CDs available from the musicians listed above. I chant with a Siddha Yoga group and enjoy many of the chants available from their online bookstore. Of course, there are several CDs available at Amazon.com. Finally, you can Google the word "Kirtan", click on the "videos" link, and find some sample Kirtans on You Tube and other video sites.
I hope you get a chance to participate in a Kirtan soon. It is a wonderful experience that you will come away from feeling good about.
Thank you for reading,
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