kirtanMINNEAPOLIS IS AT the forefront of the Midwest kirtan movement. Kirtan is a musical form of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. The music is dynamic, inspiring and participatory.

Kirtan originated as the folk music of India, and it consists of singing ancient Sanskrit mantras set to both traditional and original melodies and spanning many different musical genres, including jazz, rock and folk. The intent is to repeat tones and mantras to clear the mind, the heart and the body.

Many people are called to this music, and there is a strong movement building in the West of this traditionally Eastern music genre. Concerts involve a kirtan leader and/or band guiding participants through a series of songs that build in energy, momentum and tempo, until an ecstatic, joyful collective song emerges. Then the song, or “bhajan,” winds down and ends leaving space for a sweet, silent meditation. This music doesn’t require experience or a confident singing voice. It is about connecting with both your own spirit and the community around you. The effects are greater clarity, freedom of expression, peace of mind and interconnection.

With those results, it’s no wonder that the kirtan movement is spreading fast.

This year’s festival
The 5th Annual Twin Cities Kirtan Fest will take place on Saturday, March 8, from 3-11 p.m. at a new venue, Solomon’s Porch, located at 100 W. 46th St., Minneapolis.

This year’s festival features internationally touring musician, Dave Stringer (www.davestringer.com), who has been profiled as one of the most innovative artists of the new Kirtan movement in publications all over the world. His sound marries the transcendent mysticism of traditional Indian instruments with the exuberant, groove-oriented sensibility of American gospel.

The festival also will include Minneapolis bands Sitara & Kalyani with Pavan Kumar, Kirtan Path, Om Bolo! and Mahajapa.

Ticket prices for the entire event are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. “Evening Only” passes are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The evening events begin at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets — available at www.RaisingTheConsciousness.com — are encouraged as space is limited.

The 2014 Twin Cities Kirtan Fest is sponsored by local businesses Mammaste, Tree of Life Yoga, The Edge magazine, Yoga North, Yoga Prairie and Spark Wellness. It is through the support of these wonderful businesses, and the efforts of our community, that we are able to bring participants the joyful experience of kirtan and continue to bless this community with the gift of music.

Moving forward
I am a part of Raising the Consciousness, the production company that produces the Twin Cities Kirtan Fest, along with Keith Helke and Colleen Buckman. We have devoted our lives to community building, healing work, and bringing forward more kirtan and conscious music to the planet. We have chosen to create events and opportunities for the community because we are devoted to this global consciousness. We are assisted by a dedicated team of volunteers, like longtime helpers Carrie Mahoney and Lauren Uecker, who make this event successful.

Raising the Consciousness is dedicated to exposing our community to local and regional bands — and internationally touring musicians including Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band, Dave Stringer and Deva Premal — as well as expanding kirtan as an art form.

Many local bands play for their largest audiences when they are first invited to participate in this festival, and the hope is that bands continue to independently grow their audiences and then cross-pollinate at the Fest, exposing kirtan participants to the various gifts of music that this community has to offer.

The event also aims to serve the greater community. A portion of proceeds has been donated over the years to Minneapolis charities, as well as Be the Change, a local non-profit that distributes funds directly to many international organizations.

Susan Shehata assists clients in transforming the space around and the space within, through feng shui, music, holistic healing and spiritual coaching. She is co-owner of Shift Home & Lifestyle, a lifestyle transformation business. Raising the Consciousness, the media and events arm of her business, produces a radio show, the Twin Cities Kirtan Festival, as well as many other healing and music events that inspire global change through individual action. As a musician, Susan focuses on musical theatre and kirtan.

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