Monday, April 9, 2012
Last week, some friends and I went to a locak Yoga center top see Kirshna Das in concert. Not because I am a Hindu, or even because I have ever wanted to chant the Hare Krishna, but because kirtan involves common singing. I like singing. I am, however, aware that I'm only a small step up from those tuneless bastards that grab the microphone at Guitar Hero sessions, but that gets lost when there are a couple of hundred people singing. In the same way that a mass of votes is supposed to pull wisdom from the common people, common singing pulls a bearable tune out of people who are at best mediocre singers.
But communal singing is also powerfully human. Virtually every religion on Earth practices communal singing, because it appeals to us in a social level. When we sing together, we are all part of the tribe. Our differences disappear, because we are all singing the same thing, contributing parts to a whole.
It helps that Krishna Das sings from a different tradition than the one I grew up in, so I wasn't expecting lyrics that had emotional baggage, or even a language I understood. Krishna Das performs his own aspect on the kirtan, the Hindu chanting, in a call and response fashion, the names of god, and he mixes the traditional with more familiar Western tunes and styles. This makes it more accessible to the average American.
It was a popular event, so we waited in a hallway for about forty-five minutes, watching the people who were taking their yoga classes. And I began to write the scene in my head, and then started writing it as other writers. How would Brian Keene have evoked the scene? Nick Mamatas would have used the phrase "Cultural appropriation" at the very least, and probably a couple of times. Especially after Krishna Das played "Jesus on the Main Line."
But I wasn't seeking a religious experience. I wanted to sing and ohhhm with a bunch of people. And I have to say, I had a good time doing it.