Krishna Das, "the chantmaster of American yoga," brings his spiritual practice to Seattle's Moore Theatre on March 24.
Any conversation with Krishna Das is bound to touch on chanting, but it also might detour into Southern blues, or Jimi Hendrix. Called the “chant master of American yoga,” Das has turned his spiritual practice of kirtan — chanting the names of the divine masters — into a career that sees him perform 200 live dates a year. He opens his latest tour in Seattle at the Moore on March 24.
Das would argue with the idea of calling it a “career,” however: “I just seek to share my practice,” he says. “I’m not really trying to expand my audience, but I’m happy when people respond.”
Many are responding, even beyond traditional yoga circles, and Das has generated sales of more than 300,000 albums. He counts Madonna and Rick Rubin among his fans, and he’s collaborated with Sting, and Mike D of the Beastie Boys.
A new release this month titled “Heart As Wide As The World,” should increase that fan base, and appeal to anyone who loves great singing. Most of his chants are traditional, but on the new album he segues several western songs, including a version of the Yardbirds “For Your Love.” “It just happened that one day I started singing that song,” he says. “It was only later that I found out we had to pay the original songwriters when we recorded it.”
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He says chanting is often misunderstood as religion. “The way I do it, it is not a religious practice, but a spiritual one,” he says. “It’s not religious because you don’t have to believe anything. A lot of people have difficulty trusting their own hearts and feelings. One of the things chanting does is to give a very immediate sense of release from the daily grind.”
His previous venues in Seattle have ranged from intimate yoga studios to churches, but all are audience-participation events. This tour he’s sharing a bill with Deva Premal and Miten, so his set will run 90 minutes, which will shorten some of the chants. “It’s a space that deepens as people go on,” he says.
Das discovered meditation and yoga in the late ’60s through a connection with other seekers like Ram Das. Before that shift, he played in a few rock ‘n’ roll bands in New York City, including an early version of Blue Oyster Cult.
And it was in that era when Das first saw Jimi Hendrix perform. “He was calling himself Jimmy James at the time, and playing at the Café Wha. It was amazing.” In homage, Das says maybe his Seattle audience might get a snippet of Hendrix in chant form. “Maybe a bit of ‘Little Wing?’ ” he jokes. That would be heavenly.