Kirtan is Hindu sacred music that is comprised of Sanskrit words set to harmonies and melodies. Usually, the gods and goddesses are honored in the chants. The divine names are often sung as a call, with the leader singing the mantra, and response, as the community repeats the phrase. This style makes kirtan great for sing-alongs. The added benefit is that as they are invoked, the divine beings bestow energy upon us, help us overcome obstacles, catalyze change, provide protection, nourish our souls, and bring about our transformation.
On their first CD, our friends Ned Leavitt and Lynn Margileth have created a devotional masterwork that opens the heart and sends you on your way rejoicing. Ned is our literary agent and was a major force in launching our books Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life and Spiritual Rx: Prescriptions for a Meaningful Life. We have known and experienced the depth of his commitment to the spiritual life, and once we met Lynn, an artist whose work graces one of our walls, we knew they are kindred spirits. But nothing really prepared us for the beauty of their relationship and devotion that we discovered listening to this CD.
Lynn has been singing sacred music for as long as she can remember and her creativity in this medium comes to the fore in the lovely music she wrote for this CD. "Ganesha" came to her during a period of emotional challenge; as she leads the chant to the Hindu God known as the remover of obstacles, we feel the solace of sweet release. "Tara," calling for Tara's protection and intervention, was written after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. There is healing beauty in the vocals.
Ned has traveled a zigzag journey through playing trumpet, taking voice lessons, singing in choirs, and whirling as a spiritual practice: all before finding his home in Kirtan. Ned's vocals on "Om Namah Shivaya" are uplifting, and the music he wrote for the piece is a melodic tour de force! This version of the popular mantra is instantly singable. It had the effect on us of calming us down at the beginning like gentle rain, followed by a faster section that pulled us out of ourselves into the community singing with Ned.
"Shri Ram" is another powerful chant. It gains emotional clout when we read in the notes that Ned sang it to his dying father, a teacher, writer, and sax player. Joining in is Charlie Tokarz on saxophones and bass clarinet. "Shri" can be translated as "shimmering," and that's what this song is.
Ned and Lynn are joined on the album by some outstanding musicians, including Jai Uttal on Melodica, Wah! on violin and bass, Daniel Paul on tabla, John McDowell on African drums, and Steve Gorn on Basuri flute. We smiled when we heard David Darling's cello come in on "Ganesha, "On Namah Shivaya," and "Tara."
Bhakti Treasure is a spiritual journey of love and devotion. Ned & Lynn write on the notes accompanying the CD:
"We have fallen in love with this ancient practice of Kirtan. It has brought joy to us as a couple. We feel blessed to share this practice and through it, deepen our love. Another blessing is the extraordinary loving community of friends whose voices join with ours to express the longing for connection to divine love, protection and transformation. This is the true treasure greater than any gold."
Ned & Lynn add a blessing: "May these chants connect you to the treasure in your heart." Listen deeply, sing along, and, we promise, they will.