ROOTS, ROCK, RAMA!
Love is the strongest medicine -Neem Karoli Baba
“I’m here to sing kirtan, to lead kirtan, to share kirtan, sing the names of God, play music,” says Jai Uttal. He’s talking as he loads his gear into the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon, for sound check. His performance will be the culmination of a three-day workshop called “Love in the Time of Chaos.”
Vital at 67 years old, Jai Uttal is nimble. “There are no sings of stopping anytime soon,” he laughs, and then laughs again. “Traveling is really hard for me,” he sits behind his harmonium center stage on a makeshift meditation cushion, sorting through a tangle of cords with his guitar on his lap. A big statue of Hanuman on the floor in front of him oversees the proceedings.
Moaning for God
“Being in front of an audience is really hard for me,” he says earnestly. “Because every time I’m about to go on a trip I’m moaning. During the kirtan, I’m moaning. Moaning for God!” he laughs, then laughs again. “I’m being honest,” he says.
Music and spiritual practice became concomitant when Jai met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, in 1971. The Indian saint and teacher Neem Karoli Baba was a proponent of Bhakti Yoga through kirtan (call-and-response chanting of sacred mantras). This practice would become the center of Jai’s musical and spiritual life.
Jai Uttal and the Field of Grace
Jai Uttal navigates in a field of grace, leaving a river of smiles in his wake as a general course of action. He has cleaved his legacy in devotion over the last five decades. Over these years, he has been chanting in small rooms and on big stages at festivals around the world, raising our vibration one mantra at a time.
He has released an endless stream of music since his first offering, Footprints, in 1990. With an acquired magnetism, he’s cultivated a substantial global following.
Award-winning journalist, documentary director and long-term LA Yoga contributor Sam Slovick is the director, writer and producer of the Radicalized documentary, currently working on the Kirtan Road Dogs documentary.