In kirtan artist Michael Hathaway‘s debut album Awakening he’s crafted a 10-song album respectful of kirtan tradition yet innovative in both its use of modern instrumentation and production techniques and its deft integration of traditional Sanskrit mantra. He also includes a plethora of musical influences fused together, including Indian classical, rock, pop, psychedelia, jazz, and gospel.
The title Awakening evokes some of Hathaway’s own practice. At the end of his daily prayers, he includes the intention or pledge, as he says, “To use my gifts, assets, and abilities to be an agent of change and to facilitate awakening of the planet.” Additionally, he feels that he has gone through a personal journey of awakening through the practice of chanting, especially as he’s been sharing the practice more publicly by singing in yoga classes, through leading kirtans, and via this album. Hathaway says, “I feel that I’ve awakened to an authentic expression of myself and my soul purpose. My hope is that this music supports the listeners’ journey as well.”
Hathaway was introduced to devotional chant at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas in the late 1990s and it became a dedicated personal practice. While living in NYC, he attended his first Krishna Das event, which illuminated his path – propelling him headlong into the NYC kirtan community, and affording him the opportunity to sit with the likes of Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Shyamdas, Krishna Das, and others. These potent musical and spiritual experiences laid the groundwork for his path.
The album features the talents of Christopher Otazo and Manohar Gurung with an array of guest performers including C.C. White, Arjun Baba, Tulsi Devi, Malia Kulp, Ena Vie, and Sangeeta Kaur, who appear on whimsically lush and layered arrangements of compositions including “Gayatri Mantra,” “Lokah Samastah,” “Om Tryambakam,” “Shakti Ma,” “Saraswati,” and “Jaya Bhavani,” among others.
The devotional intensity soars throughout the album, peaking with the epic, 15-minute “Waking Dream,” an energetic ride that dances the listener through multiple rhythmic and emotional peaks interspersed with reverent, contemplative spaciousness, vibrational lifts, and ecstatic joy.
Awakening is an album for both kirtan lovers and the kirtan curious. Michael Hathaway’s robust musical offering travels the listener from sweet and dream-like hypnotic yearning, through fierce and heartfelt intensity, to joyful, reverent, celebration of spirit.
Joe Kara enjoys a double life working in music and teaching Yoga in Hollywood and the Valley. He plays a little bass, too. @JoeKaraYoga