Deva Premal (“Divine Loving”) and Miten (“Friend of God”) have produced almost a dozen CDs, either individually or as a team, over the last decade. They have played privately for His Holiness The Dalai Lama, who described their music as “Beautiful, Beautiful music!” Often drawing on Sanskrit mantras, their contribution to contemporary kirtan is known far and wide.

Ilan Chester, known as Havi Das, enjoys commercial fame in Latin America. Known for a mix of pop, rock, and Latin styles, his distinct voice and keyboard expertise has won him numerous accolades, and he is currently dubbed, “The Billy Joel of Latin America.” With literally dozens of CDs consistently moving up the South American pop charts, his kirtan work is nearly overshadowed by his secular success. Nonetheless, kirtan is his first love.

Ragani’s name is now synonymous with kirtan. Focusing her work in her native Milwaukee, which is quickly becoming the kirtan capital of the U.S., she has led group chanting throughout the world, including India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Curacao. She has been featured on FOX and NBC affiliates and in numerous regional, national and international publications for her work with kirtan and yoga.

Recording artists Hans Christian and Kimberly Waters decided to make beautiful music together. The result is Rasa. Their music is based on Indian love songs from the Vaishnava tradition, sung in Sanskrit and Bengali and arranged with both Western and Indian instruments. Their award-winning CDs are now legendary on the kirtan circuit, with crossover sensibilities that speak to both New Age and classical audiences.

Sean Johnson is a kirtan powerhouse who brings together New Orleans soul and the spiritual chanting of ancient India. He has been featured in Yoga Journal, L.A. Yoga Magazine, Yoga Chicago Magazine, Yoga Life Magazine, Aura Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more . . . His music draws from multiple cultures and religions: Irish, Indian, Catholic, Buddhist, and Muslim, among others. He does his best to present kirtan in an ecumenical, non-sectarian way.

Jai Uttal is a pioneer in the world music community, using kirtan as a bridge to harmonize diverse cultures. His eclectic East-meets-West approach, with his virtuoso singing and musical dynamism, has put him at the forefront of the world fusion movement. His kirtan CDs, particularly “Shiva Station,” have garnered awards and praise and have virtually made “kirtan” a household word.

Born in London, Vaiyasaki Das came of age in Winnipeg, Canada, and after many years in the music business—and a personal search for the divine—he is now one of the premier singers on the kirtan circuit. Starting out as a rock and blues guitarist with a penchant for vocals, his taste for Indian culture came early on. Eventually, he was initiated by Srila Prabhupada and served his mission. Living in both Bangladesh and West Bengal, he absorbed the moods and techniques of authentic kirtan, and today he shares his accomplishments with the world.

Shyamdas, born Stephen Schaffer, took the long journey from 1960s Jewish hippie to representative of a well-established Vaishnava lineage—the Vallabha Sampradaya. Having lived in India for more than thirty-five years, he fully imbibed the culture and teachings of this esoteric tradition and now shares it with the rest of the world through kirtan. His workshops, books, and CDs have become standard in the kirtan world.

Bhakti Charu Swami, a native Bengali, was born in 1945 and spent most of his early life in urban Calcutta, where kirtan is a way of life. He gradually became an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, entering the sannyasa order of life. He soon became a leader in ISKCON and a spiritual master, with disciples around the world.

The name Patrick Bernard is virtually synonymous with New Age music and the healing effects of kirtan and devotional song. His music focuses on mood and emotion, attempting to evoke meditative states that are conducive to spiritual practices. His rich recordings use sacred chants—mainly from Sanskrit, Latin, and Hebrew—as a foil for contemporary music, using high-tech synthesized multi-choral progressions and numerous acoustic instruments.

Publications as diverse as Time, Billboard, Yoga Journal and In Style have profiled Dave Stringer as one of the most innovative artists of the new American kirtan movement. His voice also appears on numerous soundtracks, including the blockbuster film “Matrix Revolutions” and the video game “Myst.” His CDs, including “Brink,” “Japa,” “Mala,” and “Divas & Devas”—are favorites in yoga studios throughout the world.

Dravida Das has an undeniable love for the Sanskrit language, especially the elaborate Sanskrit prosody of the Bhagavatam and other bhakti literature. He also has a pronounced taste for the devotional poetry of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, especially those chanted in complex meters. His expertise and unique abilities in this field have garnered for him international acclaim as a modern-day individualist in the kirtan world.

A practicing Sikh and Kundalini Yoga teacher, Snatam Kaur is a singer and musician of increasing world renown. Her music mixes Western melodies with Indian rhythms and moods, using mantras from the Kundalini Yoga tradition as well as her own Sikh-inspired lyrics. She frequently tours the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia, where she is well known as an accomplished kirtan singer.

Kirtan personalities interviewed in The Yoga of Kirtan                     (Links)

In late 1966, when Joan Campanella was in her mid-twenties, she went to New York for her sister Jan’s wedding. Once there, she met Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who introduced her to the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Soon she became renowned in the kirtan world as Yamuna Devi—the voice on a George Harrison  produced Apple record, making “Hare Krishna” a number-one chant on music charts around the world.                                  

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Krishna Das is the unassuming icon of kirtan in the West. Yoga Journal famously dubbed him, “The Pavarotti of Kirtan,” and it is indeed impossible to spend any time in a yoga studio—whether in America or Europe—without hearing him call out to the divine, either by his personal presence in the form of a live concert. or through his many CDs, which inevitably resound through such studios as a matter of course.                              

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Susan Deikman, also called Yofiyah, is the founder of Hebrew or Kabbalistic Kirtan—an ecstatic mystical practice based on the chanting of God’s names and sacred Hebrew texts. She is also the creator of “Vocal Discovery,” an original method for personal transformation and community building, using the power of sound. Along similar lines, she began the Tone Deaf Choir, which helps self-defined non-singers overcome their perceived limitations.

Renowned for his melodious Gaudiya Vaishnava kirtan, Agni Dev sings traditional songs with multi-cultural accompaniment, using both Eastern and Western instruments. In addition to his soul-stirring vocals, he is a master of the mridanga (the double-headed Indian drum) and the harmonium.

David Newman, who is also known as Durga Das, is a triple threat: kirtan chant artist, singer songwriter, and a practicing yogi. His chanting evokes the ancient yogic tradition of sound as a tool for healing, and he contemporizes his methods with folksy song and modern musical know-how.

Sri Prahlad was born into kirtan. His father was a devotee of Krishna, a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and set him on his life’s path when he was only a child. Having received training in gurukula boarding schools around the world, Sri Prahlad received his most valuable experiences in Vrindavan and Mayapur, both of which are considered the most sacred of Indian holy places.

Born and raised in American ashrams, Karnamrita Dasi began studying Sanskrit, Braj-bhasha, bhajans, kirtan, and classical Indian music at an early age. Spending much of her time in Vrindavan, India, she is as much Indian as she is American—and her music reflects this fusion in an almost mystical way. Her landmark CD, “Dasi: Prayers by Women,” is dedicated to her highly devotional mother and to great Vaishnavis everywhere.

A professional musician for roughly 35 years, Keshav is now a kirtaniya of considerable renown, with a popular bhakti CD called “Barefoot in the Heart.” Today, he focuses on his privately owned East Village music establishment: Keshav Music Imports, which he opened as a service to musicians—particularly kirtan musicians.

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