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Krishna Das is a vocalist from the United States of America. He was born Jeffrey Kagel in 1947. He is famous for compositions and performances in a music genre known as kirtan. He has released eleven albums since he started his music career in 1996. Das is the most famous American singer of the kirtan genre of Hindu music. Even though the music style is not very famous, he has sold more than 300,000 albums worldwide.
His versatility and creativity are the main reasons why his music is famous in the western countries and certain regions of eastern countries (Dwyer and Cole 39). His prowess is evident form the number of records sold and albums produced in a genre that is not common among artists in the world.
Das was born in the year 1947 in New Hyde Park, Long Island. In his childhood days, he learned to play several musical instruments such as piano, cornet, and baritone euphonium. He was an active music participant in high school, and played the euphonium as a member of the Marching Band (Titon 46).
The first genre of music that he was interested in was rock ‘n’ roll. In his teenage days, he became involved in basketball, which he played during the day. However, during the night, he attended music concerts by artists such as Skip James and Bukka White.
His interest in music intensified when he joined Stony Brook University (Titon 48). He joined a group of young people and formed a band but later separated from them. Afterwards, he joined the State University at New Paltz to study Eastern philosophy. However, he dropped from the university after a short period.
However, his stint at the university was fruitful because he met Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher who influenced him significantly (Propp, 51). At one time in his life, Das found himself at crossroads. His childhood friends invited him to join their band. On the other hand, his spiritual teacher invited him for spiritual lessons.
He chose to follow Dass, and they both travelled to India in 1970. He participated in several pilgrimages together with his spiritual teacher. He learnt Bhakti yoga and as a result started to chant hymns (Propp 53). After two years in India, he returned to America on a short visit with intentions to return.
However, after the news of the death of his yoga teacher, he decided to stay in America. To fight grief, he practiced yoga and joined other artists to form a band called Amazing Grace (Propp 53). The band performed and recorded several Indian songs. Das also formed a recording studio known as Triloka Records.
Style of music
Das specializes in Hindu devotional music popularly known as kirtan. Kirtan involves singing while chanting the name of God (Titon 62). He is known for his expertise in combining traditional Hindu chants with modern instrumentation and melodies. As a result, he has been labeled as a rock star.
His style of music has made him the best-selling chant artist in the world. In other instances, he mixes chanting with rock ‘n’ roll. For example, his album titled Heart As Wide As the World was produced by incorporating aspects of both kirtan and rock ‘n’ roll (Titon 63). His music style incorporates several aspects of western music such as chord progressions and instrumentation.
His performances start at a slow pace and gradually grow into fast chants. Chanting is an important aspect of Devotional Yoga that characterizes kirtan. In some cases, his performances start with devotional chants that are accompanied with instrumentation, and later followed by chants without accompaniment. Some performances include yoga teachers who guide participants in sessions of devotional meditation.
Das had produced 11 albums since he started his musical career in 1996. His first album was titled One Track Heart. It included chants from traditional Bhakti yoga. The second album was titled Pilgrim Heart and was produced in 1998 (Dwyer and Cole 44). It featured an artist known as Sting. His third album was titled Line on Breath while the firth album was titled Breath of the Heart.
The fifth album, Door of Faith, was released in 2003. Three years later, the album All One was released. The album is a remake of the mantra of Hare Krishna that combines contemporary styles and South African traditional styles. Other albums include Gathering In the Light, Flow Of Grace: Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, Heart Full of Soul, Heart As Wide As the World, and Live Ananda (Dwyer and Cole 45).
Flow of Grace was released in 2006 as both a book and a CD. It contained chants from Hanuman Chalisa, and an Indian hymn. Among his albums, Heart Full of Soul is the most unique because it includes songs that were recorded in live performances. Das has sold more than 300,000 albums around the world (Dwyer and Cole 46).
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His music is more famous and widely accepted in the west than in other parts of the world. Hearts as Wide as World was released in 2010 and it was reminiscent of his youthful days. It explores the development of his music style through fusion of rock ‘n’ roll and certain concepts of Indian spirituality (Dwyer and Cole 47). The album also contains several songs that incorporate both eastern and western instrumentation styles.
Das has influenced many artists significantly. His influence in kirtan motivated fellow musicians including Sting and Hans Christian to produce music together with him. Other artists that he influenced include Prana, Mike D, Stanley Jordan, and Baird Hersey.
He has produced music with many artists whom he influenced with his unique style of chanting. Das is one of the most significant artists in the kirtan genre of music (Dwyer and Cole 69). He is considered to be the greatest artist who has contributed to the growth of the genre. His inclusion of instruments and melodies has contributed towards evolving the genre, which has increased its acceptance in the west.
The musical contributions and achievements of Das are numerous. He has contributed significantly in the evolution of the kirtan genre of music. Since launching a career in music in 1996, Das has produced eleven albums. He has collaborated with different artists including Prana and Baird Hersey. His style of music incorporates kirtan chants with modern instrumentation and melodies.
Das has been labeled as a rock star because of his revolutionary and versatile style of music. His achievements include emerging the best selling kirtan artist and nomination for Grammy Awards. He has influenced many artists and has great influence in the kirtan genre. He is a versatile artist because he possesses the ability to incorporate several music styles into his own style without altering it.
Dwyer, Graham, and Cole Richard. (2013). Hare Krishna in the Modern World. New York: Arktos, 2013. Print.
Propp, Steven. After the New Age: A Novel about Alternative Spiritualities. New York: iUniverse, 2008. Print.
Titon, Jeff. Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World’ People. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.