Do you love to attend community kirtan, or listen to the devotional music that crops up at festivals from Wanderlust to Tadanasa to even Omega’s Ecstatic Chant? Do you own a harmonium, sitar, guitar, or any kind of synthesizer? Are you guilty of joining at least one drum circle?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above—even one—you’re in for a treat. Brooklyn-based singer Nina Rao just released a debut, double-album mix of devotional kirtan, bhajan, and Hanuman Chalisa chants called Antarayaami.
If you’re unfamiliar with Rao or the New York-area outlets she regularly performs at (like the donation-based Brooklyn outpost of many Dharma Yoga-trained teachers, the Brooklyn Yoga School), it’s time you got well acquainted. Since 1996, she’s worked as the assistant of chant master Krishna Das, also frequently assisting him with cymbals and vocals on tour.
That kind of dedication has long been mutual: notably, Krishna Das’s unmistakable, deep baritone-voice appears on the album in a duet entitled “Ocean of Ram Hanuman Chalisa.” But that isn’t the only story worth telling.
The album is also a much deeper reflection for Rao, who was initially introduced to devotional music at the age of 9. It was then she first learned traditional chants from her grandfather, in a village in South India. She was re-introduced to chanting and the yoga of devotion, bhakti, through Krishna Das—and currently bands together with seasoned artists like Ambika Cooper, Devadas Labrecque (equal parts kirtan artist, part producer of Antaryaami), and the founders of the Brooklyn Yoga School themselves, as part of the New York-based collective chant community, Vanaras.