Kirtan or devotional chanting is a prominent part of Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion. Many westerners have been influenced and touched by Hinduism, specially by the Indian Guru Neem Karoli Baba. One such inspirational story is that of Jeffrey Kagel or Krishna Das as he is now more famously known. Krishna Das is a Grammy nominated vocalist who has seventeen albums on devotional music to his credit.
Jeffrey Kagel was born to Jewish parents in 1947 but was very intrigued by Hinduism and began reading various books on it. He met with Ram Dass, the spiritual teacher, and went on to spend three years in the ashram of Neem Karoli Baba, where he was introduced to devotion and “Kirtan”. This was the starting of a life long journey on the path of the Yoga of devotion or Bhakti. On his return to America, he developed his own unique style of Kirtan mixing traditional kirtan with western harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities.
“As the mantras changed me, as they got deeper into me, they began to come out of me in a way that’s more natural to this incarnation. The chants took on different shapes—much more Western shapes. I didn’t do that on purpose. It was a natural evolution.”
Today, Krishna Das travels around the world leading Kirtans. The New York Times described him as the “Chant master of American Yoga” and was referred as the “Rockstar of Yoga” by the Grammys . His album Live Ananda (2012) was nominated for the 2013 Grammy Award for the “Best New Age Album” where he performed as well. He has his own music label “Krishna Das Music” and also founded the “Kirtan Wallah Foundation” dedicated to spreading the teachings of his spiritual master.