Music benefits our body, our mind, and our soul. It’s been proven. Now, the sound of music will have an even greater impact than its listeners. All profits of Bhakti Without Borders will support 1500 impoverished girls at three schools in Vrindavan, India, the town that gave birth to the increasingly popular genre of Kirtan.
This is the We Are The World for the Kirtan community, and its global hues are inescapable. Executive producer, Madi Das, blends melodies from the East Indian Bhakti tradition with the folk, bluegrass and country elements of traditional American and Irish music.
“Most people visit India, and they take something from this country,” says Das. “But with this album, we want to give something back.” 100 percent of profits from album sales will be donated to Food for Life Vrindavan, a humanitarian aid organization working in the poorest villages surrounding the holy city, birthplace of Krishna.
Available on iTunes May 12, Bhakti Without Borders, features Das and 11 female vocalists singing ten mantra prayers. A release concert featuring Das and several of the female vocalists, who hail from all parts of the globe, will take place May 9 at Veda Yoga in Los Angeles. All cuts were written and arranged by Das and Dave Stringer who is considered one of the most innovative artists of the new Kirtan movement. Stringer will also perform at the launch party.
Grammy nominated Kirtan artist, Jai Uttal, commented, “Love [this] CD!!! It’s so full of light! I wish I was on it!!! A beautiful offering of heart, love, soul, and deep devotion.”
Born in Germany, Madi Das grew up in the Vaishnava tradition of Bhakti Yoga. He spent eight years in India before he moved to Ireland, and then the U.S. His life experience embodies a world of music traditions, and he is at home in both the devotional world of ashrams and the promotional world of film studios.
“My involvement sprang from a desire to use my talent to create an album that could grow into something bigger than the initial audible experience, something that could continue to effect change long after the music stopped,” says Das. The project took more than a year to complete. Relatively little, compared to what has already been invested by volunteers in Vrindavan.
Back in 1990, B.B. Govinda Swami began an outreach program serving rice to people on pilgrimages. The next year, they expanded their services to include daily meals for Vrindavan’s widows, and 100 elderly saddhus (religious renunciates). By 1995, the program multiplied to serve mid-day meals in 53 village schools. In 2001, in light of the increasing number of child beggars, Food for Life established ad hoc educational programs. The next year, the Sandipani Muni School opened on a small property. The needs of the community forced them to build a larger facility.
Today, Food for Life Vrindavan’s schools provide education for 1,500 children, most of whom are female. As a result of local cultural biases, girls receive less food, education and medical care than their male counterparts. For many, the food they eat at school will be their only meal of the day. Without support, these minors would need to start working to support their families before being married off at an early age. It’s not uncommon for girls in this region to be forced into marriage while still a pre-teen.
For many of the girls who attend the Food for Life schools, their lives are indelibly changed for the better. Beyond learning to read and write, they are given nutritious, clean food, provided with clean uniforms, and the non-profit also works with the families to discourage child matrimony. Their mind, body and spirits are nourished, and their characters blossom.
“Kirtan started in the streets,” says Stringer. “Ecstasy is extremely contagious.” He and Das are hoping this new passion project of theirs will spread quickly and deeply, to raise as much as possible to improve the future of the underprivileged girls in Vrindavan. While many changes have been made, the needs are still dire.
Guru Nanak, spiritual leader of Sikhs, in 1500, acknowledged the need to lift the level of respect for females in the Hindu-Pakistani subcontinent. “From her, kings are born. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.”
Das encourages people to donate directly to Food for Life, above and beyond the modest price of the album donation. As the father of young children, he recognizes that they “were so ridiculously privileged compared to the Vrindavan kids I grew up with,” which is why he was inspired to lend his voice and music production experience in a way that would benefit those less fortunate.
Certified Yoga Instructor and Therapist
Depending on one’s avocation and training, a Yoga Therapist can be a cross between an Ayurvedic consultant, Acupuncturist, Acupressurist, Physical Therapist, Psychotherapist, Nutritionist and Myofascial Remodeler.
A graduate of Yandara Institute’s 200 hour Certified Yoga Teacher program, Deborah Charnes pulls her knowledge from all the above, along with her many decades of experience with hatha yoga, meditation, bhakti (devotional chanting) and pranayama (deep breathing) to help her clients live their lives to the fullest. She was trained in Ayurvedic massage therapy,
Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking, and personalized Ayurvedic treatment plans at Sivananda Ashram in India. In addition to the Ayurveda certification, she holds certification in Yin Therapy, Restorative Yoga Therapy and Yoga Nidra Therapy, Acupressure and Reiki. She is currently completing her 700 hour certification in accordance with the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Deborah understands firsthand the physical symptoms that can arise from a stressful life, along with the solution.
Through adherence to the multiple branches of Ashtanga yoga Deborah has reduced her blood sugar level and nearly eradicated decades of chronic GI and lower back pain. As a teenager, she recognized the value of deep breathing, deep stretching, along with deep sips of herbal tea to lessen the outer influences and maintain a more positive and peaceful state of mind. For the last few years, she has been working with people of all ages and with many physical or emotional challenges to improve their level of health, and reduce stress, through simple techniques that can be practiced anywhere and anytime.
Off the mat, she is a contributing author of two university public relations textbooks, maintains a travel blog on mysa.com, publishes her own yoga blogs at www.TheNamasteCounsel.com and writes health-related articles for many other media outlets.
Deborah is a graduate of the University of Illinois, and attended UNAM in Mexico City. She teaches in both English and Spanish.