Breath of the Heart

Breath of the Heart  
by Krishna Das
Karuna, 2001
(see below for ratings)


If my Momma had told me a decade ago that I would ever have the patience to sit through almost sixteen minutes of the Hare Krishna theme song, I would have taken her Mothers’ Day gift back to the mall. Ah, unemployment and a paying freelance writing gig make strange bedfellows.

This album is a collection of what I assume to be Hindu chants. There is no explanation in the liner notes, just an autobiography detailing how the artist went from a Jimi Hendrix wannabe to singing, well, sixteen minutes of the Hare Krishna theme song. And since I don’t speak or read Hindi, all I could do is hope for an avatar of Kali to appear before me in her four-armed greatness. Well, gentle reader, it did not happen.

So, all I can do is tell you about the music, which was actually pretty good. Having absolutely no connection to Hindu spirituality whatsoever, I will probably never use this music for anything beyond background music at a party, or light meditation. However, the music is interesting and makes for a rather enjoyable change of pace. But I would recommend skipping track two, the Hare Krishna thing, as it had a strange effect on me. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with a half-dozen XXXL saffron robes, or when my hair will grow back.

RATING: 3 Broomsticks



And now, for another view of the very same recording . . .

This release includes chants praising Shiva, Krishna, Rama and his consort Seeta, and Hanuman as well as the Mother Goddess, Ma Durga. The music accompaniment comes from both eastern and western instruments, backed up by a chorus. Liner notes provide the actual words of each chant, along with a translation.

I love eastern chanting, and this is a fantastic sing-along album. “Ma Durga,” which translates as “the Mother of the World,” is sung slowly, almost like a lullaby, and has a haunting quality to it. Several of the cuts on the album keep up the same tempo throughout, “Ma Durga” for example, and also “Baba Hanuman,” the album’s opening cut. But two selections, “Kainchi Hare Krishna” and “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya,” start quite slowly and then imperceptibly pick up speed and intensity as they proceed, so that by the end, they are very fast. I have such irritating memories of bald-headed Krishna monks asking for handouts on street corners in the 1960’s and 1970’s that I thought I’d be turned off to anything with that association. But by the end of the Krishna chant (almost sixteen minutes long!) I was not only singing joyfully, I was high as a kite.

This album grew on me. The first two times I played it, I was intrigued. By the third time, I was hooked. Now I put it on when I want to change emotional direction or just generally feel more joy in life. I can sing along with it when I’m doing housework or when I’m stuck in a blue funk. With music like this, who needs drugs?

RATING: 4 Broomsticks


» Originally appeared in newWitch #01

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