“Chanting gives expression to the soul’s innate yearning for the Divine. Since ancient times, kirtan has been the cornerstone of the devotional schools of Indian religion, combining the artistry and disciplines of traditional music with the transcendental power of mantra meditation. Kirtan focuses the mind and purifies the heart. Kirtan is calling out to God. Kirtan is calling in to God.” ~Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati
This quintessential quote from Swami Bhajananandaji, resident and chief pujari at Kali Mandir in Laguna Beach, is a fitting tribute to Naren K. Schreiner’s newest devotional offering. When I first heart this recording the words that came to my mind were, “It’s about time!” The thought behind that sentiment was that it’s about time a Westerner so precisely and accurately represented the depth, artistry and essence of the devotional science of chanting that so accurately reflects the spiritual traditional from which it originated: India’s Sanatana Dharma.
We have worked with dozens of kirtan artists over the years and without exception have found them to be extremely sincere in their dedication to the spiritual life. The mantras are ever pure and universal in scope. Sometimes I think that it is natural that they would be expressed through the music of the culture they are being sung in. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable power and beauty when these timeless mantras and Divine names are combined with ragas which represent a divine science in and of themselves. True to its traditional roots, Naren’s new CD is a jewel that is immensely enjoyable to the Western listener.
Naren, who is also known to Kali Mandir devotees as Kamalakanta, is well-known to readers of Himalayan Heritage. His first CD, Esho Ma, was reviewed in Issue #48, and introduces the listener to ten outpourings of the devotee’s heart from the great mystic poet-saints of Bengal such as his own namesake, Sri Kamalakanta, and Sri Ramprasad, whos love songs to the Divine Mother are the heartbeat of the spiritual culture of Bengal even today.
In Issue #56 we began a four-part series, transcribing an inspiring satsang Naren presented at Kali Mandir entitled, Paramahansa Yogananda and Mother Kali, followed in issue #60 by his afterword to the series, Sri Ramprasad Says… Naren K. Shreiner has played and presented workshops at Jyoti Mandir on many occasions, where he also teaches private classes in harmonium and devotional chanting under the auspices of Sangita Yoga, the traditional music school that he founded (sangitayoga.com).
We are immensely delighted that New Earth Records has recognized the need and the potential of Naren K. Shreiner’s musical talent and has chosen to sign him to a recording contract. As Gita Desai, Director of Yoga Unveiled and Raga Unveiled declared, “Naren is leading Western seekers to India’s sacred music in the most authentic way.” We have watched Naren’s swadharma unfold its petals over the last several years as his teaching and performances have blossomed. At Himalayan Heritage we wish him all success and divine auspiciousness as he continues to serve his Guru in this way.