Review by Gabriella Coslovich

One EnChanted Evening Review. By Gabriella Coslovich - award-winning Journalist and Author

I’d been dreading it for days.  

“This chanting thing goes on for three bloody hours!” I emailed a friend after reading the program fine print. 

“I hope your friend appreciates your loyalty,” she emailed back. 

It was the last thing I wanted to do on a gloomy, wet, Saturday night. Were it not for Harb, a dear friend whom I’d known for years, I wouldn’t have been doing it. It was Harb’s debut as an artistic director, and it was for a good cause – to raise money for research into Type 1 Diabetes. So I bought a ticket, gnashing my teeth. Not that Harb needed my “loyalty”. The event sold out – 400 people signed up for “One En-Chanted Evening”, a mass chant in the Good Shepherd Chapel at the Abbotsford Convent in Collingwood. And I was one of them. Despite my intense dislike of crowds. Despite my suspicion of anything reminiscent of religion, or worse, smacking of “New Age”. A few days later, I emailed my friend again. 

“I have to eat my words. It was an absolutely beautiful and transporting night. I loved it!”

Was I in some sort of altered state? Put under a spell? Harb’s good at weaving them. I’ve been to parties at her house. One leaves on a high. She has a way of bringing people together – and food and dance and music. This time she really upped the stakes: a troupe of musicians, singers, meditation guides, dancers, and an audience of hundreds. What could possibly go wrong? 

The weather was not on side. Or maybe it was perfect. We queued in the shadow of a towering bluestone church, huddling under umbrellas, swaddled in coats, scarves, beanies. The event started half an hour late. No one complained, no one pushed. As we trailled chilled and soggy into the warm interior of a church flickering with electronic candlelight, we were given a camellia and asked to lay it on the vibrant purple-red carpet in front of the altar and send positive thoughts to the world. 

The church was brimming with people, sitting in pews, or cross-legged on cushions around the vivid central carpet that formed the “stage”. And yet there was room for everyone. We made room. On the carpet, musicians and singers shone in shimmering saris of red and gold, or saffron-coloured chemises, sitting in a front of a marvellous array of instruments, things I’d never heard of such as boogie balls, derebouka, heartstrings, and things I was familiar with such as harmoniums, sitar, tablas, cymbals, cello, guitars, ukulele, tamboura, tambourines. 

What happened next was so basic that it seems ridiculous that it could have had such a profound effect. As a Fringe Festival offering, the idea was audacious. Not because it would offend, or provoke, or upend, but because of its splendid, subversive, simplicity. 

Who would have thought that hundreds of voices chanting in unison could be so powerful? That the manifold vibrations of a simple ‘Om’ could bring me to tears? 

I looked around the church – Catholic, like my upbringing – and gazed at a statue of Jesus on the cross, this fixture of my childhood and adolescence, this radical who preached compassion, humility and tolerance. I reckoned he’d be giving us all the thumbs up. 

The night’s program was uncomplicated. We chanted six different mantras; over and over, in a call and response, beginning softly and building in beat and volume to an ecstatic end, people clapping, dancing in the aisles or swaying in their seats. There was, at one point, a more formal dance interlude which I found rather amusing – women with distressed hair and ripped tights enacting deities of some sort and reminding me a little too much of 1980s music videos and choreography. But so be it. I was already won over. I was staying till the end. And I’m glad I did. Glad that I was there to hear Harb ever-so-gently recite a poem by the Sufi mystic, Rumi. For me, it summarised the quiet immensity of the night:  Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion or cultural system … only that breath breathing, human being.

Glad that I was there for the final chant of rolling Oms, like waves breaking on the shore. I was swept up in those sparkling waves, floated away on them, and would for days afterwards. 

That night, boundaries dissolved, time slipped, people smiled and let go. I fantasised about doing it all again in the halls of Parliament House, bringing some sense to the place. I reckon Harb could organise it. 

Gabriella Coslovich: https://www.mup.com.au/books/9780522869231-whiteley-on-trial

Katrina Leavitt
When Voices Chant As One

With an open access program the Melbourne Fringe (September 13-20) is known for its boundary pushing ability to provide a platform that supports new work, discovering artists and new ideas.

Right at the boundary waiting to be recognised is kirtan, or chanting, which can be experienced when Vedic Vibe presents One En-chanted Evening at the Abbotsford Convent on September 15.

It’s a three-hour adventure which will see the audience singing, dancing, stretching, chanting and diving deep within while being entertained, says Vedic Vibe artistic director Harb Gill.

Asked if kirtan is a religious movement, Ms Gill says “it’s beyond religion, beyond barriers, beyond prejudices”.

Vedic Vibe has drawn together 15 musicians from across the suburbs from Braybrook to Brighton via Preston and Narre Warren. They play instruments from the east and west including the sitar, guitar, oud, merdang, harmonium, cello, bass guitar, tamboura, detebouka.

A leading proponent of kirtan, Ms Gill and her husband and Vedic Vibe music director Phil Gunter have been playing and chanting together for 25 years. Over time the group has grown.

“Several of us have been playing together for a long time and I just invited some heartfelt professional musos to join us in Vedic Vibe. All said yes,” Ms Gill said. She adds it’s time kirtan is recognised.

“When Phil and I started, there were only six places in Melbourne for chanting. Now, there are at least 100 groups in Victoria. Chanting is so popular, not hippy. It ought to be recognised as an art form,” she said.

All proceeds from One En- Chanted Evening will be donated to JDRF Australia.

Why JDRF?

“Because our son Meluke has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 5. He is now nearly 16. We want to help find a cure for the invisible disease because seven children are diagnosed with it every day in Australia. It is the most prevalent chronic disease,” Ms Gill said.

Tickets: $25/$20 via https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/one-en-chanted-evening/ or phone 9660 9666. 

Article originally posted in MANNINGHAM LEADER, Monday, August 20, 2018. Written by Fifi Lim.

Katrina Leavitt
Dya Singh joins Vedic Vibe in One En-Chanted Evening

 

By harb gill

Dya Singh was 10 when his eldest brother gave him Dale Carnegie’s book "How to win friends and influence people". Little did Dya know that one day he would write his own book – Sikhing Success and Happiness – and travel the world playing music to uplift others.

This month (Sept 15) Dya performs in a three-hour show at the Melbourne Fringe Festival to raise funds for children with Type 1 Diabetes.

"My father, a Sikh missionary, had one advice for me: the highest spiritual honour bestowed on a human being is not wealth, fame or power,  but the ability to be of service to others. And if one so blessed does not carry out one's dharma, then it is a life wasted," says Dya. 

“There is no better way than to give freely to children who need it most. Also, there is a Sikh quote – service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy as humans on this planet.”

Dya, who has performed to great acclaim the world over and has a string of albums to his name, works with youth in Australia and overseas to help them unlock their potential.

“Happiness starts with being in an ever-present, uplifting, positive state of mind, and being in touch with one’s inner self,” he says.

“So understanding one’s own mind, regular self-analysis and looking within are triggers for outward progress in life, success and happiness.”

The Fringe show One En-Chanted Evening, presented by Melbourne ensemble Vedic Vibe, will take audiences deep into themselves.

The evening will be guided by 15 musicians playing a mix of eastern and western instruments including the sitar, harmonium, cello, oud, tablas, merdang, guitar, derebouka, bass guitar and tamboura in the beautifully restored chapel at the Abbotsford Convent.

Together the musicians produce the sounds of ancient India in a creative and modern form. Nine dancers from Dance of the deities will be part of the evening.

Bring a cushion, shawl, water bottle, and an open mind and heart for an enchanted evening that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and uplifted, if not blissed out! 

All proceeds from the event will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 

Date: September 15, 2018

Time: 6.30-9.30pm

Venue: Good Shepherd Chapel, Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford

Tickets: $25/$20 via https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/one-en-chanted-evening/ or 9660 9666 (or at the door, if available

For media inquiries, please contact Melbourne Fringe publicist Fiona Brook, Zilla & Brook Publicity. M: 0407 900 840 E: fiona@zillaandbrook.com.au 

OR Harb Gill, Vedic Vibe artistic director. M: 0401 719 857

E: harbkaurgill@gmail.com 

HIGH-RES PICS available at: https://www.vedicvibe.com.au/photo-gallery/

BIOS available at: vedicvibe.com.au/meet-the-team/ 

written by: Harb gill 

Katrina Leavitt
Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or
Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.

Not any religion
or cultural system.
I am not from the east
or the west, not
out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not
natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all.

I do not exist,
am not an entity in this
world or the next,
did not descend from
Adam and Eve or any
origin story.

My place is
the placeless, a trace
of the traceless.
Neither body nor soul.

I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two
worlds as one and
that one
call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner,

only that breath breathing
human being.

- rumi

Katrina Leavitt
COMMUNITY KIRTAN BY THE SEA

“The cost of not following your heart, is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.”

It all started with a seed that was placed in my heart, an inner knowing, that one day I’d bring people together to share in the celebration of Kirtan right here on the beach at the Brighton Baths Health Club.

I was originally introduced to Kirtan when I attended yoga school at the Krishna Village, an eco-yoga community in NSW. As part of a six week intensive 200 hr yoga teacher training we were required to attend Kirtan nearly every day at 12:00 noon. I admittedly was quite resistant at first. I didn’t understand the words (often chanted in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language) and I thought it was all a bit strange…something only mystics with long beards and hippies partook in (memories of the Beatles chanting along-side Maharishi Mahesh Yogi filled my mind). Still I determinedly attended day in and day out, attempting to connect with this deep sense of inner-peace that Kirtan was meant to unveil…a peace yoga teaches us is already within.

It wasn’t until I returned to Melbourne after 6 weeks of living amongst the peace of an ashram that I realised the power of Kirtan. The Rajasic (hectic) city energy left me feeling overwhelmed and I instinctually and surprisingly found myself google searching ‘Kirtan in Melbourne.’ I stumbled upon a little community centre in Collingwood called Gokula House and hours later I was deeply immersed in three hours of chanting, chai, and sound vibration. This was the beginning of my newfound love…

Nearly a year and a half later I would find myself on the boardwalk at the Brighton Bath’s Health Club having a chat to one of our members and long-time yoga students Harb Gill. Her and her husband, Phil Gunter, had just returned from an ashram in India and her heart was exuberantly bursting with excitement and passion as she shared new songs they had learned. Without hesitation, I said, “We should host a Kirtan at the baths!” and the rest is history…

 [ What is Kirtan? ]

Kirtan is a form of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love. To me this translates as giving purely from your heart without the expectation of receiving anything in return and in that way you can bring joy to those around you and in your community. Mahatma Ghandi beautifully summarised this concept when he said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Traditionally Kirtan is the call-and-response singing of ancient Vedic mantras, mantras that have been chanted for thousands of years. Rather than being a performance, Kirtan is a journey of self-discovery weaving together melody, music and mantra with people responding to the words of the singer igniting clapping, swaying and sometimes dancing. Simultaneously it is a meditative and closely personal experience, by which if you allow yourself to surrender and relinquish your judgements you have the opportunity to experience a deep sense of peace and connection within.

 [ The Big Night ] 

Words cannot express our gratitude for the people who came together to make this event such a BIG success. Thank you to the musicians who unconditionally gave their time, commitment and soul. The attendees, many attending Kirtan for the first time, for being inquisitive and open to new experiences and for the beautiful ‘clink, clink’ of their gold coin donations. And the weather-man for calming the storm and blessing us with the most perfect evening.

We collectively raised our spirits and funds to support Yogahood, a  non-profit on a mission to provide free yoga classes to at-risk and underserved men, women, and youth in Melbourne, Victoria and right across Australia in the future.

– THANK YOU + Namaste –

Musicians: Harb Gill, Phil Gunter, Boaz Modman, Mary-Anne Steele, Sam Cox, Leela Fernandez, Wayne Fernandez, Isi Lumbroso, Scott Fraser, Sia Maniatis, and Marnie Sather.

written by: Katrina leavitt. Article originally posted on March 5th, 2018 on the Brighton Baths Health Club Blog