It’s no secret that London is one of the most musical cities in the world, boasting scores of bands that have become internationally renowned – from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to Coldplay. A new project called Kirtan London is set to bring sacred mantra music to the attention of the city in various ways:  events at universities and corporations, flashmob kirtans, working with the existing London yoga community, etc. As a first step toward the vision of creating ‘a diverse, London-wide community of kirtan lovers,’ the team of Kirtan London hosted a launch party in stylish Fitzrovia, of London’s West End, on the 11th of August, 2012.Guests entered the flower-strewn hallway of the terraced Georgian apartment and were greeted with refreshments before proceeding upstairs for an evening of kirtan with Jahnavi Harrison and friends. A short presentation on Kirtan London’s vision and upcoming projects began the evening, and was followed by a talk by special guest Radhanath Swami. (He was introduced by actor and comedian Russell Brand, who had the audience in stitches as he described his conversion from skeptic to spiritual seeker after meeting Radhanath Swami several years ago.)

Radhanath Swami spoke on the power of devotional music and reminded guests of the popularity of mantra music in mainstream London in 1969, when George Harrison teamed with Hare Krishna devotees to record the Radha Krishna Temple album. The track,“Hare Krishna Mantra,” reached number 12 in the charts and the devotional band appeared on the television show, Top of the Pops.

Speaking on the potential of kirtan for self-transformation, Radhanath Swami said, “Yes, it’s enjoyable. Yes, it soothes the mind from the anxieties and stresses of life. Yes, it liberates us from so many confusions and so many unhappy situations. But beyond that, this kirtan has the potential of awakening our deepest potential – our own very spiritual essence. And then we can be an instrument of that essence, which is the greatest joy of life. Taking just feeds the fire of our longings, but when we learn to find satisfaction in being an instrument, in giving, then there is actual fulfillment. Kirtan inspires us, cleanses us and empowers us to uncover that treasure within.”

The evening was a great success and enthusiastically received by attendees, many of whom were experiencing kirtan for the first time. Events in the coming months look to expand and build community as well as to provide inspiration for a more widespread project now in the works, called Kirtan UK.

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