New York City – June 1, 2017 – Grammy nominated spiritual music pioneer Jai Uttal will perform on the lawn of the United Nations as part of the global diplomatic organization’s celebration of the International Day of Yoga on June 20 at 6pm. Jai will join a prestigious group of yoga leaders including Indian yogis Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, and American teachers Seane Corn, Sharon Gannon, and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. Organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, it will be an evening of music, yoga demonstrations, sacred chanting, pranayama, universal meditation, practice of yogasanas for the health of body, mind, and heart, and a pledge for yoga off the mat. The event will continue Jai’s live events juggernaut promoting his 19th album Roots! Rock! Rama! that has taken him to packed shows in LA, Miami, Maui and a recent record setting event at NorCal’s devotional center Spirit Rock. Celebration, meditation, dance of the devas, and love song to the universe, this event is all of that and more. Tickets are free but, due to UN security needs, must be reserved in advance here.
To celebrate International Yoga Day, this event, and yoga festival season, Jai has released a third single from Roots! Rock! Rama!, his popular concert barnburner “H.E.L.P. (Hari’s Ecstatic Love Potency)” at https://soundcloud.com/mantralogy/help-haris-ecstatic-love-potency/s-lC4jy. The song incorporates parts of the Beatles 1965 hit “Help.” Regarding this surprising twist he notes: “We hear all the translations and interpretations of the mantras,” Jai says. “But to me, they’re all saying ‘Help!’ You know? Like, ‘God, help me. I cannot take the next step without your help.’ There’s some humor in putting a Beatles song alongside a Hari Krishna mantra, but on a deeper level, for me anyway, desperate longing is the way I feel. Even in my laughter, lightness and love for my son and wife amid so much grace, a desperate longing is still the motor that keeps me going.”
Clearly named after Bob Marley’s classic track “Roots Rock Reggae,” Roots! Rock! Rama! does celebrate the influence that reggae had on Uttal’s interpretation of classic Indian ragas. However, the title also refers to the practice of kirtan as the root of his life, the rock that is his foundation, and his devotion to Rama (God) throughout his work.
Of the album, top music trade magazine Hits says it’s “simply undeniable” and about the live show adds “the mood was as purely positive, inclusive and uplifting as any gig I can recall. And isn’t that exactly what we need these days?” LA Yoga says “There’s no way to sit still as this music plays and it’s easy to see how the live concerts Jai will perform in celebration of this collection will go down as unforgettable.” And the Marin Independent Journal adds, “The production values are impeccable and the call and response between Uttal and his chorus of backup singers is heavenly.”
Kirtan is a call and response singing style popular with yoga practitioners who are now over 36 million strong in the US! Jai is a favorite performer on the growing yoga festival circuit, playing to thousands each summer at Bhakti Fests and other events. He also leads his own workshops and retreats that deepen yogis practice of the heart based Bhakti yoga method that is chanting the names of god to further enlightenment.
Co-produced with Uttal in 2016 by noted Northern California producer Ben Leinbach, the album is a double CD/extra-long stream with 12 5-12 minute tracks for about 80 minutes of music (typical of Kirtan, but also of that other California music staple – jam music!). CD 1 or the first 6 tracks are “Rama Sun” and are the more reggae influenced tracks (such as H.A.R.I., please listen here) – deeply steeped in earthy rhythms, hypnotic bass lines, jubilant horn charts and soulful vocal harmonies. CD 2, the next 6 tracks are “Rama Moon” and find Uttal in an entirely different mood. Grounded in the gentle, lilting sway of Brazilian samba (such as S.A.M.B.A., check out the video here), it also touches on the pastoral splendor of the more acoustic tracks from the Beatles’ White Album. The Beatles are another major influence, and Jai has brought their pioneering fusion of Indian music and Western pop into the 21st century.
With a unique boomer upbringing in the NYC music biz of the 50s and 60s (as a child he was at the session where Mitch Ryder recorded “Devil With a Blue Dress”!) Uttal understands true musicianship and has worked with top musicians including Bill Laswell, Don Cherry, and his musical guru Ustad Ali Akbar Khan throughout his career.
Additionally, his story flows with that of his generation – in the 70s he studied with Khan in the Bay Area while making extended trips to the Indian Ashram of Neem Karoli Baba the same guru who influenced Ram Dass’ classic Be Here Now. Maharajji, as the guru is known to his students, encouraged the practice of bhakti (devotional) yoga as expressed through kirtan, the call-and-response chanting of sacred names, over and over again until they become deeply instilled in the consciousness, providing an experience of profound peace and spiritual insight. Kirtan would become the center of Jai’s musical and spiritual life.
The 80s were dedicated to his music career which took off in 1990 with his first album Footprints that featured Don Cherry and other notables, launching him into the exploding world music scene. Now, eighteen albums, marriage, fatherhood, a Grammy nomination, and 26 years of worldwide acclaim later Roots! Rock! Rama! continues his legacy.