Journey into the heart
Love was in the air last night at the ARMA Watergarden, where hundreds of BaliSpirit Festival participants gathered to experience Kevin James’ unique brand of kirtan music. A native of Australia who spends most of his time touring around the world, Kevin has returned to Bali once again to share his world fusion of devotional chanting incorporating ancient mantras with English translations and his own heartsongs.
The backdrop for Kevin’s performance was nothing short of spectacular, in what can only be described as a fantasy land setting replete with bubbling reflective pools and luscious tropical fauna. Seated on cushions in an extended circle around Kevin and his accompanying musicians with standing room only towards the outer edges, the international audience joined together in the unity consciousness of song, most knowing every verse and each of their voices comprising a mellifluous tapestry of the moment. At the center of the circle was a heart made up of red rose petals surrounded by glowing candles, an apt symbol for the glowing hearts assembled that evening.
The mood early on in the set during songs such as “Mother Gaia” was almost hypnotic, many drinking in the music with eyes closed and smiles wide while swaying slowly to the music. As the night went on, the energy in the room became electrified, inspiring many to pop out of their seats and dance, hands clapping excitedly to the beat of the drums. An Indonesian woman, dressed beautifully in a traditional white Balinese ensemble with a yellow sash tied at her waist, was so moved by the magic of the music that she appeared possessed–screaming loudly, getting up to dance with her eyes still closed so that others around her had to move articles out of her way, and then finally collapsing to the ground in tears while shaking uncontrollably.
Stu Boga Fergie of OKA, the Aussie-based band headlining the Festival this weekend, joined the crew for “Dance with the Whales” with his didgeridoo, harkening the sound of the majestic sea mammals. At one point during the song, audience members seated at the front of the circle began scooping up rose petals from the heart and throwing them up in the air to the crowd’s wild delight. Firecrackers in the background punctuated the end of the song to which Kevin joked “thar she blows.”
As someone who isn’t necessarily a big fan of kirtan, I still could not help but see how deeply touched everyone was by Kevin’s heartfelt music, so much that I found myself swept up by the honest sweetness and liberated frenzy of it. It warmed my heart to observe the differing ways in which people expressed their appreciation for it; a child waving her arms in the air with her hands clasped to her mother’s, a man remaining still throughout the show despite the fervor surrounding him in an unflinching meditative state, the couple locked in an intense embrace who seemed to moved together as one. I took all this in with my heart split wide open as Kevin closed the show with three collective ohms and a namaste.
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Written by : Melanie de Leon