Jai Uttal Q&A: Chanting with an Open Heart
Please share what you do in 10-15 words:
I lead healing music and chanting from the ancient Bhakti tradition of India, expressed in musical styles from raga to reggae.
Why do you do what you do?
Originally I found these practices of music and kirtan to be cathartic and healing for myself. I gradually began to see what a gift it was for others and very slowly discovered it was my way of service to my guru and to the world.
What are you currently fascinated by in your work?
I love learning to sing an ancient raga while playing a Brazilian samba on guitar. But I’m not there yet …
How did you come to your path? Any aha moments or key teachers?
I first experienced kirtan and yoga when I was a teenager in New York City in the 1960’s. I was incredibly drawn to everything Indian. After high school I began studying Indian music, mostly with the great master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, on and off for 40 years. His teaching was a huge influence on my life path. When I was 19 I traveled to India and met my guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who planted the seed of Bhakti in me. That seed has been watered now for close to 50 years.
What book(s) did you like reading this year?
Many, many books. I was completely amazed by Ramesh Menon’s retellings of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. I also love to read mysteries!
If you’ve taught at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat before, what is one surprising thing about the experience for you?
I’ve taught at Sivananda many times and I’m always surprised by the incredible natural beauty of the ashram as well as the loving openness of the staff, students, and swamis.
Jai Uttal, grammy nominee, kirtan artist, and world-music pioneer has been a leading influence in the Bhakti tradition for the past 50 years. Jai considers devotion to be the core of his musical and spiritual life and he wholeheartedly shares his passionate heart through his voice and songs. Jai creates a safe environment for people to open their hearts and voices.