The Los Angeles Times has declared the experience of chanting with Dave Stringer to be "a departure from ancient
kirtan. Stringer's performance shaped the experience into a far more compelling musical encounter." Kirtan (pronounced
keer-tahn) originated in India, and is currently experiencing a worldwide renaissance as a participatory live music
experience. Stringer has been widely profiled as one of the most innovative artists of the new American kirtan movement in
publications as diverse as Time, Billboard, Yoga Journal and In Style.
Stringer's sound marries the transcendent mysticism of traditional Indian instruments with the exuberant,
groove-oriented sensibility of American gospel, and he is regarded as one of the most gifted singers in the genre.
Stringer, who is also an accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalist, has a special ability to bring people together
and inspire them to sing. His work intends to create a modern and participatory theatrical experience out of the ancient
traditions of kirtan and yoga, open to a multiplicity of interpretations, and accessible to all.
Initially trained as a visual artist, filmmaker and jazz musician, Stringer had his formative experiences with
chanting when film editing work brought him to the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ganeshpuri, India in 1990. A subsequent period of
residence at the ashram laid the foundation for his continuing study of the ideas, practices and music of yoga.
Since 2000, Stringer and a diverse ensemble of accompanying musicians have toured North America and Europe
tirelessly, developing new venues for music, and expanding the audience for kirtan. He has introduced chanting for the
first time to many seemingly unlikely cities, and through his consistent touring, has been instrumental in the development
of a number of thriving local kirtan communities. He has also served as a volunteer teaching meditation and chanting to
inmates at a number of correctional facilities in the United States.
An articulate and engaging public speaker, he probes the dilemmas of the spirit with a wry and unorthodox sense of
humor. Stringer frequently works in tandem with internationally celebrated yoga teachers, creating music for workshops led
by John Friend, Shiva Rea, and Gurmukh, among others. Of particular note has been his friendship and collaboration with
yoga teacher Saul David Raye, with whom he has created a number of recordings.
Based in Los Angeles, Stringer has produced varied recordings with other celebrated World musicians including Azam
Ali, Vas, Axiom of Choice, Rasa, Suzanne Teng, Shaman's Dream and the Open Door Orchestra. Chant artists Donna Delory,
Suzanne Sterling, and Girish went on to launch their own careers in the genre after spending time in Stringer's performing
and recording ensembles. His voice also appears on numerous soundtracks, including the blockbuster film Matrix Revolutions
and the video game Myst. The CDs he has produced under his own name, "Brink", "Japa", "Mala" and "Divas & Devas", are
heard in yoga studios throughout the world.
Kirtan is a folk musical form that arose from the devotional Bhakti yoga movement of 15th century India. The primary
musical feature of kirtan is the use of call and response, a figure that also deeply informs Western bluegrass, gospel
music and jazz. The form is simple: a lead group calls out the melodies and the mantras. The crowd responds, clapping and
dancing as the rhythms build and accelerate.
The intention of Kirtan is consciousness-transformative, directing the singers to vanish into the song as drops merge
into the ocean. Sanskrit is the mother tongue of many modern languages, and a kind of periodic table of elemental sound
meaning. The mantras are primarily recitations of names given to the divine. But perhaps the true understanding of the
mantras can be found in the sense of unity, well-being and timelessness that they elicit. The mantras quiet the mind, and
the music frees the heart. Ecstasy is both the process and the product.
The Bhaktis wrote ecstatic love poems, and went around singing all the time. They saw the expression and form of the
divine in every direction they looked. Their message was simple: Cultivate joy. See the divine in one another. They taught
Sanskrit mantras to common people using simple melodies, accompanied by handclaps and finger cymbals and drums. The Bhaktis
had no use for orthodoxy. They saw the expression and form of the divine in every direction they looked. From this
perspective, even music that cannot be characterized as traditional can still be expressive of the Bhaktis' original
Mantras are intended as a tool with which the spirit can release itself from the prison of attachments that the mind
creates. It's not unfair to say that the chanting of mantras is intended to be a completely mindless activity, since
the intention of chanting is to create an ecstatic state of awareness that is beyond mind. Yoga doesn't ask us to
believe, it asks us to practice, examining our experience until we can witness the truth in the book of our own heart. No
one else can read it for us, or tell us what it means. Ultimately, whether mantras are ancient wisdom or psychological
metaphor or complete nonsense depends on the intention and experience of the participant.