YJ Entry #28: Sunday, October 5th at 10:45 a.m. ~ Austin
One of the real treats of the Anusara Grand Gathering and Yoga Journal Conference sessions with John Friend was the live music of Shantala. Shantala brings Kirtan chanting to a whole new rockin’ level and features the husband & wife duo of Benjy and Heather Wertheimer. Joining them at Estes Park was world-renowned bamboo flutist Steve Gorn and Brent Kuecker on bass.
Heather & Benjy Wertheimer with Steve Gorn (left)
John Friend (shown here with Heather Wertheimer and bassist Brent Kuecker) playfully refers to Shantala as “Anusara Yoga’s House Band”
Shantala’s website aptly notes: “The weaving of Benjy’s Indian classical singing and instrumentation with Heather’s soaring vocals is fresh, original, and profoundly moving.”
Shantala joined John onstage each day as he led our group of 800 through the mornings’ 3-hour Master class. In addition to the Kirtan, the group provided additional “motivation” during our practice, giving us lively beats to rev up the energy for challenging asana work, or celebratory drum beating at the conclusion of a large group attempt (like 800 of us holding each other’s foot in parsva utthita hasta padangusthasana.) John also got them to serenade us with some appropriately inspired blues during the “How to Grow a Lotus” class. (If you haven’t heard, Anusara Yoga is known for its playful delight!)
Besides his immense talent, Benjy also has a larger than life personality that shines from the stage. He has an infectious smile and animated expressions. More than a few of us noted a resemblance to Will Farrell and his trademark expressions. Benjy’s talents aren’t just limited to the musical world. He good-naturedly participated in the acroyoga performance at the talent show. (A video link of that can be found in my talent show post.) But I HAVE to say, I was particularly impressed when John asked Benjy to demo eka pada rajakapotasana and he did it COLD … literally after sitting on stage playing drums for the previous hour.
In addition to accompanying John during his classes, Shantala offered a wonderful evening of entertainment on Tuesday night of the Grand Gathering. Friends old and new gathered in the Longhouse to sing and dance in a spirited celebration.
Shantala has several albums. Their newest release, SRI, is deeply moving. Guest artists include Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Gina Salá, Steve Gorn, Manose, Jami Sieber, John Friend, and others. Listen to samples of the tracks. Treat yourself to this delight.
It is indeed SRI!
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Shantala with John Friend performs at the Grand Gathering! A good time was had by all ~ below our girls rock on: Tabitha on the left and Jill on the right!