It’s hard to understand a kirtan concert if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. But if anyone is equipped to describe the experience, it’s Asheville-based, nationally known musician and chant artist Kristin Luna Ray. “Everyone is singing,” she explains. “Everyone becomes the band. There is full participation, and then magic happens in a different way.”
Ray will be performing most of the songs from her forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album at a prerelease party hosted by Asheville Community Yoga on Saturday, Dec. 14. In many ways, the yoga studio is the perfect venue for a kirtan concert, which features the call-and-response chanting of Sanskrit mantras.
If Ray is a favorite kirtan leader in the local yoga community, the feeling is mutual: She says she needs Asheville yogis and fans to “bring this album to life.” Ray invites the audience to be part of her music, saying, “Come to help lift these songs up so we can send them out into the world. We’re all doing this together.”
With pop, Eastern and world-music influences — as well as an exciting lineup including Chris Rosser, Taylor Johnson and Noah Wilson — the show is sure to be a good time for Asheville yogis and chanting enthusiasts. But Ray believes the act of chanting has a deeper intention and effect: “Singing together, coming together, opening our voices in a safe space using the prayers, the mantras, the vibrational language of the soul, and becoming one through all that — it just has a really powerful, blissful effect where you get out of yourself. It’s like you remember something bigger.”
The concert marks the end of Ray’s fall tour, which included shows at spiritually inclined festivals like The LEAF, the Floyd Yoga Jam and Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, Calif. It’s also Ray’s last Asheville show before traveling to Costa Rica for the winter, where she’ll lead kirtan and yoga retreats in conjunction with Asheville Community Yoga.
And while her music might take her across the globe, there’s a reason Ray calls this city home. “Asheville is such a fertile ground and a support system from where this music roots out of,” she explains. “When I chant in Asheville, for the most part, it’s almost like a reboot for me. The ability of people to really, fully show up for the kirtan and really participate gives me so much inspiration. It gives me a reminder that this is my work, that I am to keep going out and sharing it. It’s like a blanket.”
The new album’s songs will incorporate more English verses than her previous offering, 2012’s One Shared Heart, though the focus is still on the Sanskrit mantras. Perhaps most notably, the latest recording reflects a monumental shift in Ray’s personal life. One Shared Heart was created during her pregnancy; the new album is the first she’s recorded as a mother.
“A lot of this album is around such a big transformational time in my life,” she reveals. “You can hear about the experience [of becoming a mother] and you can philosophize about it and imagine it, but really, it has been one of the most challenging, most expansive, most incredible things I’ve ever done … and so that fullness is in the album.”
But when it comes to kirtan music, that fullness of experience isn’t something Ray feels she can create completely on her own. “Every time someone comes to it, and sings it with me, and shares it with intention and consciousness, the song gets a little more of its wings, and its ability to hold itself and touch more people.”
— Lea McLellan can be reached at email@example.com.
who: Kristin Luna Ray
where: Asheville Community Yoga
when: Saturday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Suggested donation $15-$20