2 Problems with the 24
I had mixed feelings about the approach to the 24 hour kirtan. In the Tagore Centre where their annual event takes place a fine arrangement is made in the middle of the hall. It’s a four sided altar erected and adorned with deities and fresh flowers. Participants go ‘goom goom’ as they say in India or sounds and round in a clockwise fashion while the chanting is uttered form their lips. It’s an actual walk around the clock. When tired participants sit on the floor and retain the mantra vibration.
In recent years (we are on our 18th annual) a stage gets filled with able musicians. The problem here is two-fold. By having vocals and musicians on stage it becomes an exclusive experience and not inclusive. One group is up (on the stage) separated from the second group, the walkers, or the goom-goomers.
The second problem I perceive with this set up is that the traditional sravanam and kirtanam that is a receive and respond method becomes challenged because of the dispersement of so many microphones. While one person leads the mantra, everyone else should equally respond in volume to the mantra. Currently several voices are amplified by miked persons who respond, hence leaving all others.
I expressed my dismay at this during the vote of thanks and I believe people understood the problem with the current disempowering approach.
“There is merit in tradition” I explained. The method was always sravanam (hearing) and kirtanam (chanting or responding), not sravanam sravanam, hearing and hearing. The mics have become too much, drowning out other peoples’ chances for being involved. Stages and mics need minimal attention.