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Kirtan Artists to Play at SXSW Rock Festival in Austin, Texas

By: for ISKCON News on March 13, 2011
The poster of the event
Artists from Mantralogy, the ISKCON second-generation-run ‘Mantra Music’ imprint of rock label Equal Vision Records, will be adding a more soothing option for music fans at Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest music festival this March.

Known more commonly as ‘SXSW,’ the legendary festival began in 1987 and now has separate interactive and film components—but the music section alone draws about 12,000 people. Running from March 15th to 20th, it features more than 2,000 performers playing in over 90 venues around downtown Austin.

The key element to SXSW is that it is an industry-based event, attended by many record label executives and other major players in the business, and seen by performers as a way to get noticed.

“As well as the official events, many companies put on their own showcases in downtown Austin during the same time period,” explains Rasa Acharyan, Mantralogy’s ISKCON second-generation general manager. “Our parent company Equal Vision is doing one, and so are we.”

Mantralogy artists The Mayapuris, who are also second-generation devotees who attended ISKCON schools, will be performing their own energetic brand of kirtan music at Whole Foods Market on Thursday, March 17 at 5:30pm and at the Black Swan Yoga studio on Friday, March 18 at 8:00pm. Both will be SXSW side events, accessible without the badge needed for official events.

The Mayapuris have been called “the young tigers of kirtan” and have been touring non-stop behind their debut album Mridanga, touching six continents including stops at Wanderlust (alongside Moby), The Bhakti Fest, Princeton University and Jivamukti NYC.

They will be joined by labelmates SRI Kirtan, whose second album, Live Your Love, recently debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard World Music Chart.
The performances will be unique for several reasons. First off, they’re certainly different from the usual SXSW fare, which is mostly indie rock with some hip-hop.

“We intend to offer a peaceful breather during the non-stop rock marathon,” says Mantralogy and Equal Vision Records owner Saci-Suta Dasa (Steve Reddy). “We want to create a place at SXSW for music industry people to share their love of music and yoga.”

The location of one of the performances—Wholefoods Market—is also a rather unusual place to hold a concert. But the decision to play there may not be as random as it at first seems.

“First of all, the Austin Wholefoods is the world headquarters of a major chainstore that has 300 stores in North America and the UK—so appearing there is pretty cool,” says Rasa. “Secondly, they have featured different musicians during SXSW before, sometimes on their roof, and sometimes in a tent outside. And they were very enthusiastic about supporting us when we approached them—because the Wholefoods stores are very integrated with the yoga community, of which kirtan is a major part. So it was a great fit.”

However, it will be their second set—at Black Swan yoga—that will be the main showcase for the Mayapuris and SRI Kirtan.

“The Mayapuris have been working on a new live show that combines their songs with acting, narration and dancing to tell a story,” Rasa says. “And they’ll be premiering that at SXSW, which is quite exciting.”

The performance is important for the Mayapuris because it will put them on the music industry’s radar, and, Mantralogy hopes, have them be appreciated by the
many music business executives who are interested in yoga and spirituality.

“We’re definitely trying to bring kirtan to the masses, which is why we target colleges and other youthful audiences and dub our releases ‘Mantra’ Music, which is a more recognizable word to most people,” says Rasa. “We’re hoping that efforts like this will help us expand beyond the yoga world and open up more professional music venues for the Mayapuris.”

After SXSW, efforts at expanding will continue, with Mantralogy working on distribution methods, media, and the best way to present each of their groups – Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits, the Mayapuris, Sri Kirtan, and Prema Hara.

The latter group, featuring husband and wife duo Keshavacharya Das and Kamaniya, is set to release their second album, Tears of Love, in mid-April, while Mantralogy is working on the logistics of sending their artists on a tour of India.

More short term, the Mayapuris are set to release their first music video, of the track “Mridanga” very soon, with a premier on a popular yoga community site.

“We just filmed it last weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it features their traditional dancing and mridanga-playing routines,” says Rasa. “Hopefully it will get them out there more, as well as inspiring the new generation of younger ISKCON youth to see wearing a dhoti and doing kirtan as cool.”
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