Atmo Georgia presents her new project: a documentary film on the Mantra and Kirtan movement.
Update: The film had its world premiere in May 2017 – see ‘Mantra: Sounds into Silence’
Mantra – Sounds into Silence is a film about the growth of the mantra and kirtan movement. Many of us became familiar with this practice in India where we experienced its deep healing effects. But now this ancient Indian music meditation is gaining popularity in the West, and more and more people are discovering the benefits it offers. We are making this film to explore this new musical phenomenon, to share our experiences with you and introduce it to people coming to mantra chanting for the first time.
The inspiration to make a feature-length music documentary about mantra music first came to me when eight years ago I experienced for myself how healing this music could be when I accompanied a very close friend dying of cancer. Soon after this I discovered that mantra music is linked to the fast growing movement of kirtan and bhakti yoga. Kirtan is participatory. The audience plays a vital role in the music through their singing in response to the “call“ of the artist. Thus at a kirtan event the boundaries between musician and audience blur. It is now so popular that one of its leading artists, Krishna Das, recently won a Grammy!
The moment I knew I had to make this film was when I realized that this form of music was producing a new shared sense of celebration and inner peace amongst its participants. During my visits to the ashram in Pune in the early 1990s I had experienced meditations based on music and dance in which heights of ecstatic celebration were combined with depths of inner silence. And now I felt that the mantra movement was doing something similar and spreading the energy of joy and meditative heart to heart connection all over the world.
In my professional life I’ve worked as a film editor for over twenty-five years, and as a documentary film producer for more than seven years. For a while I lived in New York where the music documentaries I helped make were always my favorites. They included a feature-length documentary for Aretha Franklin and EPKs for a Paul McCartney’s tour and Tina Turners new single with Eros Ramazotti. This professional experience helped me visualize how to transform the story of the mantra and kirtan phenomenon into a mainstream music film.
I first started developing the idea in 2011, and in 2012 we entered the pre-production stage. The music of Deva Premal and Miten was my initial inspiration, and I got in touch with them when they came to Barcelona to give their first concert there in 2012. I talked to them about my dream of making this film. They loved the idea and have been supportive of the project ever since.
Through Deva Premal and Miten I also met Rajen (Peter Campbell) who at the time was still their manager. He also loved the idea of the film and aided us in making plans to finance it. He helped get together the seed money for our first shoot with Deva Premal and Miten in 2013, and put us in touch with the manager of Krishna Das. I enjoyed working with Rajen so much during the short time we had together. Inspite of his serious health issues he was very supportive throughout this preliminary phase, and we intend to give him a loving credit in the film’s end credits.
Once we had filmed Deva Premal and Miten opportunities opened up to contact and include many of the other established kirtan artists such as Snatam Kaur, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Lama Gyurme with Jean Phillipe Rykiel and MC Yogi, who are now all participating in the film amongst others.
We have now finished filming about 50% of the film, and we’ll continue filming this year from July to November in the hope of finishing it early in 2016. Revealing interviews with the artists who sparked off this new music movement are planned, and we look forward to discovering what inspired them on their spiritual paths, and how it’s influenced their music. In the case of those who were already musicians before starting to medítate, like Miten and Krishna Das, we will explore how meditation has influenced their musicality and how they see their role as ‘spiritual’ musicians.
With Deva Premal and Snatam Kaur, who were raised in the world of meditative music, we will investigate how they manage to stay centered in the whirlwind of celebrity. We look forward to hearing stories about Deva Premal and Miten’s many years’ experience as musicians in the ashram in Pune. Now they are bringing the energy from the ashram to concert halls all round the world.
Another important part of the film will be about people’s experience with chanting mantras. We will film smaller kirtan gatherings in Europe, India and the US, and include the personal stories of two or three selected people who have recently become acquainted with this music and are experiencing it as a deep, life-transforming therapy.
The film will also find out more about the origins and meanings of the ancient mantras that still play a significant role in eastern spirituality, and how modern India perceives the practice of kirtan today. We will look back to the 60’s when the Beatles first brought mantra music to the west, and suggest answers to why it is just now becoming so popular.
Our film will also explore the science behind mantras and kirtan. We’ve interviewed Prof. C.L. Khetrapal about his studies at the Center of Biomedical Research in Lucknow, where they’ve investigated the neurological effects of chanting the mantra Aum. And we look forward to interviewing John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Havard Medical School, who’s leading a five-year study on how meditation affects the genes and brain activity of chronically stressed people.
Apart from the interviews with the artists and participants, we will also interview luminaries such as Radanath Swami, Sharon Gannon (co-founder of the Jivamukti Yoga school), Stephan Rechtschaffen (co-founder of the Omega Institute), Gurushabd Sing Khalsa (co-director of Golden Bridge Yoga School) and Anand Semaltry (scholar in Vedic and Sanskrit studies).
We have got together a solid and inspired core creative team. Co-director and Cameraman Wari Om is maybe the world’s best known yoga photographer. With his big heart, his enthusiasm and creative expertise he’s set out to explore the world of Kirtan together with us. Jordi Azategui is an award winning cinema photographer. He’s interested in discovering the connections between music and meditation. Producer Ray McCormak is an award winning director and producer. He is best known for the feature documentary A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. We also have Mick Walsh on our team who is the digital art director, web designer and developer of the project.
The film’s main objective is to portray how the practice of bhakti yoga and kirtan is changing people on a profound level. So the approach will be through emotional experience rather than mental communication. We hope to maintain a very natural and organic feeling throughout the film. Music will be the thread that holds it together, and we’ll have plenty of pauses where music and visual montages will give the viewer time to reflect on the points that have been made.
Kirtan is for anyone and everyone regardless of their background or beliefs. It’s the universal language of the heart. In our ‘always switched on’ and supposedly connected modern world, we are losing the most important connection of all – the connection to ourselves. Chanting mantras creates a portal that leads back to our centre, and has the power to bring peace, healing and joy to the world. Two weeks ago we launched our crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo where you can now contribute to help complete our film and be rewarded with “perks” of your choosing. Your support is very much appreciated. Check out the campaign to see more!
Mantra will be helpful, because then you can become one with the inner sounds, then you can move with those sounds to more and more subtle layers. Then a moment comes when all sounds stop and only the universal sound remains. That is Aum.” (Osho)
My mother, Ma Phoebe, took sannyas in Pune in 1980 when I was ten years old. But I started living a sannyasin life in my early twenties when I explored active meditations at the Hamburg centre in Germany and worked in the Osho disco. I took sannyas in Pune in 1991. Today I still love doing Osho meditations regularly and taking part in groups and festivals at Osho centres. My sannyas name is Atmo Georgia. Atmo means innermost core.