Jai Uttal is a kirtan artist, multi-instrumentalist, and ecstatic vocalist. He is considered a pioneer in the world music community with his combined influences from India and American rock and jazz. Jai has been leading, teaching, and performing kirtan—the ancient yoga of chanting or singing to God—around the world for close to 50 years, creating a safe environment for people to open their hearts and voices.
He grew up in New York City and lived in a home filled with music. Jai began studying classical piano at the age of seven, and later learned to play old-time banjo, harmonica, and guitar. At age 17, he heard Indian music for the first time, and two years later moved to California and studied under the famous sarod player, Ali Akbar Khan. Jai later began taking regular pilgrimages to India, living among the wandering street musicians of Bengal, and singing with the kirtan wallahs in the temple of his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.
He has spent time with many devotees of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and has emerged as a leading influence in the Bhakti tradition. He considers kirtan to be the core of his musical and spiritual life.
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Sarah Susanka, FAIA
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