David Newman (Durga Das)
David Newman or Durga Das, as he is also known, is a renowned Kirtan chant artist, sacred singer songwriter and a practitioner and educator of Bhakti Yoga - the Yoga of Love.
David Newman is a renowned kirtan chant artist, sacred singer-songwriter, best-selling author, and inspirational teacher. David, also known as Durga Das, travels extensively sharing his music, and teachings on the path of love as a vehicle for spiritual awakening.
He has released numerous CDs, and is the author of The Timebound Traveler.
David is also the founder of the Stay Strong Project and Yoga On Main. He has been featured on NPR, and in The Washington Post and Yoga Journal among many others. David lives with his family just outside of Philadelphia.
“David Newman is reminiscent of George Harrison, Dylan and Paul Simon when they are in soul mode.” –LA Yoga Magazine
“Though David Newman has a deep sense of tradition in his music,there is also something thoughtful, poetic, personal, and almost romantic about his songs.” –Yoga Journal
"At David Newman’s concert, the volume knob seemed to go from low level joy to full on bliss, the kind you feel after climbing a gorgeous mountain. –The Washington Post
David Newman (Durga Das) brings Creativity & Spirit Together
BrightStar Events by Judy Tsuei, July 30th, 2013
David Newman or Durga Das is a kirtan chant artist, sacred singer songwriter and a practitioner and educator of Bhakti Yoga — the Yoga of Love. He travels extensively sharing kirtan and devotional music, as well as thespiritual, meditative and musical aspects of Yoga. As he continues to tour the world, David shares how he first began to pursue his passion and how creativity can be a spiritual practice.
BrightStar: What inspired you to start singing & creating devotional music?
Durga Das: I’ve always been a musician, but decided to put that on hold to go to law school in the early 90s. While I was in law school, my intensity of interest in the practice of yoga was heightened, so by 1992, I decided to open a yoga center in Philadelphia called Yoga on Main.
From there, I got re-exposed to kirtan from artists such as Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, and Jai Uttal, which inspired me to approach my music from a more yogic perspective. That’s when I got inspired to move into kirtan and bhakti yoga.
In the early 2000s, I recorded my first album (Soul Freedom) and my second (Lotus Feet). From there, in addition to my devotion to kirtan as a practice, I also started receiving invitations to visit yoga centers from people who really liked my music.
That became a new journey in my life, so eventually my life transitioned from yoga teacher and yoga center owner to kirtan wallah, and now I’ve been traveling around the world for 10 years.
It’s been a guided-by-grace kind of journey.
BrightStar: And how has yoga been a part of all that?
DD: For me, the practice of yoga has really been a journey of self-realization. It’s something that I’m very passionate about, to share what this journey has felt like and looked like. I feel that by sharing where I’ve been with others in whatever way I can, I can be of service and support of people on their path, no matter what their path is. I’ve found that music and mantra are wonderful vehicles through which I’m able to do that. I also really enjoy sharing and teaching and helping people find a means of opening up to that grace in their own lives. Typically, when I’m on the road, I do a combination — I enjoy offering kirtan in a concert setting and also giving workshops. I have a handful of workshops I offer and teach, which I do at yoga centers and yoga festivals I’m involved in these days, like conferences, workshops, retreats, things like that. It’s a pretty varied kind of a schedule that’s taken me to a lot of amazing places, where I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of amazing people.
BrightStar: What is your experience of teaching and practicing mantra?
DD: First and foremost, the power of mantra can speak to the hearts of people, regardless of their background or their interest or their understanding of what a mantra is. People just connect to the vibration of it — that’s been the thing that’s amazed me the most, the transformational effects of practice, how mantras speak for themselves.
Since I’ve been doing this, not only has kirtan grown, but people’s desire to wake up to truth has also increased. One of the things that is of great joy for me now is to share notes, to be there for others and to hear what others have been through. It’s a profound time on the planet, people are letting go of a lot, and I really enjoy that exchange. We can be honest about it, and we’re not just talking about light and expanse, but also the dark spots and challenges — the growing pains that everyone goes through.
BrightStar: How does it feel as a performer?
DD: When I get up there, I just empty my mind and surrender and do my best. There are so many different factors that contribute to the type of experience it’ll be. For me, it’s not identifying, not attaching. It’s about letting go and letting Spirit move through. If I invite different people on the road with me, they’re amazed that night-after-night the character of the experience is different.
Some nights, it’s bliss from start to finish, other nights I’m aware of resistance. Sometimes it’s extremely expansive; sometimes there are moments of contraction. I’ve been doing this for awhile and I’ve learned not to have expectations of what it’s going to look like or feel like, to really getting out the way. Some nights I finish and feel wonderful, sometimes I’ll feel judgmental about myself — it’s just letting it all come up and not reacting.
BrightStar: What are you looking forward to on your upcoming performances and tour stops?
DD: I’m on a never-ending tour, because I don’t have that life where I put out a record and tour for a couple of months. I pretty much tour all the time! My intentions are usually generally speaking what I am doing, and doing my best in supporting people along their journey towards waking up. It’s my life and my vocation, and I do it on the road.
One of the things that’s important to me is the Kirtan College programs I do every year, because I think it’s a good thing for people to learn more about what it means to engage a bhakti practice in their lives, and to support those people who feel like they’re called to facilitate or lead kirtan.
I have these training programs twice a year, one in the fall at YogaVille and one at the Kashi Ashram in February. This fall, I’m also looking forward to a special workshop at Esalen, which I’m doing with actor Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother. He’s a really wonderful actor and director, and we’re doing a workshop called, “Creativity as a Spiritual Practice.” I’m highly interested in how we can connect with Spirit through our creative impulses.
Ultimately, I’ve appreciated all the different phases of my journey — they all fit together — but some you can only see from the other side.