POSTED Wed. May 13, 2015

Creative Culture

'It's not hard to turn New Orleans into a spiritual retreat'

Wild Lotus is not only a successful chain of local yoga studios, with locations Uptown and in the Marigny, but also a live local band that plays its own modernized, New Orleans version of Indian “kirtan” music.

“The lyrics are mantras — some are Sanskrit words,” explains Wild Lotus band leader, Sean Johnson, a vocalist who also plays the harmonium. “It’s all energy based sound, sung to change our stage of consciousness.”

Despite the obscure genre, the ten-year-old band fits easily into New Orleans. With Alvin Young on bass and guitar, and vocalist Gwendolyn Coleman on percussion from the cajon to the frame drum, Wild Lotus entrances unsuspecting crowds at events like the Jazz and Heritage Festival, which hosted the band this year.

“As Western artists, we take the mantra from the yoga tradition and compose originally music around it, so the blend is a rock-gospel-funk-folk — it’s not esoteric. We are making music from the yoga tradition more accessible to people who are into yoga, but also for those who are simply into music.”

Wild Lotus concerts outside the yoga world always encourage movement and other participation, in an effort to pull crowds in. “When we play, people can just listen to the music, but one thing that distinguishes us is that we ask people to sing along with us.”

Like much New Orleans music, says Johnson, “A lot of it is call and response. Rather than just spectating, people are singing along and feeling the power of the music. It’s about exorcising, and liberating anything that’s pent up inside. We make music that gives people a chance to let that crap go!”

Last summer Johnson and company raised over $31,000 on IndieGoGo.com to record their latest album, Unity. “Our intention with the album was to try and take kirtan music outside the box of the yoga world. So we have a lot of lyrics and chants on the album from different lyrical and religious traditions, everything from Sufi chants to I’ll Fly Away.

Proving their international following, Unity hit number-one on iTunes World Music chart and number three on Billboard New Age chart. “We play yoga festivals all over the world,” says Johnson. “We do a lot of traveling; every other months we go to a different part of the country for a couple weeks at a time.”

Yet for all of that road time, Wild Lotus doesn’t play much around town.

“We play at the Sacred Music Festival every year, and a few times a years at
Cafe Istanbul, one of our favorite venues. But it’s mostly been great to have concerts at the studio for the last 14 years,” says Johnson of where the band was born: “The band was originally just a Monday night jam and whoever would come played. Then after Katrina we couldn’t go back home, and I started getting email from all over the country wanting us to help at other yoga studios. So I put together a touring version of the band and a charity tour.”

These days, when not touring, Johnson can be found each Tuesday through Thursday at Wild Lotus studios teaches vinyasa yoga, a bhakti form of the practice, which is often soundtracked by kirtan music.

“Bhakti is the yoga of working with our emotions and artistic references, and spiritual practice,” Johnson explains, “so music is a big part of bhakti yoga, singing, dancing…but also writing! There’s a lot of room for self-expression.”

Because of this, Johnson does teach classes accompanied by his band every three or four months. “That’s a more physical experience,” he says, “you get the storytelling and the poetry that we do… But even during my regular classes, we always do a little singing before and after.”

Wild Lotus has done just fine letting the audiences come to them, literally. “We host, two times a year, an eight-day urban retreat in New Orleans,” says Johnson. “People come from all over the country to learn the bhakti version of yoga, plus I teach the basics of how to play this music, along with the dance and meditation.”

Johnson says his yoga aspirations mesh well with his chosen surroundings in the world’s music capital. “When people stay at our retreat, we provide them with live music. It’s not hard to turn New Orleans into a spiritual retreat.”

Image: a painting of the Wild Lotus band by Frenchy.

POSTED Dec 14, 2018

Atmosphere

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....
CONTINUE

Written by DAVID JOHNSON
POSTED Dec 23, 2016

Atmosphere

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 21, 2016

Creative Culture

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

Imagine doing something you love for seventy years. Many people aren’t lucky enough to live that long, much less put their heart and soul into their passion projects…....
CONTINUE

Written by FRITZ ESKER
PAGE

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

    X

    Thanks.

    was added to your favorites.

    VIEW YOUR PROFILE

     


    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook