Film Review: One Track Heart - The Story of Krishna Das

reviewed by Rick Chatenever

Directed by Jeremy Frindel

Krishna Das—an American chanter of an ancient Indian devotional music known as kirtan—was born Jeffrey Kagel on Long Island in 1947. He grew up playing basketball and music, and he almost became the lead singer for a band that would become known as Blue Öyster Cult.

Then, in the ’60s, LSD and a pilgrimage to India rerouted his life. Kagel followed the former Harvard psychology professor and LSD experimenter Richard Alpert to study with a Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, known to his disciples as Maharaj-ji. The two Americans would be profoundly changed by the encounter. Alpert returned as Ram Dass, one of the clearest voices explaining the dawning discoveries of Eastern thought to the Western world. Krishna Das, by a more circuitous route, would emerge from chanting in New York yoga studios to bring kirtan to wider audiences.

Jeremy Frindel’s handsome, compelling documentary brings the mesmerizing musical spell of the artist, known to his friends and followers as KD, to the screen.

KD’s baritone, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s, delivers vibrations that bypass the intellect to hit a more intuitive target closer to the heart and central nervous system.

KD exudes an equally powerful charisma, as bemused by his newfound success as he is grateful to have survived the demons and self-destructive patterns of addiction that delayed its arrival.

Rather than “perform,” he leads his audiences into a place of spiritual devotion based on unconditional love almost ungraspable by Western minds. This ancient, ecstatic music is a ready remedy for the stresses of modern life

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