A Time of Transition for the Wild Moon Bhaktas

As with many musical performance groups, the Covid lockdowns instigated a time of transition for the Wild Moon Bhaktas.   Mentioned in previous blogs were the departures of long time members, Gary Waryan, David Ballman, and Christine Larson.  After years playing with the band, each decided it was time to move on.   We wish them the very best!   This period has been marked by changes in the band’s membership.   Stability at the core of the group, and consistency in terms of location, but changes to the make up of the band.

The Wild Moon Bhaktas first public performance post-Covid was in November 2022.  The band has been performing since then, about once a month, at our regular site, Tula Yoga and Wellness in St. Paul.  That period includes two runnings of the Rumi Celebration in December 2022 and again in 2023.    Rumi-Lovers unite!

Arlys Alford joined the Wild Moon Bhaktas prior to the Covid shutdown, and continued to play with them after.  In late 2023, she decided to move on to other projects.  A multi-talented singer-songwriter-dancer-choreographer and actor, Arlys brought much to the Wild Moon Bhaktas.   We were barely able to experience her many gifts.   Prior to joining the Wild Moon Bhaktas, Arlys was a leader in spreading free dance events.  She founded  danspeace in 2012, an open, ecstatic dance meeting.  Later, she helped the local chapter of Dance Church manifest, and saw it grow from a dozen attendees to over 200!

The Wild Moon Bhaktas benefitted from Arlys’s years of experience. She always came to our events ready to play and always delivered.  As a seeker on the path, Arlys’s commitment to the Sufi way and to cultivating her relationship to the Spirit were as true as the North Star.  The combination of these two: musical talent and spiritual depth are golden, and rare!  She will be missed!   Arlys, much peace, good health and abundance to you!   You can learn more about Arlys’s work as a voice teacher and performance coach at https://www.BelieveYouCanSing.com.

Adam Wolter joined the band as a regular member in November 2022, and has played over a dozen events since then.  He brings his multiple talents (vocals, cello and bass guitar) to the band.  Adam is also a leader in the local Dances of Universal Peace – Sufi Dance Movement, and through that work, is a friend to many.  He brings an unmistakable playful spirit to his performance.  His bandmates and the people who come to our programs benefit enormously from his music and presence.

Other musicians have performed periodically since the band re-emerged after Covid.  Greg Stern on percussion, played three events starting in November 2022.  Andrew Navaro on cajone continued into the summer of 2023 before he moved out of the country with his family.   In November of 2023, Sitara, of the kirtan trio, Sitara, Kalyani and Pavan Kumar, joined us for three events.  That was a lot of fun.   Sitara was directly involved in the halcyon days of kirtan in the Twin Cities.   In December of 2023, for the 23rd running of the Rumi Celebration, Brian Merchant joined the band on cajone and percussion and has been playing with us since then.   Former band members, Gary Waryan, Christine Larson, and Will Kemperman have been back to play with the band.  So good to make music with them again!

Expect more changes.  As the Buddha said, life is impermanent.  The kirtan and chanting continue, like mantras under the breath, while the surrounding life experience expands and contracts.

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Great Mother Chant (and Dance) of 2023

We held our 6th Annual Great Mother Chant in May 13, 2023 with special guest, Gary Waryan on tablas.  This year we added in “Chant and Dance” to make sure attendees knew you were free to get up and move your bodies to the timeless rhythms!   Gary was his usual talented self, making those beautiful tablas dance and sing.  The band was rounded out with Adam Wolter on cello, bass, and vocals, Arlys Alford, on vocals and keys, Andrew Navaro on cahone and David Schmit on vocals and guitar.

There is a beautiful couplet from Ramananda, the 18th century Bengali devotee to the Divine Mother, that we sang that night:

“May you come to rest gently,
Upon the open lotus of my heart,
And play with your pure awareness
The many-stringed instrument of my mind.”

Here are a couple photos from the evening

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Rumi Celebration!

Yes, we did it again!  The 22nd gathering of the Rumi Celebration, an evening of chanting, music, poetry, and Sufi dancing at Tula Yoga in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Co-hosted by the Wild Moon Bhaktas, Ted Tollefson and Hakim Bushnell.

Over 70 people gathered for this tribute to the 13th century Sufi poet, Jelaluddin Rumi, to recite his poetry and to chant and move together.  A number of people shared their favorite Rumi poems.  Here are some pics.

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The New Wild Moon Bhaktas Debut

We are back  with our unique blend of Indian devotional kirtan, chants in English and Sufi poetry after over two years of not performing due to Covid.  November 19, 2022 was our debut with three new band members.  It was a moving evening at Tula Yoga in St. Paul.  Here are some pics and the flyer.

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The New Wild Moon Bhaktas – An evening of chanting & kirtan, Saturday, Nov 19, 2022

Announcing the New Wild Moon Bhaktas debut chanting and kirtan concert

Communal chanting, making music, singing to the Spirit, these turn our souls towards the original creative power.  One glance at that beauty…….

Saturday, November 19, 2022, 7:30-9:30 pm.  At Tula Yoga, 99 Snelling Ave. North.  St. Paul, MN  55104    (tulayogawellness.com).

This will be a new incarnation of the Bhaktas: David Schmit, vocals, guitar; Arlys Alford, vocals, harmonium; Adam Wolter, vocals, guitar, cello; Greg Stern, percussion/drums

You are invited!  $15 cash at door. Doors open 7 pm.  Audience limited to first 75 people.  You must be vaccinated.  Stay home if you have symptoms.  Masks recommended; not required.

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Farewell Christine Larson

Hello Friends,

Christine Larson, the Wild Moon Bhaktas’ multi-talented vocalist and musician has decided to depart the band for other projects.  For those of you who attended one of our kirtan-chanting concerts, you already know what a gifted performer she is:  crystal-clear soprano vocals, moving violin and rock-steady harmonium.  One fan claimed she will miss Christine’s lovely vocal solo on the chant, O God Beautiful.  Another remembers her violin on the Kabir-inspired, It’s Morning.  Others recall her vocals on the Tibetan chant, Om Tara Tu Tara.  The list of her inspired performances goes on.  How can you not sing the praises of such a talented musician?

Christine has been a cornerstone of the band’s success.  She performed with the band over one hundred times.  Event after event, she showed up ready to play.  As a bandmate, Christine was ever-present and supportive.  Her training as a classical musician and knowledge of music theory raised the musicianship of the whole band.  Christine is also a person committed to the spiritual path and brought her wisdom, generosity, and integrity on those matters to strengthen the band, as well.  She is a unique, talented human being and is irreplaceable.  We will miss her greatly.  One small consolation for those of us who will miss her:  Christine is featured prominently on the band’s 2018 CD, Why Not Wake Up.  We can enjoy that while wishing her success and happiness in future endeavors.  You can also hear her in the Dakota Valley Symphony Orchestra.

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Wild Moon Bhaktas Update July 2021

Hello all,

I hope you are weathering Covid-19 and are finding some joy in the summer!  If you have lost a loved one during these trying times, I speak on behalf of the whole band in offering you our condolences.

I write with news about the Wild Moon Bhaktas.  Gary Waryan has decided to retire from the band.  (I think I can hear your groans of disappointment).  Like so many others, Covid gave Gary the chance to rethink his work and his life and to make some changes.  There is no one reason for his retirement but rather a complex of things:  He is seeking more freedom from responsibilities; he wants to spend more time with his family; his work has become more demanding; and some health issues with his hands are limiting as well.  It was time for him to move to a new phase of his life.

Gary and I met about 2006 at a yoga studio opening.  We have been performing kirtan together ever since.  When the Wild Moon Bhaktas formed in 2009, Gary was part of it.  Since then, he has played at nearly all of the band’s 160 concerts.  He was a key player on both of the Wild Moon Bhaktas’ CDs, 2012’s From the Ganges to the Mississippi and 2018’s Why Not Wake Up.  For those of you who know of Gary’s talent, you understand when I say, he is one of the finest tabla players in the Upper Midwest, and perhaps far beyond that.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a privilege it has been to play with him, nor how I will miss him going forward.  I know I speak for the whole band in saying he has been a wonderful bandmate.

It takes a special kind of person to be so dedicated to mastering such an unusual instrument.  Gary had the discipline, innate talent and drive to do so.  He smartly studied directly with Indian tabla masters to learn the intricate rhythms and performing techniques.  Oh, how amazing it is to hear him make those drums dance and sing.  What a joy!

Everyone should know the following:  putting on a Wild Moon Bhaktas event is no easy task.  There are the rehearsals and the never-ending effort to master our instruments, the uncertainties of performing, then hauling gear, setting up, soundcheck, performing for two hours, breaking down and hauling our gear home.  For Gary that was often done after a full day’s work. He’d arrive at our pre-concert set-up immediately after his labors and warn us that he would not be able to play up to his normal level due to fatigue.  Then we’d start the concert, and he would just wow us.  Over and over again.  God bless him!

Gary plans to continue performing, but on a very limited basis.  Since we are parting on good terms, I strongly suspect that we will be able to lure him back for a special event.  In the meantime, I speak on behalf of the rest of the band as well as the many people who love his music in wishing him the very best.

In related news the Wild Moon Bhaktas are looking forward to performing live again, with Christine Larsen, Will Kemperman, Arlys Alford and me.  Given that there is not a serious surge of Covid in the Fall, we hope to be live by November.

Much peace and joy to you all,

-David Schmit for the Wild Moon Bhaktas


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Wild Moon Bhaktas News – November 2020

I hope this letter finds you happy and healthy!  -at the very least, Covid-surviving!  And if you are struggling, pray that you are finding the support you need.

I write to touch base, to update you on some changes to the Wild Moon Bhaktas and to imagine a future when we can return to communal chanting and music with all of you.

The last time the Bhaktas played together was in the beginning of February – eight months ago!  That is the longest break the band has had since its founding in 2009.

Here are a couple of changes to the Wild Moon Bhaktas


Shortly after Covid-19 so altered our lives, David Ballman decided to leave the Wild Moon Bhaktas to focus all his energies on his own band, The Midnight Choir.  Like so many of us, Covid caused David to take stock of his life and to alter his priorities.  Regrettably, I accepted his resignation while honoring his decision.

David was a founding member of the Wild Moon Bhaktas and played at nearly every one of our over 160 concerts and on both our CDs.  Few kirtan singers can boast his talent for energetic Gospel-tinged improvisations.  We loved that!  To his musical talents I can add the following:  his professionalism, conscientiousness, esprit de core, unquenchable good humor and his willingness to help the band by rolling up his sleeves and learning how to play tambura, bells and foot pedal.  I know I speak for the whole band in saying we will miss him greatly while at the same time, wishing him much success and happiness.

The Midnight Choir is a cool R&B band with talented players.  I hope you will go hear them play at one of the clubs or performing spaces in town once such concerts resume.  And I pray – and suspect – that in the future we will be able to lure David back to sit in with the Wild Moon Bhaktas at a special event.


I am very happy to announce that Arlys Alford has agreed to join the Wild Moon Bhaktas on a permanent basis.  Arlys has already played with us two or three times now.  She fits into the band wonderfully.  A multi-talented singer-songwriter-dancer-choreographer-actor, Arlys has a lovely, strong voice and plays keyboards, too!  She not only brings to the band her musical talents, but a deep connection to the Spirit and to the Sufi path. Yes!  We are really fortunate to have her as a full member.  You can learn more about Arlys’s work as a voice teacher and performance coach at https://www.BelieveYouCanSing.com.   I speak for the whole band in offering her the warmest welcome.

The rest of the band waits for the time when we can safely return to performing:  Gary Waryan, tablas, Christine Larson vocals, violin and harmonium, Will Kemperman on percussion (when his schedule allows him to join us) and me on vocals, guitar and occasional accordion.  And now Arlys on vocals and harmonium/keyboards.  Great chanting and beautiful music lies ahead!

What Else is Going on With the Wild Moon Bhaktas? 

As you may know, there is no industry that has been as hard hit by Covid as musical performance.  Kirtan even more so.  Getting a bunch of people in a room singing (or chanting) together is an automatic super-spreader.

My initial response to the lockdown and social distancing rules was to offer solo chanting events on Facebook Live.  I did five events, the last one in the end of July of 2020.  There are now six hours of these chanting concerts on our Wild Moon Bhaktas musical group facebook page.

As Covid endured into the fall, it created an opportunity for me to step back. For most of the last forty years, in addition to working a full time job and being a husband and father, I have been running various sacred music projects on the side, the most recent being the Wild Moon Bhaktas. Often they amounted to a part time job in addition to my full time work.  It has been a joy to serve the Soul in this way, but it often left me over-burdened and short on sleep.  Wild Moon Bhaktas events require hours of additional work and logistics behind the scenes to make sure they run smoothly.  The solo on-line concerts do as well.  Covid has given me the opportunity to step back and restore.

Think of it as a garden.  Every few years it is a good idea to let it lie fallow for a season to permit the soil to regenerate.  If you do that, the garden comes back with even more bounty and beauty.  The Wild Moon Bhaktas as a band are in the soil, quietly restoring and regenerating.  We will be back.

In the meantime, if you want to chant along with one of my solo chanting concerts, they are on our Wild Moon Bhaktas facebook page under “videos.”  If you want to purchase a hard copy of one of our CDs, go to our website.  Each CD features over an hour of music and was lovingly recorded.  Instructions for ordering are on the website.  (www.wildmoonbhaktas.com).

I speak for all the band in wishing you much happiness, deep communion with the Spirit, and good health.

See you!

-David Schmit for the Wild Moon Bhaktas


To contact:  wildmoonbhaktas@gmail.com

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Facebook Live Chanting July 25-2020 with David Schmit -Words to the Chants

1. Opening Mantras   

2.  Jai Jai Shiva Omkara 

Jai Jai Shiva Omkara

Hara Hara Hara Omkara


Maheshvara  Maheshvara

Jai Jai Jai   Maheshvara


Shivaya  Namah Om  Namah Shivaya

Shivaya Namah Om  Namah Shivaya


Jai Jai Shiva Omkara    Hara Hara Hara Omkara


3. Don’t Go Back to Sleep 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep!

You must ask for what you really want

Don’t go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds meet.

Don’t go back to sleep!

The door is round and wide and open

Don’t go back to sleep!    Don’t go back to sleep!


4.  Om Mani Padme Hum 


5.  Om Shakti Ma

Om Ma Om Ma Om Ma Om Shakti Ma

Om Ma Om Shakti Ma Om Ma Om Shakti Ma

Om Ma Om Ma Om Ma Om Ma


6. Nataraja 

Nataraja Nataraja Nartarna Sundara Nataraja

Shivaraja Shivaraja Nartarna Sundara Nataraja

Nataraja   Shivaraja  Oh!


7.  Sarvesham

Sarvesham  Swastir bhavatu

Sarvesham Shantir bhavatu

Sarvesham Poornam bhavatu

Sarvesham Mangalam bhavatu


May all Beings be filled with wisdom

May all Beings be filled with peace

May all Beings be filled with the purity

May all Beings  –  of the One




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Facebook Live Saturday June 13, 2020 with David Schmit Lyrics-words to the chants

1. Opening Mantras & Invocation

2. Shiva Hara

Praise the Auspicious One, Destroyer of ignorance

 and suffering and who is eternally full of happiness

Shiva Hara Shiva Hara Shiva Hara Shiva Hara

Samba Sada Shiva Hara Hara Hara Hara    (2X)

Samba Sada Shiva Hara Hara Hara Hara  (4X)


3. Jai Ma

Jai Ma  Kali Durge Ma Kali Ma

Jai Ma Kali Durge Ma Kali Ma

Jai Ma Durge Ma   Jai Ma Durge Ma


4. Clear Bead / Om Namo Narayanaya

Poem by Rumi

The clear bead at the center  – Om Namo Narayanaya


5. Jai Guru Jai

Praise the dispeller of darkness


6. Innermost Chamber/ Bismillah

Poem by Rumi.   Bismillah= “In the name of the Divine”

Lord, the air smells good today.

Straight from the mysteries.

From the innermost chamber of the Divine.



7. Hey Natha Hari Om

Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Hare   (2X)

Hey Natha Narayana

Om Hari Om

Hey Natha!  Hari Om!


8. Sarvesham

Sarvesham  Swastir bhavatu

Sarvesham Shantir bhavatu

Sarvesham Poornam bhavatu

Sarvesham Mangalam bhavatu

May all Beings be filled with wisdom

May all Beings be filled with peace

May all Beings be filled with the purity

May all Beings  –  of the One



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  • Upcoming Appearances

    • Saturday, May 25, 2024
      Great Mother Chant with the Wild Moon Bhaktas & special guest Sitara
      7:30-9:30 pm. 
      Tula Yoga, 99 Snelling Ave. North
      St. Paul, MN 55104
      $15 cash please, at door
    • Saturday, June 22, 2024
      Wild Moon Bhaktas - an evening of chanting, kirtan & spiritual music
      7:30-9:15 pm
      Tula Yoga, 99 Snelling Ave. North
      St. Paul, MN 55104
      $15 cash please, at door