The ChantLanta Sacred Music Festival will be holding it’s 7th annual event, ChantLanta 2016, over the weekend of March 11th, 12th and 13th in The Church at Ponce and Highland (formerly known as Druid Hills Baptist Church). Now an ongoing tradition, and one of the biggest events of the year in Atlanta’s diverse spiritual community, this year’s ChantLanta will be carrying forward the festival’s mission to spread awareness of chanting and sacred sound practices, provide opportunities for people in Atlanta to support charitable causes, and allow attendees to experience a weekend full of bliss and high vibrations. The main event on Saturday night features three of Atlanta’s most beloved kirtan (devotional chanting) groups, Phil McWilliams, Blue Spirit Wheel, and Mantra Ma, and the Sanctuary Stage will see performances on Saturday afternoon by One Voice, Murari Band, Kalidas and Amah Devi, and Atma Sangeet. The festival also hosts an amazingly diverse schedule of workshops, classes, and sacred sound and movement experiences. The Friday night program will feature Ecstatic Dance Atlanta followed by a gong immersion with Yogiray. On Saturday daytime, multiple rooms will be running simultaneous events, including Chakra Vocal Toning, Mantras on the Mat, Monkey Chant, Shamanic Drumming and Dance, Sonic Yoga, Sacred Harp Singing, a Sound Healing Orchestra, Mantra Meditation, Didgeridoos, and Rhythms of Consciousness. On Sunday afternoon, Phil McWilliams and Phil Love will present a Celebration of Breath and Sound. As if all that weren’t enough, the Saturday afternoon program at ChantLanta 2016 will be accompanied by a vendor market, a silent auction and food trucks serving vegetarian cuisine. The festival is also very excited to announce a new partnership with Ladybug Events, who will be providing family-oriented entertainment and crafts, suitable for kids of all ages. The Family Fun Activity Room will feature puppet shows, a parade, yoga and art, interactive storytelling, and a kirtan sing-along. The thing that most folks find hard to believe about ChantLanta is that this is a totally free event! All of the staff, artists, teachers and presenters are donating their time and energy free of charge, while the festival’s overhead is covered through sponsorships from local businesses. Every year, ChantLanta chooses a charity partner to support, and all proceeds from cash donations, the silent auction and merchandise sales go directly to help people in the world who desperately need that money, without taking out any administrative or other fees. When someone puts any amount of cash into the donation box at ChantLanta, all of it gets donated to our charity partner. For the 2016 festival, ChantLanta is partnering with Safe Girls Strong Girls, an organization based in Dallas, GA, which helps to give young girls who are victims of abuse and violence some semblance of a normal childhood, by providing Summertime programs that teach them how to have fun again. This practice, which is known as “seva” in yoga philosophy, meaning “selfless service”, has always been at the core of ChantLanta’s activities, and provides a sense of larger purpose to everything the festival accomplishes. Since its first year, ChantLanta has helped raise more than $30,000 on behalf of our many charity partners. The very first ChantLanta, back in 2010, was a relatively modest affair, held at The First Existentialist Congregation in Candler Park. The original idea for the festival was proposed by the kirtan band Bhakti Messenger, and announced to a crowd of chanting enthusiasts at their CD release concert in January of that year. A small group of brave souls, who had no prior experience organizing anything of this kind, signed on at that concert, and, two months later, ChantLanta happened. That first festival was a success way beyond the organizers’ expectations, with the church packed to overflowing by the end of the evening. In traditional yogic fashion, attendees were asked to take off their shoes before entering, and the pile of shoes outside the door was so massive it almost blocked off the entryway. ChantLanta 2010 was a one day event, featuring seven bands from Atlanta and Asheville, plus one yoga workshop, but it quickly became obvious that this could become a much bigger event. The second ChantLanta in 2011 marked the beginning of the festival’s relationship with The Church at Ponce and Highland, a Baptist church built in the 1920’s that offered multiple rooms for different events and a main Sanctuary that could comfortably seat more than six hundred. From the very beginning, the festival was welcomed with open arms by the church’s staff and its pastors, Mimi and Graham Walker. While the combination of a Baptist church in the South with a wild group of yogis, new agers and hippies seems unlikely, The Church at Ponce and Highland is not your ordinary Baptist church. These are the folks who got ejected from the Southern Baptist Convention because they wanted to have a woman (gasp!) as their pastor. They have always had a keen interest in interfaith dialogue, and hosting ChantLanta was a perfect way for them to show that not all Baptists are as narrow-minded as the stereotype suggests. The Church at Ponce and Highland has partnered with the festival ever since and their generosity has helped ChantLanta become what it is today. Over the subsequent four years, the festival has expanded to fit into it’s large home on the corner of Ponce de Leon Ave and North Highland Ave. Many spiritual music and chanting groups have graced the stage at the festival, including some of the biggest names in the American kirtan scene. Throughout all of the changes and experiments, however, the organizers of ChantLanta have stuck by the original principles: that ChantLanta should be a free event that is open for everyone. The basic philosphy that underlies this festival is a simple one: chanting helps make the world a more peaceful and a more loving place. Join us at ChantLanta and you will experience the truth of that statement for yourself. Please visit www.chantlanta.org for more information.