Corfu, GREECE

Summer Solstice ~ June 20, 2024

The calendar gods had for months been acting a bit fickle with a several week stretch of my mid-summer Europe tour dates, so I felt like I’d been playing footsie with Corfu for ages before clarity finally emerged and allowed me to confirm the timing and buy plane tickets—at least a one-way ticket, while the subsequent weeks still drifted in the wind…

The seeds for visiting Corfu had unknowingly been planted, oddly enough, about eight years prior on another groovy island, Thailand’s Koh Phangan, where I met a British woman named Alison Pilling. Ali ended up moving recently to Corfu, and she noticed on social media that I was heading to Europe and still looking to book a few events, so she suggested that I come to her new community in the hills of northwest Corfu and we’d find some places to offer kirtan here. I’d heard of Corfu over the years, as kirtan friends had traveled there to play various small festivals and gatherings, but didn’t really know much about the place until I landed there. A lot of the alternative community and kirtan-loving action is based in the northwest of the island, in and around the Arillas area, which is home to several unique venues, including the Soundgarden where I ended up singing later in the week. In addition it has been for decades a sort of friendly outpost settled by a number of old Osho/Rajneesh community members, so there’s a small but well-established crew of aging sannyasins and alt-lifestyle folks who have found a sweet niche in the area.

Ali’s new venture—Mandala House, a quirky hilltown guest house built of stone in 1776—lies a ten minute drive from the main Arillas Beach scene, smack dab in the middle of Magoulades, one of a series of tiny villages connected by a labyrinth of thin, one lane/two way roads snaking their way amongst the hills of northwest Corfu. (I thought some of the Ibiza hill roads were narrow and treacherous—and they are, but they’re nothing compared to Corfu, yikes!) The main feature of Magoulades’ “downtown square” is a prominently displayed missile, erected to honor the 48 people who lost their lives defending Greece in the sinking of the Proteus submarine by the Italians on December 29, 1940.

During my stay at Mandala House, my fellow guests included a couple of British sex educators, a cranio-sacral practitioner, and a DJ who’d been based in Tulum for several years but recently bumped out because of her concern about general overdevelopment and the loss of the local culture which had drawn her there initially. Enter the Kirtan wala.

Like many spots along the Mediterranean Sea, these waters have their own nomenclatura, so Corfu sits as a pearl in the Ionian Sea, occupying a spot that has made it strategically important during the various ebbs and flows of Greco-Roman-Albanian-Turkish empire over the centuries. One afternoon’s explorations took me to Angelocastro, the Castle of the Angel, the remains of a roughly 1500 year old stone monastery perched atop a steep 1000’ rock incline that juts directly from the lapis waters, providing its dwellers with a strategic view of any ships coming or going along that stretch of coastline.

My week in Corfu was sweltering—one of the few times I checked the weather it said “96 degrees, feels like 103.” I lost weight just sitting there. We were on the 3-5 cold shower a day plan, and few days went by without a swim in the ocean—sometimes at midnight under the full moon, after singing. Along the Arillas beach strip were a dozen restaurants catering to the various tourists and visitors—our crew favored Ina’s, run by Ina and George, who were shiny kind locals who made great veggie food and often hosted music until midnight along the coast—a super welcoming family vibe, it was always a pleasure to drop in there and savor the local scene.

More adventures were had, and the week ended with a great house kirtan at Mandala, and then a proper public chanting program under the flower at the fabulous Soundgarden venue just outside town, accompanied by Lieke Wouters on vocals and Michael Klinger, who had lived in India for many years and brought a sweet and sensitive touch on the pakhawaj. I look forward to playing with them both again down the road! And I sure do hope to return to Corfu, and do further explorations of the Grecian islands, in the moons to come…

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