(Editor’s Note: Executive Producer Karan Khalsa reached out to Snatam Kaur to discuss her latest project “Heart of the Universe”, a new collaboration with Peter Kater, and find out what this album means to Snatam.)
Q: What does this album represent to you?
For me, this album represents a soul’s journey and experience on this planet. For the soul there is always a longing to merge with the Divine, with that which we are all connected to, which is in essence the Heart of the Universe. In our day to day lives most of us do not allow space for this connection, or even believe that it exists. I feel that the songs on this album are simply a pure experience of that connection. It is as if to say through music and song that yes, the voice of the soul is important, and the connection to the Divine is real. It calibrates our relationship to the Universe, reminding us that we in fact have an Infinite Source from which to draw upon and relate to.
Q: What was it like collaborating together? What were the challenges and what were the highlights? How is it different from creating your own music?
Peter contacted us a few years ago to see if I would like to collaborate with him. With a huge thumbs up from my husband, not much knowledge of Peter’s work, and what I now feel was Divine guidance, I said yes! Our first sessions together brought out some really beautiful work; expressions from our souls. However as the process continued it became clear to me that we had different musical and artistic approaches. The idea of communicating through the differences felt overwhelming. At one point I even wanted to pull out of the process. But I was listening to a few of the songs that we had created together and just heard this beauty and expression from the soul that was coming through. The songs had captured something magical. So I decided to really go for the project from the core of my being. Once the music had been written and we got to the studio phase the process continued and it was a great learning experience. I learned to communicate what I wanted musically without fear, in such a way that was true to the creative process. Peter was receptive to my thoughts. He also expressed his ideas and I had my turn to be receptive. Through love, through seeing the soul of the other person, through in essence connecting to the Heart of the Universe we found common ground and the album took shape. It was an amazing growing experience for me, one that I am totally grateful for. I love the beauty of the music that came forward, and the message that God is allowing us to share with the world! I am grateful beyond words that Peter reached out to me in the beginning, as a sweet friendship has emerged along with a beautiful album.
Q: If you were to tell a friend about the music on this particular album, what would you tell them?
I am really delighted about this album. It is essentially poems mostly in English from the Sikh tradition along with personal writings from Peter and I put to music. The music is not only supportive of the lyrics but also has a story to tell with the beautiful expressions of the piano and passionate energy of the orchestra. Even in the writing phase I felt a certain story being told by the piano itself. In this album there is a deep longing to connect to the Divine, expressions of sadness on the spiritual journey, and most assuredly the experience of deep connection that has always been there. In this way to me it is a humble narration of life on a spiritual path.
Q: Is there any particular tracks you want to talk about in more depth? Please do….
For me I love all of the tracks on this album. But the one that was very pivotal for me in the creative process was “Carry Me Across the Ocean.” The essential core if this song sprang forth from Nam Dev, a Saint of India whose writings appear and are honored in the Sikh scriptures. The Gurmukhi lyrics that I sing are his original words. Peter and I wanted to also create English words for the song. As we did so, at one point I remember the English lyrics not quite matching up to the meaning of the Gurmukhi lyrics. I stayed up one night wrestling with the two languages, and felt Nam Dev’s presence at about 2 am as the English lyrics came forward that seemed to really fit in the pocket so to speak. It gave me a deep sense of fulfillment to be expressing his words so clearly. I love how Nam Dev unabashedly asks for God’s help, reaching out in perhaps his darkest hour. Yet even in the darkness and sense of confusion, there is a sacredness and assurety of God’s own hand holding you that comes from the vibration of his words.