Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part interview with Snatam Kaur. You can also read Part 1, where she shares her experience making her gorgeous new album Beloved with her band amidst a snow storm in upstate New York!
Can you give us a sneak peak into your creative process?
There are two special tracks which are sacred poems from the Sikh tradition called Shabads, that have been very healing for me. I have come to discover through the teachings of Yogi Bhajan that Shabads bring a divine resonance and healing to one’s psyche, emotions, and mental state. It took me about a year actually to sing these Shabads with my band, and before that, quite a few years to get them engrained enough within me that I felt that I could deliver them in a strong and authentic way in a recording environment.
The first Shabad is Pooran Jot, which inspires within me a sense of light within. The second is Darashan Maago, a powerful Shabad for me in bringing forth strong self esteem and self love and presence. In various Gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship, my band and I presented our Shabads there. I felt such a huge blessing and incredible energy from these experiences. It was super fun too, especially as our tabla player, Neelamjit, is quite familiar with the Sikh presentation of Shabads. There is a particular way of playing the tabla, that only someone who has a certain kind of training and love and devotion for this type of music, can deliver. He did that. I realized after one of these experiences that I would do everything possible to get him into the studio, because the tabla voice is so unique and helps to build the energy when played in this way for these Shabads.
There is also a chant called Sat Naaraa-in, which I composed the music for in the dead of winter about a year before we brought it to the studio. I can still remember the chill outside as I presented the tune for the first time to two of my bandmates; Siri Kirtan and Stu. In my alone time, I had felt this sense of space and quiet with the tune, and it was incredible to experience Siri Kirtan and Stu totally getting that space with the delicate guitar parts and deep base that they brought to it.
Some of the tunes I composed right on the spot with the producer when he came out to our house for a couple of days to map out the album. One of them, Gopaal, came in my morning practice. The song, Water of Your Love, came to me on a walk in the snow, next to a river near my house. I composed it in the quiet of winter, as there was not a sound but the crunching of my feet against the hard snow, acting as my rhythm section. I remember looking at the river, marveling how it flowed with everything so frozen around it. I felt my body so cold even as I had a huge coat on, and felt the pulsation of my own blood. I wanted to write something for the water of our earth, to bring awareness to how sacred water is and how our actions directly effect the health of our water, which is really our health. That is where the line “My blood flows like a river” came from.
Then in my process, I also wanted to bring forth the concept of devotion to something greater then ourselves, to the light in all beings, or the Beloved, because to me this is the real story. This concept of us all flowing towards the Beloved came forth, all of us, whales, dolphins, fish, and every creature of God. I hope that this song brings awareness to people to reduce their use of plastics, to get involved locally with waterways, rivers, and oceans, and to become active in all the ways necessary to preserve water on this planet for all creatures and all of our coming generations.
What do you hope your listeners experience or learn as they listen to your album?
I hope people gain a sense of inner strength as they gain the powerful tools of mantra to uplift them in these challenging times. I also hope that they are healed by the Shabads and find a sense of inner self-esteem and light. Most importantly, I hope that people find an inner Beloved, a connection to the Divine, that is with them all the time through the power of chanting.
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