(Excerpts from a conversation with Jai-Jagdeesh)
“Aykaa Maaee is the 30th pauri of Japji, and it is said to turn us into saints and sages. It is a really beautiful section of Japji, which is the morning prayer of the Sikh tradition. It holds this vessel that is almost indescribable to me. It touches a lot of aspects of femininity, divine femininity. In my experience, one of the things this mantra does, very specifically what it does for me, is brings into harmony my divine masculine and my divine feminine. Each of us has both within us, however we identify ourselves in the outside. We carry both energies, and each of us has a different balance of the two.
“The divine feminine has particular qualities, particular strengths, particular freedoms. The divine masculine has other sets of strengths, qualities, freedoms, and each of us taps into those energies in slightly different ways and different proportions. When those energies are balanced according to what is right for us, we have more freedom. We are more connected to who we truly are. We are able, I think, to have more of an impact in the world, in what we say and in what we do because it is coming from a truly grounded and balanced place that is right for us. So chanting or listening to this mantra has always had that type of impact on me. It just harmonizes everything in my cells.
“The way in which this song came into being is through collaboration with a band mate of mine, Tripp Dudley, who is just an extraordinary soul. If you have seen him in action, he is an incredibly gifted percussionist. He had this busted up old guitar that he liked to bring on the road so that he can just sit down and tinker around. So, Tripp decided to bring his guitar with him, and any time he needed to get himself grounded or have a distraction or pass some time, he would reach for it. So one day, he was playing this really beautiful chord progression, played in that sort of plucky way, fingerpicking is the correct term. So he was playing, and I said ‘Oh my goodness what is that?’ and he said, ‘Oh, it’s just something I’ve been playing around with, writing piece by piece.’ I, very unapologetically
said, ‘Can I have it? I love it, I think it is beautiful.’
“He didn’t make any promises, he didn’t say yes or no, or anything like that. We just laughed about it a little bit. Then a couple of weeks later, we were on our way to a gig in Connecticut, and Tripp got a phone call from his mother letting him know that his grandfather had passed. As you can imagine, his heart was so heavy.
“When we lose a loved one, well we never really lose a loved one, but it certainly feels like that. The physical body is no longer present, and he had quite a heartbroken afternoon that day. We had an event to do, and so we headed in that general direction and went through our setup process. I had, for a while, had this little idea of what lyrics I could put into this beautiful chord progression he had written. There was no melody yet, and I had something swirling in my mind, but it hadn’t yet gelled. It didn’t have its full form.
“That evening, after soundcheck, after we had our meal, after we got hugs from our producers and hosts, we took the stage I turned to Tripp and said ‘Hey, you know that piece, can you play that piece?’ He said, ‘Yeah, but we haven’t really written anything for it. I’ll be happy to, but what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I think I have an idea.’
“He played it, and I sang this exactly the way we recorded it, and we went through it 5 times, each time building it a bit bigger, and then on the 5th time breaking it all down like this. Just let it crumble, very organically finished it, and I knew for myself it would never change, whether or not he let me record it.
“We would do it live as much as we possibly could, and it would be exactly the way it had been that evening, holding that space, holding space for that grief, but also holding this very sacred center, for his masculine polarity, my feminine polarity, the masculine within me, the feminine within him, and the energies of every single person in that room, I think, contributed to the creation of this piece.”