This article originally appeared in the October 2012 edition of Common Ground magazine.
Call it celestial communication, a chantfest, a musical group meditation or just a concert. Whatever you call it, an evening with Snatam Kaur is sure to be heavenly. And with a new band featuring Todd Boston, Ramesh Kannan and Matthew Schoening, concertgoers will experience a transcendental touch of India, hallowed harmonies and even a bit of blessed bluegrass.
Wendy DeMos: Please tell us about your new band.
Snatam Kaur: I have absolutely loved everyone that I have had the honor to tour with over the years, especially my long-time musical partner GuruGanesha. Because of a creative shift within both myself and GuruGanesha a few years ago, we felt it was a natural time to go in different musical directions. Through very loving and honest communication, we realized we are both still very much dedicated to the same mission, of spreading the vibration of peace through music, with just a different style.
WD: What will we hear that is different?
SK: I am joined by Todd Boston on guitar. He very much honors GuruGanesha’s guitar style that I love, while bringing his own musical sound, which is opening up into areas of a slightly bluegrass style, mixed in with a delicate, classical Indian style. Todd really works with the acoustic elements of the guitar, with a beautiful tone and nice fluidity with the notes that he plays. Ramesh Kannan, who plays many percussion instruments including tabla, cajon, udu and symbols, has been with me for quite a few years now. I absolutely love playing with him. Not only are his rhythms so heartfelt and right on, but he also exudes an energy of joy and love that is very uplifting. What is a bit different this time is that we discovered that Ramesh is a great vocalist and so he will be adding his voice into the mix. We have also given much more space to Ramesh to open up into his different percussive instruments. This has been really fun. Probably the biggest shift we have made in terms of our elemental sound is the addition of the cello with Matthew Schoening. This element in the mix has given us a much more full sound, with the lower notes of the cello allowing us to really soar. At times I feel that there is another vocalist right with me, singing along, and realize that it is the cello.
WD: Please talk a bit about this time of great shifts. How does your music contribute to this time of change?
SK: The sacred chant, or Gurbani Kirtan that our music carries forth into this world, is one of the most healing tools we have available to us on this planet. People talk about how it carries them through the most challenging experiences as if a light has come into their hearts and uplifted them. I totally believe in the power of these sacred words and that is why I have been touring for so many years, through thick and thin, to deliver this energy to people.
WD: Why is chanting important?
SK: The sacred chants that we share are in a simple way positive affirmations that work on a cellular level to change your vibration. You may not be feeling very happy and start chanting and after a few minutes your entire energy shifts. It happens like clockwork. It is beautiful to experience and witness.
WD: Would you talk about precise pronunciation of the chants?
SK: The pronunciation of the sacred chants that we share is very important. As you pronounce things correctly, the tongue touches the roof of the mouth in a Morse code sort of way, stimulating your glandular system, which in turn offers a very healing experience on the physical level.
WD: How much of your day includes yoga, chanting and rehearsing?
SK: I realized a long time ago when I experienced the light of my soul through meditation, chanting, yoga and the Guru’s Grace that I did not want to live one single day without this experience. As challenging as it is at times, I do a practice every day that includes Kundalini yoga, the recitation of my Banis from the Sikh tradition and chanting. I manage to get in at least an hour and half every day.
WD: How has practicing yoga contributed to your life?
SK: The practice of Kundalini yoga is a huge blessing in my life. I love it. Through this science of yoga, I have been able to remain relatively healthy, in balance and in a good peaceful state most of the time. Of course I am human so there are always times of challenges. That is when the yoga becomes really, really important. I am getting better at remembering to practice it during these times as well. As a teenager, the practice of Kundalini yoga challenged me and awakened the sense of spirit within that would carry me through challenging times. When I first got married to my husband, we were and still are practicing meditations together that have elevated our communication together. When I was pregnant, I practiced yoga sets that really helped my body and the delivery of my child. As a mother now, there are wonderful yoga sets and meditations I am able to practice with my daughter.
WD: Do you have any yoga recommendations? Some people are intimidated by yoga and don’t think they are fit enough to partake. What would you suggest?
SK: I suggest to anyone who has the opportunity to take part in Kundalini Yoga classes. There is a wonderful center in Kitsalano called Yoga West. There are classes for all levels taught by some of the best teachers in the world, I believe. Kundalini yoga has a physical aspect to it, but also a mental, emotional and spiritual healing experience is offered as well.
WD: How does Vancouver’s Nirinjan Kaur contribute to your concert?
SK: Nirinjan Kaur will be joining us for our concert in Vancouver. I am so excited. She is one of my favorite Kirtan artists on the planet right now. We listen to her all the time at home. My three-year-old daughter calls her the “princess voice.” I also totally love her live presence as well. In everything she does, she holds a sacred connection to God and Guru that just cannot be shaken.
Wendy DeMos is a freelance writer specializing in stories about artists as well as life’s creative and spiritual dimensions. She is also a singer/songwriter and children’s performer.