Livtar and Snatam
Listen to the audio recording of the interview

Phil: So welcome Livtar Singh

Livtar: Thank you.

Phil: Now, you just released an album “Mountain of Smoke”.

Livtar: Yes.

Phil: But it’s taken quite some time to record the album, I understand.

Livtar:  Well, if you don’t include the 27 years before we even started trying, it has been…we meant to do it in six months and it ended up taking three years. My mother in law, she finally passed away and between all that there has been a bunch of rambling to try to get this done, so it was interesting. You know there is an old saying: While you make plans, God laughs. 

Phil: And Snatam Kaur features on the album. 

Livtar: Yes, Snatam Kaur, who I have known, I think I first met her when she was 10 years old and we started playing music together in various times, we really did it officially around 2000..somewhere when GuruGanesha, she and I formed the band called the Peace Family Band and we recorded two albums. And around that time I got really sick, really ill, which turned out to be gluten by the way, if anyone who is interested. And I couldn’t do anything, I was laid out.  So Snatam and GuruGanesha went off on the next adventure with Snatam launching into her career, and GuruGanesha backed her up for many years. 


Phil: So, to come back to your own journey, you started performing as a teenager, I understand? 

Livtar: Yes, I was into Rock & Roll, when folk music was a big thing and The Kingston Trio was huge, and Bob Dylan and the whole folk singer was going, and me and my brothers actually had a little trio, so we used to sing at events, and then later on high school I started rock and roll bands and we used to play The Doors, and Hendrix, and all kinds of whatever was going on back then. In fact one of my early lessons in music was “Born to Be Wild” when it was a big hit. We used to play in a Country Club every Saturday night, we were the house band and people always asked play “Born to Be Wild”, play “Born to Be Wild” and so we played once or twice every 45 minute set. So we said, we are going to fix them, we are going to make them never want to hear that song again, so we played the song for 45-minutes straight and then we took a break and we came back started playing songs, and guess what they started yelling? They wanted to hear “Born to Be Wild” so I learned, there is what I want, there is what other people want and I have no idea what other people want, I just have to do what I do and….


Phil: And how did Yogi Bhajan came into your life?

Livtar: That was all during that period, I was 18 when I met him, and what it happened it was 1969, hippie scene full blast, the world was divided into camps in my point of view, hippies which were all drugged out and then the normal straight world, we called it, doing the normal thing, neither of those two appealed to me, I was heavily searching hunger, thirst, which I later kind of figured out I was born with me, in this incarnation, I was already there, but just waiting for the trigger moment to hook up to my game so I could continue with my search and work in this incarnation. 

I went to the beach one day, I took a little bit of…how shall we  say it? Chemical assistance, a small amount, just for my brain to work a little different, and I was walking up and down, what am I gonna do? What I am going to do? What am I supposed to be doing? I don’t want to be drugged hippie, and I come home and as I walk in the door there is my drummer, from my band, and he says, you have to come meet this guy. I was just sitting on my couch looking out my glass window and this guy with long hair and beard walks by and I thought he was cool so I ran out to meet him and he is really cool.

Yeah, I will be right over. I jumped in the car, drove over there, and… who just came back from doing a couple of classes with Yogi Bhajan in New Mexico at the farm, it was 1969. It was the Summer Solstice events that 3HO started.

And he sat down and started telling me about Yoga, and how it makes you feel like doing LSD all the time, it was the language of our time, you know, it was how we understood things. And I just sit right there, I am in. So he was going to visit his parents for two weeks in Florida, in Orlando and we said no, you are not leaving, we need you here to teach us. So he started teaching and we brought Yogi Bhajan. 

When my father found out I was not going to cut my hair and I was going to be a yogi and all that, he put me into the mental ward of the hospital, which I kind of had to agree to, I was only 18, I said what the heck, maybe I can… was crazy…

So I was in the hospital, when Yogi Bhajan actually came to Orlando and I had to break out of there to go see him. So I walked around the floor with no shoes and then I snuck down the freight elevator in the back… I had to call my friend to come pick me up and take me to the class. So I met Yogi Bhajan at the class, I was waiting at the front and he just shook my hand very politely and he said, pleased to meet you, and at that moment I laughed and I laughed because all of my past kind of started coming out to surface my incarnations, and I said this is it…I am supposed to be bowing, you are my teacher. You don’t shake hands politely like a cocktail party to your teacher. 

And I had no way to know that…I mean, I was just a born, raised kid from the South and that was it, he said lets go, and I went to study with him for 6 months in LA and he sent me to Atlanta to start an Ashram.


Phil: So from going to LA, did you have a daily sadhana, a daily spiritual practice?

Livtar: Oh yeah, in LA, in those early days, was the most amazing awesome energy going on…we would get up, in fact when I got into LA, I hitchhiked part of the way, took a train part of the way, I hitchhiked and as I came to LA, I had no idea how a big city was, because Orlando, I grew up there, it was a nice small city, 11000 people, you could get anywhere in 15 minutes. When I come to LA I didn’t have a concept, the guy said, where do you want to get off, lets just take an exit, I’ll get off and I’ll call and find a way to get there. So we were driving, looking to the exit and he said, this exit, I get out, I called them on the phone and I am two blocks away from the Ashram, that literally can’t happen. So I walk to the ashram, I get there like 11:30 at night and they bring me a cot. The room is completely full and there were two of us sleeping out on the hallway and around 2 am “Wake Up” “Wake Up” We took cold showers, we will do a full hour of Kundalini Yoga and then a 2 and a half hour meditation, which was one mantra “Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru” and that for at least 90 days there at that Ashram.

What happened was, after about probably  less than a month, this blue light, kind of a blue orb, like the size of a pearl will appear up in my third eye, and it was blue lit from the inside out. And it looked like it was hanging in space, if I moved my eyes to the right it will stay in the middle, and if I looked to the left it would stay in the middle. It was a stationary object, it was like something hanging from a string. And I would stare at this thing and I would do the meditation staring at this pearl… Later I heard they called it the blue pearl or something, I couldn’t find anybody who knew. Then we had a class with Yogi Bhajan and then we did Yoga in between for fun, you could almost see the energy coming up from our fingertips. So energized, so energetic, I could make my Kundalini go up at will, that was the time just to get our base and understand what the heck we were doing here and then we went out to the real world, and started having families, and jobs, and running ashrams and didn’t have so much more of that anymore. That was an awesome amazing time. 

Phil: We have 9 tracks to choose from in the album Mountain of Smoke, where would you like to begin? 

Livtar: I would like to start with “Beyond the Far Horizon” it is a little different from the other songs,  and it is actually the most challenging conceptually because it is about how our ego makes us think we are in charge of the next moment, we have something to do with what is happening, and if you look at the big picture, we are on a planet that is spinning at a 1000 miles an hour,  around the Sun at 10000 miles an hour, and then we got the solar system, and we are living in the center of the galaxy at something like at 700,000 miles an hour, and if you add it all up… that is why it comes in the song, and the point us, OK, if you are going to stop what is going to happen next, then you have to position yourself in the space in front of you, put out your hand, because you are not going to stop this 1,000,000 miles an hour, it is not going to happen. In this space and time that we create by movement because if you don’t move you are just a photograph, nothing moves, but we always try to grab on to moments or times, we just try to grab them and stop the movement of time and stop that flow but if you did that you got nothing, you will just be frozen. So it is trying to get that concept through and at the same time we are just a point of consciousness looking at this movement and we don’t move, so it is those two dichotomies and it is a meditation and it is kind of a challenge to our ego. 

BEYOND THE FAR HORIZON PLAYS 

Phil: Now, I read you are not a great fan of recording studios, I think it was the people around you that persuade you to finally record this album. 

Livtar: Yes, I just never liked it, I don’t know why but finally I had these songs and I would play them for people who came…we have this all night music things at Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice events called ?? Kirtan when you just play continuous music, and they would hear the songs there and they would go “We want to hear this, we want to record it”…  Yeah, OK, maybe.

And finally they just took over and started the fundraising and I just want to mention, Mahan Kalpa also known as Paul Mahern,  who was really like after me, I love your music, I would really like to record it, and he is a punk rocker, if you google Paul Mahern, he is the lead singer of the Zero Boys who are very well known punk but he is also a Kundalini yogi, and he is a super yogi, super smart, amazing in music, and when I started working with him I just did a test run with him and I loved working with him, and he just did it relaxed and nice, and he is super good at what he does, so all these things conspired and got me in the studio and the main person we work that I also want to mention is Heidi Gluck. She was our main studio musician, instrumental multi-instrumentalist fantastic genius incredible fuel to the music. So with these two people in the studio I actually really enjoyed it this time and it just changed my whole outlook on it, so that’s kind of how they got me into the studio and got this to happen because the last album I did with my music it was in 1982. I had recorded with other people, and for me to be the one who instigated it in organized it and all that I just didn’t have the… plus I was sick of all that time I was sick for 20 years, we just finally got it done.

Phil:  Wonderful, and what other track would you like to feature?

Livtar: My favorite track on there is “I Bow” because every time we do yoga or we meditate we tune in and we use this mantra “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” and “Ong” is the creative energy of the Universe and what that means is before God created anything, when it was just the One alone and there was no creation, there was nothing, the very first thing created was creative energy so the creative energy then created stuff, created the Universe, the world, and that’s “Ong” O N G, it is very close to OM, OM is the Creator before there was any creation, that is the creator not in creation. “Ong” is the creative energy and “Namo” means I bow, and “Guru Dev” is the inner teacher, the inner guru, “Dev” is the pass through the invisible “Guru” is there that is unseen and then “Namo”. And this one little mantra which we just use it to tune in but if you, you can make it your entire life work, because if you bow to the Creator within and the inner teacher and you actually get out of the way and let that through, that’s everything, you’re done you don’t need anything else, and so that song is the kind of longing way to that I came to ask for that, that  was given to me.

I BOW PLAYS 

Phil: Now, from your initial 90 days at the Ashram, you ended up managing the Ashram? 

Livtar: No, I was in one Ashram in LA for 90 days and then I had to move… it was a long story but I was there for 6 months and then at the end of the six months in June of 1970, Yogi Ji said you have to go to Atlanta and start an Ashram because he… he didn’t collect students, he made teachers and he would have people train just a little and sometimes like one day and then he would send them out because he was interested in getting the Yoga and the technology out to people, so he sent people out everywhere all over the world and we started Ashrams, and back then, again in the late 60s early 70s, people were really out there looking so they would move in, and we had ashrams with 60, 80, 100 people. But I went to Atlanta to start an ashram and so a series of serendipitous events led up to needing a few people getting a house and starting an ashram, the interesting thing was that I was 18, just turned 19 so I just turned 19 when I got to Atlanta, if people lived there until their upper 20s they would start doing father phobias on me, acting out their things with authority figures and I was like, I am just a 19 year old kid, what are you doing? And then I didn’t understand the dynamic of the authority figure and it doesn’t matter who the authority figure is dynamic acting out upon them so that was really interesting and we went through many versions over the years, we grew, got smaller, opened health food stores as a group and had many fun adventures but they all added up to me finally getting my revelation, my enlightenment, I don’t even know how to call it, but it was the years of work and hassle, of service, all of the grind because our system we use its we don’t run away to the Himalayas, we lived right in the middle of the world, you get grinded down and out of that comes the light, and the song “Into the Radiance” was my experience when I finally achieved… I don’t know, enlightenment, whatever you call it,  I was driving in my car and I saw the entirely, the Maya and the one and everyone, I was struck dumb first thing that happens all of the mental negative talk what you don’t even know who is there, disappeared in an instant, total silence, in peace. That’s why the first line of the song is “Into the silence I fell, in the infinite sea of love I dwell” and I became in the moment the one, I could not speak and not because I couldn’t think of anything to say, because I understood and knew and became at that moment that there is no other, this is all a big fake, it is a big game, me talking to you, this is all part of this play and I didn’t know what to do, I was… I can’t even speak to anyone because they are not there, there is not really  another to talk to, and so I just meditated on it and it was really that I had a teacher, Yogi Bhajan and I said, what did my teacher do? And he had this realization, he talked, and he talked, and you keep acting like normal and you keep acting like you think it’s real, and that’s why the illusion, the Maya world was put here so that there could be interplay because God was Just God and the one thing God couldn’t do is create another God to hang out with, so it created the creation so it could hang out with itself, with the illusion of separateness and be longing to come back to the Oneness and become one again, so that is “Into the Radiance”.  

INTO THE RADIANCE PLAYS 

Phil: You mentioned you were ill for quite some time, two decades? How did you find a cure?

Livtar: For around eleven years I just had these incredible bizarre symptoms which no one could sort out and I went to MD specialists and natural healers and I probably saw 25 different people. The symptoms were just too weird because what gluten does, is it destroys part of your immune system, messes with your brain, and so… and then genetically whatever there is pathways that the gluten works on my body, in my particular case the gluten was messing with me mentally, I started having panic attacks, anxiety, and what I later found out is depression. I mean I didn’t think of it that way because I didn’t like…I wasn’t like “I am horrible, I want to kill myself” depression. It was just…I didn’t have enough energy to deal with that, I didn’t have the energy to deal with anything around me, internally I was fine, I know who I am, it wasn’t like that. 

Finally, I went to see a friend of mine who is a chiropractor and he said, I can’t really help you anymore. I was losing a pound a day at this point,  I was just on my way out of here. He said, but I just heard of this place, and a few people have been there, and he sent me over there, and it was like one of the very few people in the entire world that was on to gluten early and I went in there and he said, yeah, you got gluten sensitivity and this and that… And I said, how do you know? Because we just talked for 30 minutes. Well, because I have it. 

And then that started me on the path of correct diet, the diet it’s the thing. And then the DNA stuff started coming out which I just can’t recommend enough for people 23andme.com, probably you have heard of them already, get your genetics done if you can afford it because there are things in there like you have a tendency toward heart attack and then you’ll know to fix your diet so you don’t have a heart attack, or you may have a tendency towards this kind of cancer and then you will know to get check ups more regularly, it just gives you a road map, anyway, after we found that I just improved by leaps because we could target exactly what I needed. Very grateful to my doctor, two doctors.  I couldn’t meditate or do Yoga, if I tried to do Yoga I would start spinning like in a horror movie, if I tried to meditate it was like somebody put a trapdoor down over my third eye…nothing, I get nothing…Very strange. 

Phil: And how did you get Snatam Kaur involved with the album? 

Livtar: The album was originally supposed to be done with Nirinjan Kaur. Nirinjan Kaur and I, sound like the elderly brothers, we sound like brother and sister. We do this blending thing…but she started having her children and my various stuff happened and it just never happened so when it did happen… Oh and Snatam was very busy back then and I didn’t think she could do it so…anyway this time I just said “Do you want to be on here?”  and she said: “Oh yeah! Love to It will be my honor” We actually, Mahan Kalpa, the engineer, the producer flew to her and did her parts at her house so we just set it up so she would have no effort involved other than just singing, and worked out really great and I hope we can do that other song which is a duet, Mountain of Smoke, the title.


Mountain of Smoke is a concept in Sikhism, and Eastern Philosophy in general, if you are the One, if you are, there’s no separation and there’s no world here, it is all Maya, then sometimes you talk like “Oh God, you are this or God, you are that, you are my beloved.” But if you go into the real self and the oneness you talk as if you are God, and the lyrics of this song are talking like if is God is speaking,  I am Fearless One and the catch is that if you can become that, were you are speaking as if you are God, and you really are, you just don’t know it, then it puts you in that same state of mind as if it you are God speaking so all of the lyrics sound like it is first person, God speaking, but actually any person has the right to become that position, I am that One, I am the One, I am the only, and that song came out.  It is just gorgeous, with her and me, I love that song. 

MOUNTAIN OF SMOKE PLAYS 

Phil: And a song that you are proud of is “The Song of Khalsa” which is not in this album but it is available from your website. 

Livtar: Yes, the song of Khalsa…you know because I always have the same problem everybody does, is thinking I am little old me and I go through periods of putting boundaries on myself and putting boundaries on what I do. 

The song of Khalsa is an awesome story, it is basically that current, because I was wrestling with fearlessness, courage, in Sikhism there is a lot of stories of Sikhs being tortured and just keeping going… there’s one story where a man started reciting one of our prayers and they started sawing him in half from the head down, like with a big saw and he is in a log and he kept reciting it and he kept reciting it as they saw through his body, and this was recorded by the Mughal Emperors who were doing it at the time, it was reported by them, it wasn’t like this urban legends things, it was actually recorded in the history. And he kept reciting even they were sawing through their head, normally you would be dead, you achieve this states of consciousness were you are so above and in control of your body that you can go through stuff like that and it’s just whatever, nothing, okay, and so I actually saw a movie and I…the movie had this scene in there, the whole movie was actually like that,  and the guy was fearless and I thought…I got it, I got it and I came home and I wanted to bottle it so I could give this concept to people about being fearless and Khalsa, by the way, means “pure one”. A lot of us say Khalsa is our last name and its not from this snooty version that says I am pure and you are not but  I am striving at all moments to be pure, meaning I want to be a pure channel for the infinite light, so I came home, I got my guitar and I started writing this song, sitting in the main Yoga room at the Ashram, and I got four verses and the chorus and I was “Oh man, this is great!”  I got this done, its finished. I put the guitar and I walk upstairs and I go I was going to lay down and rest for a while, so I’m walking in the bedroom door and right in the doorway, right on the frame of the door I feel a physical knock on my head like a knock on the door, somebody’s knocking on my head and to understand this next conversation you have to understand that in those earlier days you were doing a lot of Yoga, and we were just… dealing with non human entities was kind of normal,  I would be meditating in the morning and look over and see someone meditating next to me, and there weren’t any humans there. There was a full person sitting meditating next to me, so instead of being like “Oh, God is speaking to me” or something, when they knocked on my head I was kind of peeved and I was kind of “What?”  and this voice says, it isn’t finished, so I started arguing with this non human whatever, “yes it’s finished”, “no,  it’s not finished” and I say it has four verses, it has so many verses, that is what matters, and it says “finish it” and I say “It says all I want to say” and it says “It is not finished”. 

So I like a little kid hang my head and say “Okay, I will go finish it” and I go back down, I pick my guitar up and this verse is just there in my mouth and it comes right out, I didn’t think about it, I didn’t do anything…It just kind of amazed me and then I was like “Wow! That’s really cool” So I went back upstairs, stood in the doorway to make sure there was no knock and that was the song, and then Yogi Bhajan made it a song that everyone should sing in our spiritual gurdwara. It is like going to church or synagogue, we call it gurdwara, which means gate of the guru. 

So it is sung in the gurdwara and it is sung all over the world and that gave me a lot of inspiration. 

So over the years I’ve always wondered who that was, and what that was, because that never happened to me before, or after that, in any song that  was it, a very specific event. Years later, this lady said, well everything is already in the akashic records, and the akashic records for those who don’t know, it is like a cloud and everything that has ever happened or is ever going to happen is already in the akashic records,  so this lady said “I love that song, but the first time I ever sing and I already knew it” and this light went off in my head and I went “Oh, this song was already in the akashic record with all of them are and I was supposed to be the one to bring it out into the world and I screwed up, I just had this picture like the librarian or whoever is in charge, he didn’t get the fifth verse, what do we do? well I don’t know what to do, if he goes to sleep he will probably lose it, so let’s knock on his head, break the rules and talk to him directly and tell him he has to finish it. It’s just a great experience in my mind and it was already there and I was chosen to be the one to bring it out and I almost screwed it up. And yes, people can hear it on  my website at livtar.net 


Phil: And what does Livtar mean? 

Livtar means constantly in love with the one, the state of where you don’t have to think about it, you are just there, you are just in love with the one. And all of our names, Snatam and all these names we take, they are aspirational, so you get the name so you can live up to it, again not that you are there already, so every time you hear your name it reminds you that’s where you are supposed to be. 

Phil: So, thank you for today. And what song would you like to leave our listeners with today from Mountain of Smoke. 

Livtar: Let’s do Longing for Home, and “Longing for Home” was part of this system of longing, and longing to be back to the One. And one day I just had this feeling of I am so tired of this incarnations, and going through this over and over and over and this concept of it came like a soul comes out and starts on this long road, and travels through all incarnations, and goes through all the tests, and all the hassles, and it ends up back to the One and the song is really good. If you are ever in a room with someone that is going to die, they got a disease and you know you are going to die, try this song, and you are just hanging out with them, try this song out, it takes out all this “Oh is bad, and it is sad, and that whole thing” and it is just this beautiful completion of the journey home to the One. 

LONGING FOR HOME PLAYS

Listen to Phil Cartwright’s interviews with hundreds of musicians and authors here: https://soundcloud.com/phillc

Related Posts