December 7, 2017
Ramdesh welcomes her dear friend, sacred chant artist extraordinaire Nirinjan Kaur to discuss her new album, To The Heart, which she created with Matthew Schoening. They co-wrote all the songs and worked together every step of the way to make this album really shine.
“Let Go” is the first track you’ll hear on the podcast. It’s the only English piece on the album that they didn’t write the words for themselves, other than the words “let go.” The lyrics come from a sacred poem by Kabir from a translation made many years ago by Livtar Singh. Snatam Kaur recorded “Kabir’s Song” on Anand, and Mirabai Ceiba wrote a song “Oh, My Soul” on Awakened Earth also using this poem. This new version by Nirinjan and Matthew is lovely, with Matthew live looping on guitar and cello. Quips Nirinjan, “I sang with my human voice and he sang with his cello voice.” The words of Kabir, an early ecstatic poet, appear in the sacred texts of the Sikhs, Ramdesh notes.
“Breathe” is next. The piece is in the beat of five, an unusual time signature to use in this genre and it’s rare in most music, Nirinjan notes. (3/4 time or 4/4 time is most common.) When Matthew suggested 5/5, says Nirinjan, she was a bit doubtful and it took her a while to figure out how the beat flowed. “He’s a bit of a musical genius and it was really an honor to work with him,” she says. The rhythm felt like the experience of walking, with a flowing and constant sense of movement and she found that the mantra pavan guru worked perfectly with the tune. She deeply listens, opens to her intuition, and asks for the right mantra for a piece to become clear. Mantras are “magical and sacred,” as is the process of pairing them with music.
“Suniai,” which means deep listening, follows. The mantra comes from a longer prayer called Japji from the Sikh sacred text. This prayer is chanted every morning. “It’s about listening — not just with the ears but also with the heart, opening all your senses and assimilating your reality,” Nirinjan says. This can only be done from a deep state of surrender and depth of spirit, she adds.
When they first created the track they were in Chicago on a tour and were preparing for a workshop and concert. Nirinjan wanted to teach the “Meditation to Heal a Broken Heart,” and suniai seemed like a very good mantra for the students to meditate with. She and Matthew wrote the piece right before the class, played it during the workshop, and it just grew into a beautiful creation. “Honestly, it’s one of my favorite tracks on this album!” There are two versions of this piece on To The Heart: on this podcast, you’ll hear the one that features the awesome guitar work of Jeff Pevar.
When Nirinjan sings, Ramdesh observes, “I feel like I’m sitting in meditation with a friend and others feel that way, too.” Nirinjan’s voice is so warm and welcoming that she inspires a deep inner peace and sense of calm. The show plays out to a soothing piece called “Waves.” As you listen, says Ramdesh, “May love flow to and from the heart.”