Snatam Kaur’s catalogue of releases is a rich one. Growing up immersed in the world of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh practices, her innate talent and years of study have led her to become one of the most beloved yoga music artists today. Her music is a wonderful reflection of her growth as a person and an artist, deepening and maturing with time. Her 2011 release Ras is a powerful example of her continued growth, being a more introspective offering that some of her previous albums. Whereas albums like Liberation’s Door and Anand are outward expressions of her Spirit, Ras finds Snatam drawing inward and inviting the listeners into her private conversation with the Divine. She is joined on Ras by renowned musicians like Manose and Benjy Wertheimer, and produced by the talented Thomas Barquee. The talents of these wonderful musicians merge to create an almost indescribable listening experience.
Several of the songs on Ras draw their lyrics from Japji, a 40 stanza prayer composed by Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs. “So Mai Visar” opens the album with the beautiful flute playing of Manose. The sound of the flute is a beautiful partner to the lyrics, which are a call to meditate on the One that is in all. “Earth Prayer” also draws from Japji, this time from the closing stanza. Snatam merges the imagery from this prayer with English lyrics, calling us to remember the earth we came from and which supports our lives. On the chorus, the Love Snatam sings of is powerfully felt in the emotion of her voice.
Snatam sings “Tithai Too” like a sacred lullaby, supported by gentle guitar playing and keyboards. This is a song about protection, the words evoking the safety from danger and hardship that people young and old crave. The active energy of the words contrast with the sweet and peaceful nature of the track itself. The fourth track on Ras, “Aap Sahaa-ee,” is particularly powerful. Where “Tithai Too” gently speaks of active protection, “Aap Sahaa-ee” is an active look at the energy of surrendering. Here, Snatam’s voice and the musical accompaniment call out the true peace that can come from actively surrendering to a higher good and a higher power. There is no meekness in this surrender, but rather a passionate choice which brings joy in the face of any difficulty.
Snatam brings a different take on the mantra “Chattr Chakkr.” This is a mantra for victory, evoking power and strength. Rather than presenting it in the more common, energetic fashion many artists choose, Snatam gives us time to really meditate on the meaning of this mantra. Power is fluid and changing. A raging fire is powerful, but so is a drop of water when given enough time. Here we experience the gradual, building power that comes from deep within. We don’t have to pretend, to fake it ’til we make it. “Chattr Chakkr” shows that through patience and devotion, we can tap into the well of power within, and change our lives. Joined by Benjy Wertheimer’s beautiful esraj, “Chattr Chakkr” is a standout track on Ras.
“Mere Raam” closes the album on a gentle and intimate note. Snatam sings not to some abstract and distant God, but to the active and personal Divine presence that exists here and now. When all of the philosophical and intellectual conceptions of the nature of the Divine fall away, what’s left is the raw, pure emotion of Love that grounds everything. “Mere Raam” is a wonderful culmination to the inner work of Ras.
Listening to Snatam Kaur on Ras is a profoundly moving experience. As an artist known for her devotion, it is still humbling to see just how deep that devotion goes. By allowing the listeners this intimate glimpse at her relationship with the Divine, she inspires us to look into our own hearts and fan the flames of our own devotion. Ras is a beautiful album from a beautiful person, and should have a place in any music lover’s collection. Find out more about Snatam Kaur and her work at www.spiritvoyage.com.
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