Snatam Kaur talks about music bridging the East and the West

Snatam Kaur talks about music bridging the East and the West
Snatam Kaur will perform songs with one foot in Sikh tradition and the other in Western music at Encinitas’ Seaside Center at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 and Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of Andrea Marino

ENCINITAS — Concert, group meditation, a yoga class in melody — those are a few words that have been used to describe Snatam Kaur’s performances. 

Kaur and accompanying musicians will perform songs from her recent recording “Heart of the Universe” at Encinitas’ Seaside Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 16 (tickets available at spiritvoyage/snatam).

At a young age, Kaur began following the Sikh religion with her parents, also studying Kundalini yoga. In this Q&A, she talks about the “natural flow” of crafting music that’s steeped in Sikh musical tradition, but also has a western flavor.

 

You had a unique upbringing. How did that shape your music?

Music is a part of the yoga practice and Sikh tradition. And so, from a very early age, I realized music is the vehicle for really stepping into one’s soul, serving the community and uplifting one’s self.

 

You’ve spoken before about your music bridging two different worlds. Tell me about that.

I grew in the Sikh tradition, with music being a key element. Many of the tunes I learned were common village tunes. And then some classical Indian music. When I had the opportunity to create music in a studio for the first time with perhaps the broader intention of reaching out to the community, it was a natural flow to work with musicians who have a grasp of Western music styles. It was a pretty easy merging of styles, because growing up in the U.S., I had a lot of exposure to folk music and things like the Grateful Dead. It was a natural flow of expressing my experience with music and chanting.

 

From yoga demonstrations to chanting, I get the feeling you have an eclectic live show. From someone who has never been to one of your performances, could you briefly describe it?

First of all, a lot of people come who have never done yoga before, and have never experienced a chant concert before. So the chants and the music that we do — we try and bring the element of praying for peace. There always comes a point in the concert when there’s a collective still point of energy that allows the whole audience to pray for peace on the planet. And when we get to that still point, you’re practicing deep breathing, meditation and yoga exercises to really release stress and energy.

What really carries the energy of these concerts are these sacred chants that we share with people. There’s a depth of energy to them that really works. People come to the concerts with perhaps their body language looking perhaps a little tense or overworked, and leave feeling positive, happy and relaxed.

 

Are these chants intended to be universal for different cultures and religions?

The sacred chants I share mostly come from the Sikh tradition, which is a recognized religion. It’s important to understand and feel the roots of the chants as they come from the tradition, and that’s part of my own study and sharing with people and teaching. However, I feel incredibly passionate that these chants are for people of all walks of life.

 

You studied to become a physician at one point. What convinced you to devote time to music instead?

I was studying to become a physician, and music was always part of my life and with me. I suppose music is where the doors opened for me to continue further.

 

 

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