A Sacred Journey: Snatum Kaur, Light Of The Beloved Tour!
By Jennifer Goodman
Last Wednesday evening, October 3rd I borrowed a friend's car and drove out to Skokie, Illinois to the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts. This is a is a modern performing arts center that I actually performed at several years ago while I was a dancer at The Joffrey Ballet, my former life. Still drawn to the arts and the stage, but now as a deeply devoted Yoga practitioner and teacher, I find myself watching Kirtan artists on stage these days, and this evening was exactly that. This was a completely different experience for me to have at the Skokie Theatre, and for all who attended I'm sure. What brought me out of my little bubble in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago was a favorite Kirtan artist of mine, Snatum Kaur Khalsa. Kaur is an American singer, song writer, and author. She performs new age Indian devotional music, Kirtan, and tours the world as a peace activist. The surname "Kaur" meaning "princess,” is shared by all female Sikhs.
Kaur learned to sing in the Sikh musical style with her mother, who introduced her to devotional music and the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. After graduating from college, Kaur traveled to India to further her study of Kirtan and the Yoga of sound. She has been recording music since 2000, and her popular CDs include Shanti, Grace, and Liberation’s Door.
For more than a decade, Kaur has toured throughout the world, singing traditional devotional music, teaching Kundalini Yoga, and spreading hope for world peace and unity through her Celebrate Peace tour. Many of the words she sings in her devotional music are in Gurumukhi, the sacred language of the Sikhs, a language designed to provide healing just by hearing it…
Kaur is known for her crystalline voice carrying such purity, clarity, and love. She shares her joyous, uplifting music everywhere, and for us - she performed both new compositions as well as much beloved songs from her rich catalog of classic world devotional CD's. Kaur uses mantras in her heartfelt collection of songs that provide healing, strength, and peace.
“The concert is an occasion for people to become awakened to the power of mantra,” she says; “to fall in love with mantras and experience them in the purest form that we can present. With these concerts, I hope to connect with people so that they get a sense of light and love. That is so important these days, with the political climate and environmental challenges we face. I know for myself that chanting together in these settings is super healing and super powerful for relieving stress, tension and that feeling of being overwhelmed that I think is pretty common for all of us in this day and age. It’s a way for people to come and find that sense of peace again.”
The evening began when a tall man with a long white beard, dressed all in white, and head wrapped in a turban, which is very traditional to see from a Sikh and Kundalini teacher or devotee, walked onto the stage to introduce Snatum Kaur and her "band.” When I say "band" this consisted of a male guitarist, a man playing the djembes, hand drums often used in Kirtan, and a female bassist with a very unique looking bass instrument. They were all dressed in white as well.
The gentlemen began by saying "you are about to be taken on a sacred journey," and that for us to fully experience this journey to please not only silence all cell phones but to put them away and try to refrain from taking pictures or videos as that would disrupt our own experience, as well as the artists on stage and fellow audience members. Though I fully agreed with this, I was also there to document and write about the event after, how was I going to do this?? I tried being very discreet at 1st, slouching in my seat a bit to take some pictures and recordings, as well as a live stream but sure enough I was asked from the person behind me to please stop, that it was very distracting. I felt terrible and once I noticed there were empty seats in the back row I moved there to continue capturing some beautiful moments.
After the intro, Kaur and the band walked on stage where they all took their place behind their instruments already set up and Kaur sat on a little platform set on the floor of the stage with her harmonium. The djembe player was on a platform as well, the guitarist in a chair and the bass player stood. It was a sweet little setting and felt very intimate.
Kaur started by inviting us to sit tall in our seats, feet on the floor, hands in our lap, to get quiet and still, and breathe for a bit. She then opened with the traditional tuning in mantra of Ong Namo Gurudev Namo. This was the 1st song that introduced me to Kaur when it was played in a Kundalini class I was taking and I fell in love immediately. For every song that they played, we were invited to sing along, and we did. It was such a beautiful experience to sing these sweet mantras in this setting, where I bet many had never been to a Kirtan before. But, as the magic of a mantra works, you really can't help but join in and feel happy and peaceful, even if you don't know what you're singing. It also invoked a feeling of oneness and connection to all that were there on this sacred journey together. Looking around the room I saw smiles, swaying, closed eyes, and the energy was blissful.
Initially people would clap after each set but after about 3 songs in Kaur invited us to sit in silence rather than clap to hold the energy invoked from the mantra, to allow it to integrate. The remainder of the evening each song finished in sweet silence.
In addition to her beautiful songs, Kaur often sprinkled in little tidbits or quotes of wisdom from the great Yogi Bhajan and another known Sikh Guru Nanek. Nanek is know for his unique style of teaching through singing sacred poetry. One of these sacred poems and the 1st track on Kaur's new "Beloved" album is called "Amul.” Amul means "priceless" and as Kaur says, "For me, when I chant this word, it has the effect of rooting me down, to what really matters, the Prana, or energy of life itself.” She also said, "Amul is the precious nature within, the essence of soul, the sacred heart.” How beautiful is that? Amul has become my new favorite word and mantra.
One of the most unique experiences of the evening, that you won't experience at any other "concert" was when Kaur guided us through some kriyas. Kriyas meaning "action" or repetitive movements found in many Kundalini practices, which include deep movement of breath or pranayama. I was so amazed and delighted that the entire audience participated in these kriyas, as they can seem weird and can be challenging and provoking. At one point we were all breathing in a panting fashion, mouths open, tongues out, and rotating our hands in and out to match the panting breath. Next we were alternating punching our arms, with hands flexed, and the same panting breath. The audience was into it and the energy elevated immediately and the whole theater became very powerful. The vibration was definitely raised.
To close out Kaur had us all stand up and join hands to sing "I am love love love love love love love,” I may have added an extra one but there was a whole lot of love going on. She invited us to sway with the music, then laughed that we were all already swaying before the music even started.
There was no doubt Snatum Kaur Khalsa touched us all, created a magical evening, took us on a sacred journey, and left us feeling transformed, different than how we were before, and full of light and love.
To learn more about Snatam Kaur Khalsa visit: snatamkaur.com. You can visit her tour schedule here.