Jai-Jagdeesh: Down Come The Walls Tour
By Jennifer Goodman
I consider myself lucky, though I prefer to say blessed, that I was at the right place at the right time to hear about Jai- Jagdeesh's visit to Evanston, Illinois on October 11th. I happened to be at Snatum Kaur’s concert the week before and she announced that Jai-Jagdeesh would be performing at the Beth Emet - Free Synagogue the following week. I love Jai- Jagdeesh, and she's going to be here? How did I not know this? Well, now I did and truly felt the universe was providing this serendipitous path for me. My whole introduction to Jai-Jagdeesh I feel, was quite serendipitous.
In January of 2016 I spent a week at The Sivananda Ashram in The Bahamas, quite a magical place to visit. I chose to stay as a "vacationer" rather than as Seva or as part of a training. I had never been and didn't know what to expect, since I had never even practiced Sivananda Yoga before. I had just finished a week long retreat in Guatemala with Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda, who are two of my favorite kirtan artists, also devoted bhakti and kundalini teachers and practitioners. So, I was already open, blissed and ready to receive more. When I arrived and looked at the schedule of events happening while I was there I was delighted to see we had a kirtan artist performing one evening and leading a kirtan and mantra workshop as well. This was right up my alley, even though I had never heard of this woman before. It was Jai- Jagdeesh. Needless to say, she blew me away. Who was this beautiful woman with this deep sultry voice singing mantra? That's not all, she was funny, cracking jokes, AND she got up and danced classical Indian dance, and beautifully. I was so impressed and inspired. Also, her mantras were mostly from kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and Sikh faith.
I was introduced to kundalini Yoga and mantras the previous year when I took my 1st visit to India for a 200 hour teacher training with Kia Miller. Again, I was recognizing how the universe was guiding and providing me with these experiences and this new path I was on. I was already a bhakti practitioner and kirtan lover but was now falling in love with kundalini Yoga and mantras. Fast forward to the fall of 2016, I attended one of Kia Miller’s courses - Mantra and the Yoga of Sound. One day during this training Kia played a beautiful song during savasana, it was a beautiful woman's voice. I asked who it was and lo and behold it was Jai- Jagdeesh. From here on out Jai's songs were popping up everywhere, in classes and workshops I attended and on spotify. So I downloaded some of her albums and started listening to her avidly.
So here I am today, attending her concert at an intimate little setting in the Chicago area. I hadn't heard of or been to the Beth Emet so I was excited to experience this as a venue. "Beth Emet is a diverse, multi-generational Reform community with a dynamic approach to Judaism. The congregation seeks to create a spiritually vibrant, socially conscious, intellectually challenging, and deeply caring environment firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and values."
Jai-Jagdeesh and her musicians entered and took their places on the floor or in chairs on the stage area. There was a guitarist, bass player, and a percussionist. Each of the musicians had several instruments they would alternate between throughout the show where Jai-Jagdeesh stuck to her harmonium. There was one moment when she was tossed a shaker and admitted she cannot shake and sing at the same time, of course she did, beautifully.
Before she began, she asked us to sit, close our eyes and breathe. She said the air of the wind is in our lungs, the air of our inner fire is passion, she asked us to feel our feet rooted to the earth and feel how she supports us, and to feel the crown of our head rising up to connect to the cosmos. "You are the sky, breathe, breathe, breathe.” I felt it, I was light.
She sang a lot of songs from her new album Down Come The Walls, which I had not heard yet. The album is a "beautifully bold and vulnerable declaration of the glory of being human, and explores divinity, passion, heartbreak, and authenticity in an exquisite musical journey.” And, "It is said that a person's cracks are where the light gets in. In this case, Jai-Jagdeesh has decisively demolished her entire facade to reveal a blazing majesty that is nothing short of magnificent.”
Jai-Jagdeesh says, “I hope anyone who listens to this album experiences everything there is to feel, learn, and understand about their own longing to belong – and, simultaneously, feels like they DO belong. We share a collective ache for something indescribable, and I suppose this music is my attempt to describe it. I can’t claim to have succeeded in the attempt... but I do feel a deeper knowing in my own soul, and that’s certainly evidence of well-worn journeying shoes! So, may these songs take you on whatever journey you’re ready to go on, and may you totally enjoy the ride.”
For her 1st song she spoke about her own experiences of grief and heartache from the end of a relationship, emotions felt, the heart closing, and questioning her own worth. Then as time passes a feeling of reopening, and rising again. There were so many more beautiful words she shared but I could not write quick enough. The song was "She Kissed Me" from her new album. "She" referring to earth. I was amazed at how beautiful and powerful her voice was just sitting there on the floor behind her harmonium. She sings with such soul, passion, and heart. She draws you in and mesmerizes you. You feel everything that she is singing, each word and emotion. Some of her influences were Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse.
The 2nd song Aykaa Maaee, is the 30th pauri of Japji, which is a morning prayer from the Sikh tradition. A truly beautiful prayer and song. Not an easy one to sing I can imagine yet it seamlessly poured out through Jai-Jagdeesh’s voice like a gentle stream, like butter. She stated that in her experience, one of the things this mantra does for her, is brings into harmony her divine masculine and divine feminine. Each of us has both within us, however we identify ourselves on the outside. We carry both energies, and each of us has a different balance of the two. She then pointed out her delight that the Synagogue had gender neutral bathrooms. This was quite impressive to me too.
We continued through the evening sitting, dancing, singing along, and silent. Eyes closed at times taking in the beauty of her voice and lyrics, as well as the beautiful sounds the musicians were producing. Jai-Jagdeesh and her musicians deliver a beautiful range of both melodic and peaceful sounds that draw you in and capture your full attention to upbeat and uplifting moments that take you right out of your seat. We experienced the range during this evening and it was a delight.
I was waiting and hoping for it and sure enough her final song was my favorite "In Dreams" an older song from her Of Heaven & Earth album. Such a song of love and peace, the lyrics repeating "know you are loved, rest in peace, dream your sweet dreams, til your soul is released.” The audience and I sat dreamily singing along, feeling loved and at peace.
As soon as I got in the car to drive home, I plugged my phone in and played Jai-Jagdeesh’s new album, Down Come The Walls, to hear again some of my new favorite songs I was introduced to and to stay a bit longer in my dreamy peaceful loving state.
I wonder, when and where will I hear and see you next Jai-Jagdeesh. Thank you, I bow to you.
To learn more about Jai-Jagdeesh visit: jaijagdeesh.com.