they’ll be playing at Spirit Fest 2011!
“The value that we bring to other people’s lives is the value we bring to our own….”
An Interview with Aykanna
S=Pauline Sukhdev Drossart
Chatting with Aykanna on Skype for this interview, I was struck by many things. The fluidity of their spirits and the love in their relationship, the energy and excitement they bring to their music, and the radiant beauty of their commitment to serving through music. Their first album Livelight has been a tremendous success, and they have a new album due out this May.
RK: Who is Aykanna?
A: Aykanna is a movement, an unfolding of an energy that connects us to heaven and earth. So that the heavens can come through and unfold through us on earth. It comes from the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. They will be done JUST as it is in heaven.
S: On the earthly level, we met 11 years ago. Music brought us together. At the same time, I was doing an R&B poetry flow in French and English around Los Angeles. He joined as percussionist. That went on for 5 years. Then in 2006 I became a yoga teacher and it transported me. I started doing sadhana and Guru Singh would start asking me to sing in class. That is how it began. I gave everyone a little mantra CD of Ra Ma Da Sa that I had recorded. We began playing in more yoga classes as service, and we were asked to do the music for Kia Miller’s Yoga DVD. When we had 22 tracks and realized we could take 11 of those tracks and make our CD (Livelight).
A: Before I got together with Sukhdev I asked Guru Singh if I could play in class, because I didn’t know if music was a part of Kundalini Yoga. That began something that initiated medicine music flow for me. At the same time I met an herbalist and musician who was also on the path and we created the Urban Shamen. We harmonize our environment and our health, it was powerful to have the music that supports the sacred sound current that has the power to unfold our radiant body, our radiant energy and music has done that for us.
RK: How do you blend French R&B with African percussion and get kirtan?
S: It is not planned or formulated and it just comes naturally and flows. He plays a rhythm and I might have a few chords in mind and then a mantra will just come. For the album, I’d lay down guitar ideas and vocals scratch tracks and then Akah would come in and lay down percussion and then a friend would come lay down bass. We used a lot of friends here in Los Angeles. It was effortless and fun.
A: When it comes down to the building of this sound there is a deep emotion in our hearts, in terms of dealing with our own personal challenges. There is a deep devotion to being our truth and being the love. I came from western African music, moving through Afro Cuban music, and I learned from African music to listen to the part we play. The devotion, the deep listening to the sound current…. the challenge when performing kirtan is that you’re in service to the sacred sound current. Being in service is different than performing music. You’ve got to come from a real devotional place, and really listen to what that sound current needs us to be. The more we let go the more spirit shows up.
S: There are elements from our past that we can’t just say goodbye to. It is time for all of us to accept all of who we are. Livelight for me was about coming into being a teacher. I had never planned to teach yoga. I got introduced to Kundalini Yoga and after one class I wanted to be a teacher. The music is like medicine. We play it to soothe our hearts and inspire us and then from that place we can go out and serve.
A: When we were doing Aad Guray Nameh I felt like issues in our life were overwhelming me. The more we worked on Aad Guray Nameh, the more I became convinced I can do this. The sound current was a way to clear our own paths. On Livelight, you can see it in real time helping us to clear ourselves. Aad Guray Nameh helps us to clear ourselves of blockages so that we can radiate on our path. We recorded it and then went out to the Promenade here in Los Angeles…there’s musicians and stores and it is an outdoor attraction. I was like, what else? Something needs to be in the song…and all of a sudden we heard a sitar. Here’s this Indian gentleman totally smiling, playing sitar, totally angelic. Right there in the street. It was right there just like Aykanna….heaven in the streets. He wound up on the CD.
S: Being yoga teachers, we asked ourselves what is the perfect album for a yoga class? There’s a track for shivasana. There’s track for running in place and doing the really strong Kundalini sets. There are 3 11-minute meditations you could do.
RK: What about your next album?
S: We just got married last March. We have known each other for 11 years; we were friends and music partners for 7 years. We’ve only been in a relationship for 4 years and then married since March. We have so much joy in our relationship and we have so much fun so we can bring that to the music. It will be a celebratory album for sure. We are celebrating coming into the Aquarian Age. We are feeling really excited about this path what we’ve co-created together. We feel embraced by the Kundalini Yoga world. The Kundalini community is small, but it’s so heart-warming and touching.
A: One of our teachers said something to us about the international acceptance of Kundalini Yoga. He said he represented the past of Kundalini Yoga into the world. Our generation represents Kundalini Yoga moving into the future. Spirit Voyage does that, too.
S: We feel a real calling to teach sound and mantra. I’ve been blessed to have Dev Suroop Kaur as a mentor. She’s been mentoring me in an amazing way.
A: It’s a testimony to what Yogi Bhajan did. He came here to create a future not a following. When he came and shared this in the US, and we were exposed by the teachers he taught…Krishna Kaur, Guru Singh, GuruGanesha, Dev Suroop Kaur and Gurmukh. These are the ones who have been pushing us to do more, giving us the opportunity. We then see that we have a responsibility to share and find out how can we be that channel for other people so that they can go inside their heart and take their own journey. Guru Singh said it in class… the value that we bring to other people’s lives is the value we bring to our own.