Spirit Voyage sat down recently to chat with recording artist Sirgun Kaur. Sirgun’s new CD, Dayaal, has been well-received and we’re all thrilled to learn more about this bright new artist.
Question: Sirgun, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Congratulations on the wonderful new CD. Do you mind telling us a little about your history as a singer/songwriter?
Sirgun Kaur: Sure. I moved to Los Angeles with the goal of pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter but after a couple of months, I just couldn’t perform my songs anymore. I didn’t really understand about the power of the spoken word at the time, but intuitively I think I knew that singing the same sad stories about my failed relationships every night wasn’t healthy. I had the blessing of working at a really progressive restaurant at the time, and one thing led to another… I met some of the people who introduced me to kirtan… and somehow (I still can’t say how I ended up there) I landed at a Kundalini Yoga Center, the Golden Bridge, in Los Angeles—a thriving Kundalini Yoga scene. I made the transition from singer-songwriter to chant artist rather slowly and seamlessly. I think the things that take the least effort are usually the most right.
Q: When I listened to the CD, it occurs to me that this transformation shows itself in the last song. Would you say that’s the case?
SK: Yes, I definitely haven’t given up writing songs. I just write about things I feel I’ll still want to be repeating in a few years. And that’s one reason I love mantras—they are always relevant, and they bring a peace that rehashing the past doesn’t.
Q: Your new CD, Dayaal, represents a really wide range of music. Do you find that there’s a common thread on the CD?
SK: I like an album to take me on a journey. I think this album does that. Some songs are meant to move your body to (like “Kal Akaal”), some to chant along with (like “Guru Ram Das”), some to lay out and relax to (like “Ma). The instrumentation varies from song to song, but there is a continuity that comes from using instruments designed to support a meditative experience. You’ll hear Sheela Bringi’s beautiful harp and flute, Hans Christian’s lovely cello, Simone Sello’s awesome guitar work, and of course, all the instruments Thomas Barquee (the producer) contributed.
Q: Which is your favorite recording on Dayaal?
SK: Ma! It’s so soothing and nourishing, and just a little bittersweet. I became a mother about two years ago and the mood of “Ma” just feels like motherhood to me. Well, the word “Ma” means mother. Motherhood has been such an amazing immersion into unconditional love and insane amounts of joy and laughter. Yet, it also comes with a lot of sacrifice—loss of sleep, loss of “me” time. And that’s what makes motherhood so beautiful to me. It’s been a very growing experience, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the name of the CD? How did you choose it, and why did you select that shabd?
SK: Sure. Dayaal means compassion. I actually wrote the music for this shabad the night I found out I was going to be making a CD with Spirit Voyage. I was really excited about getting some new material and the lyrics to this one just happened to be in my music folder. Spirit Voyage itself suggested the title Dayaal and I loved it. The repeated line in “Dayaal” translates as “when the Guru is compassionate…” then all the magic in our life happens.
Sikhs call “Guru” the lifeforce energy that (best case scenario) causes us to shift our lives in the direction of our soul’s purpose. It is the guiding light in our life that is sometimes misinterpreted as “misfortune” or “tragedy” because in reality even the direst situations are there to wake us up and bring us into peace. I think this force is always compassionate; yet sometimes we are not compassionate with our own journey because we think things “should” be different than they are. We must go through every trial and success with gratitude and humility. When we are compassionate with the reality of our present moment, we come into alignment with the Guru and we are able to realize that greater purpose.
Q: Personally, I love “Kal Akaal.” It’s got an amazing beat. What inspired you to write that one?
SK: I thought it would be fun to collaborate on some songs with Thomas Barquee (the producer) because I love so much of what he’s done with Snatam Kaur (and many others!). I suggested that mantra because it isn’t one you hear a lot. Thomas started playing some stuff on his keyboard and I started chanting over it and a song was born. Sometimes it’s easy like that.
Q: Namo Sooraj doesn’t seem to be a shabad that’s recorded frequently. What can you tell us about that one?
SK: So this one is taken from a longer prayer called “Jaap Sahib” and it’s my favorite part. If you’ve done bowing Jaap Sahib as a kriya, then you’ve probably heard this shabad before and not realized it. Namo is the acknowledgement or recognition—like Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. Sooraj means sun. When I chant this I get so entranced with the intrinsic rhythmic pattern of the words that the meaning becomes secondary, however, the meaning is really beautiful. The shabad honors God—the sun of all suns, the moon of all moons, etc.
Basically, it is an acknowledgement that there is nothing higher than the Highest Power. This means there is no one to thank but God, no one to blame but God, no one to see but God… Sikhs believe that everything—yes everything!—is God. The dichotomy of what is good and bad is something that exists on the Earth plane only. The view from above is that all things are unfolding perfectly and according to God. It’s too hard to wrap our brain around though, which is why we need to continually experience this truth (i.e. sat nam) through the practice of yoga.