Artist Interview: Simrit Discusses “Songs of Resilience” (Part 1 of 2)

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a 2 part interview with Simrit Kaur and her newest album Songs of Resilience. You can also read Part 2, where she opens up about her Kundalini Yoga practice here.


If you haven’t heard Simrit’s newest album, Songs of Resilience, you need to stop what you’re doing – immediately – and give it a listen! It is musical innovation and personal devotion at its finest. We couldn’t be more in love with this elegant and expressive album, which encourages its listeners to find grounding endurance, hope and transformation.

Simrit’s sound is hailed world-wide as haunting, hypnotic, healing and majestic, and it has topped World Music Charts including #1 on iTunes Top World Music charts multiple times over and #1 on Billboard Music Charts. Her voice communicates with so much humanity.

We were thrilled to dive a bit deeper and find out more about Simrit and the making of her captivating new album – Songs of Resilience!

Spirit Voyage: What was your inspiration for this album?

Simrit: My inspiration for this album is the amazing resilience that I’ve experienced with people throughout my life.  As much as we go through as humans on this planet, we are so resilient as a result of the deep humanity that runs through our veins.  It is a true force, in my opinion – something way beyond what my mind can comprehend. I’ve also experienced my own resiliency over the years – being an orphan for the first year and a half of my life in Greece, then moving to the American South with another amazing Greek family where none of us were blood related.  We lived in areas of the city where we sometimes heard gunshots growing up, and going to a mystical church growing up where we had midnight services and walked around the church outside chanting with candles, just being different in this unique life situation…having to grow up very fast, basically. People tell me that they feel such deep humanity in my voice – I feel very fortunate to have had the life experiences that I did because I know that they are what enables me to really empathize with people and share that through the music.

Spirit Voyage: Can you share a story from the making of this album?

Simrit: The third track on this album is called Pavan Guru. My close Uncle had just passed right before New Years Day. I wasn’t able to attend his funeral, as I had already scheduled the whole band and the recording studio for the new album recording. It was a hard situation for me, as I was close with my Uncle, but I had about 10 people depending on this album being made (people were flying in, etc.). I just couldn’t cancel the recording session – too much was at stake. I was encouraged by my family to proceed with the recording. When we were recording this track (right after New Years Day), my band said that the sound, vibe and groove of this track felt like a beautiful funeral procession. I told them the story about my Uncle, and I told them that I was communicating with my Uncle while recording this track, as we recorded the track the same time as the funeral was happening. Everyone was touched. It was a beautiful experience, to say the least, for all of us.

 

Spirit Voyage: What makes this album different from the rest of the albums in your catalog?

Simrit: Like the last album, this album was also recorded live on 2″ reel to reel tape in an old church converted into a recording studio. The acoustics in that space are amazing, and the team I have continued to work with over the past few years are incomparable. Paul Mahern, aka Mahan Kalpa Singh, who also happens to be a close friend of mine – someone I call a brother – has worked with artists such as Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Iggy Pop, to name a few. However, on this album, my bandmate and soul brother Salif Bamakora (given the honor of the adopted family name Salif Diabate, from his teachers of almost 20-years, Madou and Toumani Diabate of the over 700-year regal kora lineage of Mali in West Africa) contributed kora and percussion on every single track on this album, and he and I co-wrote two of the songs, Clandestine and Nana. It’s been amazing to be playing together for 5-years now, and the organic unfoldment of our musical dharma together has been quite astonishing. We also tour together. Our sound is very unique, and it has recently inspired other people in this genre to dabble a lit bit with a small amount of kora in their music.

Spirit Voyage: Are there any special contributors to this album? If so, tell us about them!

Simrit: My bandmate and soul brother, Salif Bamakora (aka Salif Diabate). He is on every single song on this album contributing his masterful and incredibly heart felt kora playing and his co-writing on two of the songs, Clandestine and Nana. Salif was “adopted” into the 700-plus-years lineage of the beloved Diabate family of Mali in West Africa. His teachers are the world-renowned and grammy winning Toumani and Madou Diabate, two brothers who recognized Salif’s deep connection with the Kora when he was over in Mali almost 20 years ago. Salif has been studying with them and various other master teachers for almost 20-years now. He was bestowed the highest honor of receiving their family name because of his immense talents with the kora and his humble disposition despite his mastery.

Shannon Hayden is another one of my bandmates. She is a close friend and contributes immensely to the haunting and epic soundscapes of this new and the previous two albums, with her virtuosic cello playing through a massive pedal board which she creates many different sounds and effects through. Shannon got a full scholarship to Yale University (when she was just a teenager) to attain her masters degree in classical cello, and she completely bypassed her bachelor’s degree because of her incredible talent and devotion to cello. She was invited to be a part of the famous Kronos Quartet, but declined it because of her desire to only play what she wanted to play. That’s my kind of person! Someone who is true to their art. Although she is deeply trained in the classical tradition of cello, and was first seat in all her cello competitions through Yale, she continues to push the boundaries of cello-playing and music, in general. She leans towards eccentric and grand soundscapes that are inherent in our sound. She adds so much to the albums and live concerts!

You can learn more about Simrit and in Part 2 of our interview.


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