Snatam Kaur: Celebrating Peace
An interview by Jennifer Joe and Steve Hays
Source: The Light Connection: http://www.lightconnection.us/Archive/sep06/sep06_article1.htm
Snatam Kaur’s concerts are a joy. I can’t really explain them much better than that. I simply know that afterward I feel great and smile a lot. She has been on a world tour and in September comes to Southern California. On Sept. 1 her new album, Anand, produced by Spirit Voyage will be released. (More information at the end.) Her tour sponsored by Peace Cereal, was dedicated to inspiring people of all walks of life to celebrate the peace that is within, and from that place of strength, to reach out to others as neighbors and nations in the spirit of peace. —Steve Hays
Steve: The tour that you have been on is called “Celebrate Peace,” and we are now in the world that looks very chaotic and unpeaceful. Why did you name it “Celebrate Peace,” and how are you contributing to peace?
Snatam Kaur: What I have found in my travels is that there are actually a number of people that live in different creative ways. There is so much misperception in the media. I believe that war is everywhere and granted there are a lot of controversies and turmoil, but I sometimes feel that if only we viewed how many people are out there really working toward peace—if only we could feel and understand that—it would give us so much more hope. And so, Celebrate Peace i s named that because we are saying that peace exists inherit within each person and within each heart. It is a matter of recognizing it and then celebrating it, and in that way being active for peace.
Steve: So how do you define peace?
I feel that peace is really defined in each person’s life in the moments of their greatest struggles and the greatest challenges. Peace is the ability to stay true to yourself and in any situation—find the light, or find the way to grow and transform in that situation while uplifting yourself and other people. In our country, we are fortunate enough to have all that we have. We have so much peace in our land, and yet at the same time, we can find so much to be anxious about,or stressed and worried about. I feel inner peace is really important because that inner peace does have an effect on the universe around us It does have an effect on all of humanity. Even in the United States we have so much to be thankful for, but we don’t necessarily have this inner peace. Inner peace is so important.
Steve: What is your spiritual background?
I am a Sikh and born a Sikh. My parents became Sikhs just before I was born. My grandparents are of the Jewish faith and Snatam actually means universal. So even though I was born and raised in the Sikh traditions,I have a love and acceptance of many faiths. We really believe that the light of God is within everybody and for everyone. So the Sikh path is that we wear the turban, banas, our clothing. We have a spiritual practice every day with yoga and meditation. Music is an integral part because our main practice is worship through music. The Sikh path has been absolutely the core of my being and the core of my experiences. It has really enabled me to reach out to people of other cultures, faiths and traditions—but this is my rock.
Jennifer: I remember chanting at last years concert, words that I didn’t even recognize, yet I felt an energy shift. What do you feel is conveyed through your music?
We always tune in at the very beginning of each concert. We tune into that Spirit that is within everyone. The concert is really about a spiritual experience and the sacred words are in a metaphorical sense unlocking the door. It is finding the right combination to unlock the door to the heart, and it is just like clockwork. The sacred chants work that way. Basically I really have to be present and in a space of service. When I am in that place, then the energy can really flow. So, its really incredible to be able to sing these sacred words and share them with people.
Jennifer: Describe you music. Who is it for?
When I am recording or in concert the music is from the experience of my soul to connect with God. Within this process, the music seems to serve a lot of other people including people of different faiths, traditions and mothers and children. It’s pretty amazing. I think that when the experience is coming from our hearts with faith and humility, then the music is for everyone. Granted, somebody like Brittany Spears, might not necessarily pick up my CD, but it could happen.
Jennifer: What do you mean by divine sound current?
Divine sound current is really what we talked about before. It is a combination with the sacred words and the intention of your heart to be in a place of service. Then there is a beautiful sound current that comes through the chanting. It is hard to describe, but what I can say is that it unlocks the doors of heaven. It is a way to connect to peoples hearts. When you get into the flow then it doesn’t necessarily matter what you sing. People may not understand the words that we are singing as the songs are in the language of the Sikhs. Because of the divine sound current people don’t care what the words mean. They are feeling really beautiful in their hearts and that is also what we experience.
Every night we have a unique experience and go to different places. And really, my reasons for touring are a little bit selfish. I really enjoy the experience of the divine self coming through. And of course, to connect with people all over this planet.
Steve: You’ve been in Europe recently, how has your reception been there?
It has been overwhelming. The people really came out to support us. We had about 900 people in a beautiful cathedral in Spain. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life because of the acoustics of the church and also the sheer love of the Spanish people. It was amazing—through the roof! So we had an incredible evening that night. It was very memorable. We had a great time in Europe.
Steve: Would you share your definition of what a successful tour is and some of the experiences you have had along the way?
My definition of a successful tour is that we make connections with people and that something from our tour inspires them in their own lives. Also, we have grown as a band together and we each individually have grown. To me, success means that you have walked on your path with the knowledge that you have gone deeper within to find the truth of the self.
Touring as much as I have, has helped me to see people more for who they are and to relate to people on a real level with words. So I started to realize that it wasn’t about performing for people and impressing them in that way. It was an opportunity for me to pray for the audience, to pray for each child in the yoga program and to give back positive energy. I began to see that it was more about connecting people in a real way.
Jennifer: I have noticed that you have worked with children, yoga and music, even in prisons. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and your motivation and vision with this?
In our society we have a large population of children either in juvenile hall or in foster care. It’s really easy to forget about these children or ignore them, but it is really one of the most pressing issues in our society. These children could start a potentially negative cycle. We have been partnering with organizations that go into foster homes like White Shield in Portland, Oregon and Yoga for Youth, which is based out of Los Angeles. We have started to partner with their teachers and go into juvenile facilities and share our music in conjunction with yoga classes. This has a real positive effect because yoga is a very good way to get in touch with what is going on inside. It helps them find self esteem, which many of these kids lack. Many of them don’t have any self esteem. It’s challenging. It has helped me get back to the basics of what is real and what is important. It has been a breath of fresh air for these kids to have a yoga class. They really look forward to it.
Jennifer: Are there other methods or practices that you suggest to people who want to cultivate a deeper sense of peace in their lives? Even more than the practice of yoga?
I just feel that taking time each day, whatever your faith is, to connect with your soul is very important. For some people this may be taking a five mile jog and playing the piano afterwards. That is a real beautiful practice. I guess I would just encourage people to have their practice, not only for themselves, but to send prayers of healing out to the world and to humanity. The power of prayer can really manifest healing on this planet. So instead of just praying for what you want resolved in your life, I encourage you to take your prayer and pray for other people on this planet and for humanity to make it through.
Jennifer: I know you have been very service oriented since back in your High School days and have been very involved in social change, action and awareness. What do you think is the most powerful work we can do on this earth?
I think the most powerful work is the work that is right in front of you. We often times reach or look out beyond our means, beyond our capacity, and then feel frustrated. I think the most powerful work is what is right in front of you. You know, people with their families, and making choices in terms of voting, and what we can do for the planet at large. There are so many potential things for our environment that each of us can do. People in the yoga and spiritual community have a great responsibility to live very consciously. This includes recycling, composting and planting trees.
Jennifer: Thinking about sustainability, do you believe that sustainable peace can be achieved?
Yes, but we have to work pretty hard for our environment and create better links with the people we don’t normally talk to and do some major work within our community. Do I think it is possible? I have to. And, why not?
Jennifer: I was very curious when I read about you, that you felt the sacred chants and sacred chants from other faiths are an important expression for healing peace and social change. I was curious how they might help us in present day situations? For example, how they might apply other than in a concert situation?
With the situation in the Middle East, our concerts and sacred chants we can pray for each other. We can pray for each other through the sacred words of our traditions. I think it is very powerful celebrating each others faiths, embracing them and experiencing them. There is a very powerful thing people can do in their communities. They can have Intra-Faith services dedicated to peace on the planet. After September 11th we started gathering as an Intra-Faith community in praying for peace on the planet.
This was a real powerful way we could all take part in praying for peace. And it kept growing and growing and flourishing. So get to know your neighbors. Your neighbors can be of a different faith, and that is just fine. It’s not that we are not a strong people here in the United States. It’s not that we are not connected through our own faith. It is that we are not really connected to each other as individuals. So that is something I really feel strongly about. Here in the United States we can create dialog and open the door to communication.
Jennifer: Is there anythong from your tour that stands out as a touching or meaningful example of compassion or faith in action?
Look at my blog and you’ll see a picture of a girl named Stefania. She is recovering right now from cancer. I met her at a hospital in Edmonton, Canada. Her mom told me that “every night Stefania talks to God.” I thought that she must be praying to God every night about her difficult situation. Her mom said, “no every night she thanks God for all the blessings she has in her life.” That is how she talks to God. It’s incredible that this six year old girl in the hospital, facing major challenges including chemotherapy, thanks God every day for her blessings. This was really inspiring for me.
Steve: What is next for you?
We have a new album coming out on September 1st called “Anand.”
I am just recently married. The album is going to be a reflection of my experience in feeling that inner joy and feeling the gift from someone who really loves you and giving back to someone you really love. So that is a real celebration for me. We intend to keep the tour growing. Also we really intend to focus a lot more on children. We hope to really continue this work in more and more meaningful ways.
Spirit Voyage, a dear friend of Snatum Kaur is excited to announce the release of the new album Anand , which will be available September 1. Their CD release celebration will be held at Golden Bridge in Los Angeles on Friday, Sep. 8 at 8pm. Snatam Kaur will be in concert at Seaside Church in Encinitas on Saturday, Sep. 9 at 7:30pm and also at the Church of the Brethren in San Diego on Tuesday, Sep. 12 at 7pm. For more information call 888-735-4800 or go to www.snatamkaur.com