Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Sacred Chant Concert
& Ramesh Kannan
doors open at 7pm
University of Toronto
Faculty of Music
80 Queen's Park Crescent
A 2 minute walk South of Bloor & Avenue Road
Just West of Museum subway station
Behind the Planetarium
At the South end of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
$55 (+$7.15 HST) Front Orchestra (Rows A-F)
$40 (+$5.20 HST) Rear Orchestra (Rows G-T)
$25 (+$3.25 HST) Balcony
At the door
$65 (+$8.45 HST) Front Orchestra (Rows A-F)
$50 (+$6.50 HST) Rear Orchestra (Rows G-T)
$35 (+$4.55 HST) Balcony
MacMillan Theatre seating plan
(available in advance, by phone or in person)
Groups of 10 or more
(a 10% discount)
$49.50 (+$6.44 HST) Front Orchestra (Rows A-F)
$36.00 (+$4.68 HST) Rear Orchestra (Rows G-T)
$22.50 (+$2.93 HST) Balcony
Snatam Kaur personifies the meaning of her name: universal, nucleus, and friend to all. These themes have expressed themselves in a variety of ways throughout her life, and are particularly present in her music.
The sincerity and depth of commitment that this artist brings to her music is firmly rooted in a life of devotion. Soon after her birth in 1972, in the beautiful mountain town of Trinidad, Colorado, Snatam’s parents turned to the teachings and lifestyle of the Sikh tradition and became students of the renowned Kundalini yoga master, Yogi Bhajan. Snatam heard Yogi Bhajan’s teachings at her parents’ side and a close relationship developed between the venerated teacher and the very young pupil. One day, before she was even two, Snatam began to chatter away in the middle of class; Yogi Bhajan stopped speaking, looked over at her and said, “You’ll have your turn soon to teach, little one.” Indeed, Snatam has fulfilled this forecast, teaching yoga, chants, and meditation to both children and adults.
When Snatam was two, she and her family moved to Long Beach, California. Her parents always brought her to morning sadhana, the early morning spiritual practice consisting of yoga, meditation, and chanting. Snatam would usually be asleep at her parent’s side for the first part of the practice, but when the music for chanting began, she would wake up. “I loved to get up in the morning and sing with my parents,” she says.
Moving again at age five, Snatam attended a Waldorf School in Sacramento, California. Here she got to explore her creative side, including playing the violin. “I chose the violin because it sounded pretty,” she says. Music was a part of her life every day, either at school or at home. Her father was a great improvisationalist and loved to play the flute, piano, and tablas. Her mother sang devotional songs of the Sikh faith every day. Snatam took easily to this musical environment, and her first creative expression was with her voice. Her mother recalls that the young Snatam would often sing about events happening in her daily life. At age six, she traveled to India and met Bhai Hari Singh, her mother’s kirtan (devotional music) teacher. This was a momentous event on many levels. Bhai Hari Singh’s entire family embraced Snatam like a granddaughter and a lifelong relationship ensued.
The Golden Temple in India, one of the most revered Sikh places of worship in the world, holds a special place in Snatam’s heart and memory. She spent many hours listening to the sacred music, and remembers freely exploring the beautiful inner sanctum of the Golden Temple. She was delighted to learn that she could receive more then one serving of Gurprashad, a sweet and delicious sacred treat served in every Sikh temple. Her love of sacred music and devotion were nurtured there and continue to reverberate in her life. Yet the path has not always been clear.
When Snatam’s father decided to leave the Sikh path, a time of questioning began for eight-year old Snatam. Torn between two worlds, she tried to live a normal American, non-Sikh lifestyle with her father for a few years. But something inside kept calling her to live as a Sikh and she began practicing what she had learned on her own. It was in these challenging times that she recognized even more strongly her spiritual path and this time chose Sikhism for herself. She developed her own daily yoga and meditation practice and returned to wearing the traditional Sikh dress.
Playing kirtan in Sikh temples with her mother was a constant part of Snatam’s teenage years. She also played violin in the school orchestra, learned to play the guitar, and settled more deeply into songwriting. After performing her song “Save Our Earth” at a school assembly, Snatam and ten of her friends, coached by Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead performed the song for 70,000 people at an Earth Day concert in San Francisco.As a teenager Snatam found a clear and creative road. During this time, she lived on a 300-acre ranch outside of Bolinas, California, near the ocean, with her mother and stepfather Sat Santokh Singh, whom she endearingly calls “Pitaji”. She arose every morning with her family for sadhana and chanted every night before going to bed. Her mother, Prabhu Nam Kaur, played kirtan every day and for both mother and daughter, music was part of a deep and rich healing that took place. Snatam remembers, “I learned to go to the family meditation room and sing as a way to pray and release emotions. I learned the power of healing through sacred chant.
In addition to the chance to spread her musical wings, Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California also opened wonderful opportunities for Snatam to become an active leader. She served as president of the Social Action Club, which started a campus-recycling program, organized a Rainforest Awareness Week, and created educational assemblies incorporating music. The club also initiated the change of the school’s mascot from the Indians to the Red Tail Hawks out of respect for Native American peoples and cultures.
Snatam attended Mills College in Oakland, California, in the fall of 1991. Her intention was to become a physician and she received a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. “Mills College was very supportive in helping women develop their skills. I actually had not been too good at math and science until I attended this wonderful college, and in a certain sense watched as the impossible became possible within myself. By the time I graduated I was very good in math and science! This was a great life lesson,” says Snatam. “In the process I became more in touch with my inner self and its capacity, and realized how important sacred chant and music was in my life, and knew that I wanted to give and provide healing in this way. I prayed for guidance and watched how beautifully my life unfolded to fulfill this longing.”
Snatam returned to India after college to study music with Bhai Hari Singh, the same teacher her mother had studied with years earlier. For Snatam this was a beautiful completion of something begun a generation before. While in India, Snatam lived next door to the Golden Temple where music constantly flowed. “I spent many hours meditating there and soaking up the beautiful vibration of the kirtan,” she recalls
As a musician she shared sacred chants and music at the 3HO Summer and Winter Solstice celebrations in New Mexico and Florida, events that bring together the American Sikh community with yoga students and other spiritual seekers. While practicing with Livtar Singh and Guru Ganesha Singh, all three realized the power of their music together and under the name Peace Family, they recorded an album entitled “Reunion.” The group produced two other recordings: To Heaven and Beyond, and Carry Us Home.In 1997, Snatam began a career as a food technologist for Peace Cereals in Eugene, Oregon. She used her scientific training to help create the Peace Cereal line, among other cereal flavors and healing foods.
In 2000, Snatam signed a record contract with Spirit Voyage Records in Sterling, Virginia, and remains with the label to this day. Guru Ganesha Singh, the founder of Spirit Voyage Records, has served as her guitar player and manager. He has been a positive support in Snatam’s music career, and has helped to bring together many energies and people in the mission of getting the sacred music out.
Since 2001, Snatam accompanied by the Spirit Voyage Ensemble musicians, has been a bright star in the popular chant music genre. Grace, her most recent recording, quickly rose to the top of industry bestseller lists. Shanti, her previous recording, was her second solo effort and an impressive follow-up to her highly acclaimed first solo release, Prem.
Snatam’s uplifting vocals on all three recordings are tastefully enriched by cross-cultural instrumentation. Rhythmic tabla beats punctuate the chants. Piano, sitar, santour, and flute melodies delightfully enhance the spirit of the recording. Thomas Barquee’s brilliant production makes it all shine and the power of Snatam’s devotion is the force that inspires and moves.
“My Guru is the sacred Sound Current, or Naad,” states Snatam. “The experience of creating an album or preparing to perform is for me tuning into the living and breathing consciousness of Sound Current, which for me is the Guru, or Divine Teacher.”
Many of the songs on Snatam’s recordings are ancient chants sung in Gurumukhi, the sacred language of the Sikhs. Other songs are in English. This aptly reflects her upbringing, which frequently bridged two worlds.
“The way that I relate to these sacred chants is that the chants are a living spirit and they enter into my life to bring healing and blessings or whatever I need at that time,” explains Snatam. “I learned about the importance of sound currents from Yogi Bhajan, and I experienced how the energy of these sacred words can have a very real, positive effect.”
For Snatam, the sacred chants of the Sikhs as well as chants from other faiths are an important expression for healing, peace, and social change.
“September 11, 2001 was a pivotal day for me,” she says. “On that day I was totally shocked and saddened by the state of affairs. At that time I attended a nation wide interfaith gathering to pray for peace. Each faith shared a sacred chant or prayer from their tradition. I was so uplifted from my sadness because of the coming together; there was a sense that as a collective community we have the power to overcome any hardship, and give each other the courage and strength to feel peace inside no matter what.”
A few days after this service, Snatam met with religious leaders of various faiths in Eugene and proposed a regular monthly gathering that now continues to take place on the 11th of each month. “We’re meeting with open arms, to share with each other who we are. These services have created a strong network of neighbors and friends that bridge many walks of life.” The profound effect of these services has inspired Snatam to include this type of interfaith sharing in her concert events.
Snatam’s concerts break from popular convention to offer something even more encompassing, even more heartfelt, even more inclusive. Each concert is an experience of peace. Somehow the music, and the sacred chants, without fail enter into people’s hearts, and they are given that priceless experience of peace, and the faith that it exists within each of us.Accompanied by Krishan Prakash on percussion and GuruGanesha on guitar it became apparent that Snatam would need to move full time into music, as the demand for her appearances was astounding. In 2005, Peace Cereals promptly moved Snatam from her position as food technologist to peace ambassador. This progressive company donates 10% of its profits to peace, and saw Snatam and her tour, which was given the name “Celebrate Peace”, as an avenue to cultivating peace in the US and abroad. The tour encompasses Snatam’s love of music, children, and service.
Snatam teaches children’s yoga and meditation classes, and often invites children up on stage during her performances to sing. Snatam’s passion in working with children comes from her recognition of their role as future leaders. “I always see myself as being a part of initiating children into their role as leaders and peacemakers. It is how my parents raised me and how my spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, treated children.”
She and her musical colleagues also travel to many schools, impoverished communities, and jails to perform music for people that do not always get the chance to have live music. This is all in the spirit of peace, and is as rewarding for the musicians as it is for the participants in each program.
On January 8th, 2006 Snatam was married to Sopurkh Singh. The two live happily together in Eugene, Oregon. They are both dedicated to the mission of ”Celebrate Peace”, as Sopurkh serves as the tour’s graphic artist.
GuruGanesha Singh is also the original founder of the record label, Spirit Voyage Records, as well as the distribution company, Spirit Voyage Music. He founded both businesses with the intention of creating new avenues for spreading inspiring music to ever-widening audiences.
GuruGanesha performs over a hundred musical performances per year, from the Bahamas to Singapore on the Celebrate Peace World Tour with Snatam Kaur, in addition to teaching yoga classes and prosperity workshops, and recording new music. His unmitigated joy and virtuoso guitar work make him an instant favorite with the audiences around the world.
Music and its power to transform and heal has always been a passion for Ramesh Kannan. Growing up in a musical household, the healing power of music was introduced to him at a very young age. His mother, an accomplished carnatic vocalist, started him on tabla drums at the age of 8. His lifelong musical journey has lead him to learn a wide array of percussive instruments including drum set, djembe, dumbek, udu, cajon and many melodic instruments including guitar, bass, and voice. Tabla remains to be Ramesh's discipline and focal instrument.
Living in his hometown of Philadelphia, PA, Ramesh started his professional musical career at the age of 17. Ramesh quickly became a well-respected figure in the artistic and musical community, collaborating with a versatile body of musicians including local singer songwriters, jazz musicians, Indian classical musicians, and orchestras. During this time he toured the country extensively with Philly's own 16-piece percussion orchestra Spokenhand, giving performances and workshops at universities, festivals, and theaters around the country.
Ramesh has had the opportunity to collaborate and play with a multitude of internationally reknown artists including Zakir Hussain (tabla virtuoso), Krishna Das (Kirtan wala), Bhagavan Das, Rennie Harris (reknown dancer/choreographer), Tina Malia and Rick Allen (drummer of legendary rock band Def Leopard). Having played with such a diverse roster of musicians and styles of music, Ramesh has cultivated a sound that is unique to itself.
Residing in the Bay area, Ramesh is the percussionist of Urban Nature, an east meets west world fusion ensemble that blends voice, guitar, flute, tabla, percussion and ambient sounds. The music bridges musical traditions and instruments from around the world with modern day looping technology, creating a sound that can swell from a two piece acoustic duo to a ten piece orchestra of musical textures, melodies and rhythms.
Ramesh is also a licensed Acupuncturist, and when not performing, recording, or teaching tabla, he is practicing Acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine in the Bay Area.
Stringer has been widely profiled as one of the most innovative artists of the new American kirtan movement in publications as diverse as Time, Billboard, Yoga Journal and In Style.
Stringer’s sound marries the transcendent mysticism of traditional Indian instruments with the exuberant, groove-oriented sensibility of American gospel, and he is regarded as one of the most gifted singers in the genre. Stringer, who is also an accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalist, has a special ability to bring people together and inspire them to sing. His work intends to create a modern and participatory theatrical experience out of the ancient traditions of kirtan and yoga, open to a multiplicity of interpretations, and accessible to all.
Initially trained as a visual artist, filmmaker and jazz musician, Stringer had his formative experiences with chanting when film editing work brought him to the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ganeshpuri, India in 1990. A subsequent period of residence at the ashram laid the foundation for his continuing study of the ideas, practices and music of yoga.
He has introduced chanting for the first time to many seemingly unlikely cities, and through his consistent touring, has been instrumental in the development of a number of thriving local kirtan communities. He has also served as a volunteer teaching meditation and chanting to inmates at a number of correctional facilities in the United States.
"India blasted me into billions of spinning particles and then slowly reshaped me, a process that was somehow simultaneously both excruciating and ecstatic. I can’t begin to claim complete knowledge about all of the layers of history and philosophy and theology represented by the mantras I learned to chant while I was there, but I can attest to their power. I’m not a Sanskrit scholar and not always a particularly focused practitioner, but I am deeply committed to the process of inquiry that the practice of yoga suggests.
I do know that my sustained encounter with mantra chanting has acquainted me with a state of expansive stillness and conscious repose, and that this encounter has irrevocably shifted the course of my art. I once read that Thomas Jefferson took a copy of the Bible and cut out the parts that most resonated with him, then reassembled his selections into a work that reflected his own way of saying his prayers. I suppose it is fair to say that as an artist, I am engaged in something of a similar process with yoga. I don’t know exactly where the journey I am making ends. I’m just trying to report honestly from where I am.
One of the things that interests me most about kirtan is how the responsory aspects of it blur the distinction between performer and audience. I was trained as a visual artist and as a jazz musician, so the lens that I view kirtan through is informed by the perspectives and concerns of the art world. I didn’t start out as a devotee or a bhakti, I became involved with chanting when I was hired to go to India to make some films for an ashram. I was an outsider trying to comprehend what it was that I found so compelling about kirtan, and this outsider perspective has continued to inform and enable the ways that I introduce chanting to the uninitiated.
Kirtan is rooted in a very old and profoundly joyful Eastern tradition. But I don’t know that it is possible for me to be traditional. I’m a Westerner, and I can’t help but bring my own cultural biases with me. My intention, however, is be authentic, in the sense that what I am doing originates in my heart. Yoga points toward awareness of the essential oneness of things, so from this perspective, to align the individual-dissolving Eastern tradition of kirtan with the individual-expressing Western traditions of gospel and jazz and rock music is no contradiction, as they both arise from the same impulse toward expressing what is ecstatic and liberating and transcendent."
SWAHA performs music that is both inspired and uplifting. It is an enticing blend of ethereal Sanskrit vocals soaring over rich earthy rhythms. The songs are composed by Meenakshi and Ron Reid. Swaha invited the soul to sing, and Meenakshi and Ron and the grooves of the band are contagious!
Meenakshi's experience with chanting began in 1988 on her first trip to India to study in the Himalyas yoga philosophy and meditation. Her background was in the performing arts, but her Bhakti (devotion) for God came through her experiences of meditation and chanting. She recorded her first CD of Sanskrit chants in India in July 2000 entitled "Prayers". Since then she has been leading kirtan, chanting workshops and classes, meditation, yoga philosophy, Sanskrit and Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga in Canada, the U.S. The UK, Europe and Asia. She also teaches Sanskrit and yoga philosophies in many Teacher Training programs. Her voice has a sweet, ethereal and open-hearted quality, full of devotion and surrender.
Ron Reid is co-owner and director of Downward Dog Yoga Centre in Toronto, Canada (www.downwarddog.com). Prior to the opening of Downward Dog in July 1997, he spent many years in the music business performing and writing music for performance, film and dance. His music influences are vast, and his connection to the spirit and soul of music is seen in his deep understanding of Yoga both on a physical level and etheric level. He bridges Hatha Yoga and Nada Yoga (the Yoga of Sound) effortlessly.
Currently travelling internationally sharing their love of music and the art of yoga, Meenakshi and Ron enjoy the opportunity to dive into the depths of a complete practice with people, filled with Bhakti, laughter, the beauty of the physicality of the yoga practice as well as the deep philosophical basis for it's existence.
Canadian Devotional Chant artist, Brenda McMorrow, began her musical career in the early 1990’s as a singer/songwriter. She co-founded the London, Ontario folk/rock band Julia Propeller – a campus radio and CBC favourite – which opened for and shared festival rosters with acts like Ani Difranco and Bruce Cockburn. Brenda’s rich musical exploration led her from folk to bluegrass to jazz and now - as meditation, yoga and expanding consciousness have become integral parts of her life – her true heart offering is to share her unique blend of original melodies, world beats and sacred Indian devotional chants.
It was when Brenda participated in her first Sanskrit chant while attending a Yoga workshop in 2004, that she had a profound knowing her musical journey was leading her to places more expansive and heart-opening than she had ever imagined. Brenda remembers: “It was a very simple chant (Om Namah Shivaya), and at the time I had no idea what it signified: all I knew was that every cell in my body started vibrating, and I felt absolute joy”. While in India soon thereafter, Brenda began combining her own songwriting with ancient Sanskrit chants - and she has been flowing with this divine wave of Bhakti energy ever since.