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Song of the soul

Singer of traditional Sikh mantras to give workshop at Unitarian Universalist Church

  • Snatam Kaur wears traditional white Sikh clothing for her performances. She will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jasper Johal

    Snatam Kaur wears traditional white Sikh clothing for her performances. She will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.
    Photo by Jasper Johal

  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jennie Rehbinder

    Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.
    Photo by Jennie Rehbinder

  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jennie Rehbinder

    Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.
    Photo by Jennie Rehbinder

  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Fran Gealer

    Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.
    Photo by Fran Gealer

  • Snatam Kaur wears traditional white Sikh clothing for her performances. She will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jasper Johal
  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jennie Rehbinder
  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Jennie Rehbinder
  • Snatam Kaur will sing at a yoga and voice workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough on Aug. 24.<br/>Photo by Fran Gealer

Snatam Kaur’s is a singer who bases her music on traditional Sikh mantras from India. But she’s also a student of Kundalini yoga. And a key element of her performances is a focus on breathing and meditation, as she encourages her audiences to join her in singing the chants she’s written. “It’s rewarding work. The results are so quick,” Kaur said last week by phone from her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. “I strive to share the chants and exercises so people can become empowered on their own. You know you’re successful when people are chanting, I love to experience that communication with people.”

Kaur will be leading a yoga and voice workshop, titled “Sacred Sound of the Soul,” at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church on Aug. 24. The program will incorporate Kundalini yoga, vocal exercises, mantra recitations and meditation.

Kaur has put out eight CDs, the most recent, “Heart of the Universe,” a collaboration with Grammy-nominated pianist/composer Peter Kater. She has been performing live for nine years, and is a favorite of Oprah Winfrey. Kaur sang at Winfrey’s birthday party in Hawaii in 2012.

Kaur mainly plays the harmonium, an Indian pump organ. In Peterborough, she will be accompanied by tabla player Sukhmani Kaur and guitarist Sara Carlyle.

“The chants come from the Sikh tradition,” said Kaur, who is an American who grew up in California, where her parents had embraced the Sikh and Kundalini way of life. “I write a lot of the tunes. The music tends to be very simple and very singable.”

Some of the chants are in English and others are in Gurmukhi, which Kaur said is a language of northern India that’s about 600 years old. She said many of the chants are in a call-and-response style that makes them easy for an audience to learn.

Kaur took both her first and last names from Yogi Bhajan, a spiritual leader from India who introduced Kundalini yoga to the United States in the late 1960s. She said Snatam roughly translates as “universal” and serves as a reminder that her music is intended to be all-inclusive. She wears a traditional white Sikh clothing and a turban when she performs.

“The turban, for me, is a reminder to be conscious and kind and true to myself throughout the day. It’s kind of like my crown. It reminds me of my strength and inner grace.”

Kaur’s visit to Peterborough is the first stop on a two-week tour that will also be taking her to Barcelona, Zurich, Hamburg and Russia.

Kaur said her husband, Sopurhk Singh, who is also her business manager, grew up in Keene.

“For us, coming to Peterborough feels a bit like coming home,” she said.

The Aug. 24 workshop starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance and are on sale at the Toadstool Bookshop or online at www.spiritvoyage.com/snatam. Tickets at the door are $35.

Organizers Ramsay and Heather Thomas of Peterborough received a grant through the Unitarian Universalist Church to promote multicultural interreligious education and awareness, which is being used to bring Kaur to Peterborough.

“The process to bring Snatam here began about four years ago, and now she’s finally coming,” Ramsay Thomas said. “She has a voice that really speaks to us. It’s self-experience through sound.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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