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At the outset of her musical career, the Sikh devotional singer and Kundalini Yoga instructor Snatam Kaur made a promise to the universe. If her first CD turned a profit, she vowed, she would donate 10 percent of the money it earned to charity.
“Lo and behold, the CD did make a profit and I was able to write that check,” she says. “And I really feel that that set things afloat with my music career. I can’t prove scientifically that it increased sales, but I feel there was a direct relationship. The more I gave, the more successful the music became. And the more successful the music became, the more I was able to give.”
It is all part of the Sikh practice of dasvandh, “which means giving 10 percent of your earnings to charity,” Snatam explains. “The universe responds to that giving, and in that way you stay in the flow of prosperity. It’s something that I grew up with as a child, watching my parents.”
Snatam actually does dasvandh one better by practicing guru dakshina—that is, giving an extra 1 percent to her teacher’s organizations. A portion of the profits from her music goes to support the Miri Piri Academy, a children’s school in India, as well as to Sikh ashrams and others, including Ma Jaya’s Kashi Ashram and Swami Satchidananda’s ashram; in addition, she supports a variety of charities, including the World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with political organizations such as the Democratic Party of New Mexico, MoveOn.org, and the We Campaign.
Snatam also practices dasvandh and guru dakshina by performing free and benefit concerts in impoverished communities, shelters, and hospitals. “Part of our dedication to music and touring is to give people that experience of faith—an experience that the Divine really exists and is with us every moment,” Snatam says. “That’s the greatest gift we can offer.
Snatam Kaur’s voice—tender, yet imbued with gentle strength—embodies faith, repose, and grace. Her new album, Liberation’s Door (and particularly the track “Mother’s Blessing”), radiates a mood of divine maternal expansiveness, which she likely came into after the birth of her daughter in 2008. The album is an ideal accompaniment for KundaliniYoga practice, but sepia-toned cello passages also impart a sense of contemplative stillness. As always on Snatam’s records, layers of vocal harmony, dreamy synthesizers, mellow acoustic guitar, and traditional Indian instrumentation enrich the songs of devotion.
Sound of Devotion: Liberation’s Door, by Snatam Kaur. Spirit Voyage; spiritvoyage.com