Wednesday June 01, 2016

Snatam Kaur: the power of sacred chants to heal a broken world

Snatam Kaur

Snatam Kaur (Robin Layton)

Listen 37:10

Her voice has been described as that of an angel.  

For Snatam Kaur, singing is a kind of prayer. She's known internationally for her sublime sacred chant, an ancient practice known as kirtan.  

One of her biggest fans is Oprah Winfrey, who listens to Kaur's music each day before meditating. As a special surprise for her 58th birthday, Oprah's friends tracked down Snatam Kaur and invited her to the TV star's home in Hawaii for an impromptu concert. Kaur and her band were hidden at the top of the stairs, waiting for their cue to begin performing.

They were going to do a prayer right at sunset and then some sort of bell would ring and then we would come down the stairs singing. And I was so nervous that I would just trip over my feet and fall down the stairs. But then when we got down, I saw that Oprah was crying and then I said "Oh for heaven's sake, I'm just going to chill out." - Snatam Kaur

Snatam Kaur believes there is real power in devotional chant. It serves to open the heart and acts a force for healing and peace.

"I received an email from a woman whose husband had just come home from Iraq. He was incredibly traumatized and couldn't cry for actually a couple of years. But somehow this music, this chant in particular, got into his headphones. And he was listening and for the first time he listened and just began to cry. And that was the beginning of his healing journey."- - Snatam Kaur

Kaur chants as part of her morning practice, which also involves kundalini yoga.

Snatam Kaur with daughter

Snatam Kaur with her daughter Jap Preet Kaur (Kristina Clemens)

Snatam Kaur was raised in the Sikh tradition. She has written a book about sacred chant and about her life. It's called Original Light: the Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga.