Sat Kartar
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Sat Kartar

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"Flow-An Interview w/Sat Kartar Khalsa"

By Debi Winston-Buzil

It’s another Monday morning. Outside it’s cold, wet and grey, but I’m feeling unusually cheerful. I attribute this feeling of well being to putting Sat Kartar’s latest CD Flow into the boom box and hitting play.

Perhaps not a household name (yet), you’ve heard her sing backup with Kirtan luminaries such as Krishna Das and Wah!. Nuanced and mellow, Sat Kartar’s latest release Flow is a blissed out offering of love. Our conversations have been energetic and fun, with honey-voiced Sat Kartar sharing many aspects of herself including her rich and interesting history.


DWB: Sat Kartar, please tell us about your journey as a kirtan singer. Was there a particular moment where you moved into the realm of sacred music?

SK: I grew up doing all kinds of music. I was playing the piano by [age] six, dancing to whatever records I could find, singing hymns in the Episcopal church, obsessed with the Beatles and playing guitar, and later gigging and doing covers of other artists’ songs at rallies and different venues. When I got into yoga in 1971, my most profound experiences came with chanting. I can remember a retreat when I was chanting in a group, feeling a mixture of cynicism and curiosity. At one point I just vibrated the chant and relaxed, and all of a sudden I had a big AHA--I suddenly felt connected with every living thing on the planet, and experienced all of it as energy and realized my humble little part in it. That was a big turning point for me. Later, in 1973, I experienced classical Gurbani kirtan--singing bhajans, which we call shabds, in raga scales, which, when I first sang them, felt like mantras made out of notes. When I heard my first kirtan teacher do an alap (vocal freeform improvisation in a raga scale), I felt like a thousand shimmering diamonds poured down through me and something truly mystical opened within. Yogi Bhajan said once that the power of the musician is in the alap.

DWB: How did you meet Yogi Bhajan? I love finding out how friends know they have found their teacher. How did you know?

SK: I saw him at the Atlanta Pop Festival and then at a winter solstice sadhana retreat. He was funny, real, simple, straight up, no bull and registered on my intuitive radar as salt-of-the-earth authentic. How did I know he was my teacher? It wasn’t an immediate knowing but more of an organic incremental process of realization. Kundalini yoga was opening up my consciousness and changing me even before I met him. My first personal meeting with him was to get a spiritual name. I was awestruck by his presence, which spoke volumes before he spoke. Shyly, I asked him for a spiritual name. “Will you live to it?” he asked me, squinting his eyes and scrutinizing me like he could see straight through me. I had no idea what he meant and gestured as such. Again he asked me but this time his voice was demanding, but clarifying ”Will you live to it?” he repeated. “Yes,” I answered tentatively. “Sat Kartar!” he thundered, as if making a proclamation. “Now get out!” But what he was actually intimating, in retrospect, was “Now go live your destiny,” and I knew it. His secretary handed me the name’s meaning (Doer of the Truth), and I walked away feeling in that one experience that he had just tested my strength, but from a deeply loving, supportive, nurturing place like a father who is tough with his kids, demands their best and will relentlessly work to get them to grow. I feel blessed that I got to grow and evolve with him for 33 years.

DWB: What is your current involvement with kundalini yoga?

SK: It‘s my soul food and daily practice, and how I maintain balance, growth, focus and joy in my life. I live in a kundalini/Sikh community in Phoenix, AZ, and teach mainly through the music/chant experiences I facilitate, but I also teach yoga classes and workshops.

DWB: How has kundalini yoga affected your music? Your life?

SK: It completely changed both around the time I was 20. I was an aspiring singer-songwriter, heading for LA and the folk-rock music scene there. I tried a yoga class, hoping to dissolve my songwriter’s block, and stumbled upon chant/kirtan. Regarding music, I really liked the emphasis in each class on sound and chanting, and there were usually specific chants to do with the yoga sets. I started doing chant music with my first yoga teacher in Atlanta in 1972 and have continued in chant bands and kirtan groups up to this day. With regard to my life, I never expected to happen upon a community of people who were doing practices to elevate and expand their consciousness. I loved their holistic approach to living, health, career, prosperity, childraising, relationships etc. They seemed to be more about living your beliefs rather than preaching them, and this path contained a more inclusive, compassionate view of God than the church I grew up in. At that time, I was disillusioned with my dating/relationship experiences and the free love scene, which seemed pr - Yoga Chicago


"Listen review"

Reviewed by Debi Winston-Buzil

"You were sent here to listen deeply…. Listen with all of your being."--Guru Amar Das (from Sat Kartar’s Listen
Click here to purchase
at Amazon.com

As a humble student of sound most of my life, I have been tuned to the exquisite qualities of music. The magic of sound hits you with the simplest of tasks--just being. Sometimes the body dances. Sometimes it feels as if everything--even your skin--is absorbing the energy. At other times, the mind is tickled, and new synapses are created between the right and left brain. By sitting and allowing the vibratory nature of sound to wash over your body, entering through your sense organs, music will transform and illuminate the deepest parts of your soul.

Sat Kartar’s Listen is a stunning follow-up to Flow, which is one of my all-time favorite chant records. Ever so slightly psychedelic in tone, Sat Kartar’s voice carries this CD into the stratosphere. Sat Kartar’s honeyed voice is classic--sometimes sultry, other times soaring. She is patient with the mantras, resting in nice long grooves. This allows for the mantra to reveal itself, creating space for the deep resolve embedded within the phrase to manifest. "Satgur Prasad,” the CD’s opener, is a mantra for removing obstacles and a real sweet mood lifter to boot. "Sa Re Sa Sa" moves out of the traditional 4/4 time meter and allows for a sense of expansion. The Kundalini and Sikh mantra traditions really shine in the hands of Sat Kartar. Listen is highly recommended for all those seeking higher states of consciousness and joy. - Yoga Chicago


"Soul Singer by Alan di Perna"

GO WITH THE FLOW

Sat Kartar Khalsa combines Sikh, Kundalini and universal mantras with the science of Naad Yoga in a blissfully musical new album.
BY ALAN DI PERNA


Phoenix, Arizona's thriving Sikh community is nestled within one of the city's downtown historic districts. Anchored by a beautiful, golden domed temple nearing the final stages of construction, it is a jewel of serenity set amid palm lined, semi-gentrified streets.
It is here that the devotional chant artist and Kundalini yoga instructor Sat Kartar Khalsa makes her home. Sat Kartar's newest album, Flow (Sat Kartar Music, www.spiritvoyage.com., www.satkartarmusic. com) is her most gloriously realized work to date. Electronic keyboard textures (provided by producer Thomas Barquee) gracefully interweave with traditional Indian tabla pulses and meditative drones. Layers upon layers of background vocals unfold like lotus petals. But the luminous focus is Sat Kartar's crystalline voice, an instrument imbued with a welcoming, almost maternal warmth and evocative style of phrasing at times slightly reminiscent of Grace Slick and other Sixties musical influences that Sat Kartar absorbed growing up in Atlanta, Georgia.
"I was a singer/songwriter in college," she explains."I had a case of songwriter's block. A friend said, 'Why don't you come to a yoga class with me?' It was Kundalini, the same yoga I'm doing now. I had a feeling it would relax and focus me enough to let songs come. Little did I know I'd stumbled into a whole other world of sound . . . like opening Pandora's box."
Kundalini led the fledgling songstress to Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004), the great patriarch of American Sikhism, whom she first met in 1971 at a winter solstice retreat in Florida. It was Yogi Bhajan who conferred her name on her. "Sat Kartar means Truth Doer," she explains. "The doing, acting, creating aspect of God ( the doer in everything)."
Sat Kartar is also a mantra chanted in the Sikh tradition. A joyously expansive recording of it is included on Flow. "I was looking for mantras that haven't been done very much," says the singer. "Sat Kartar' has never been recorded by anybody. Since it is my name, I thought, 'I need to chant this for my growth."
The mantras are traditional, but Sat Kartar composes her own musical settings for them, often adding lyrical elements in English. Much of her musical inspiration arises out of Naad Yoga, a yogic science of sound and vibration: "There is an inner sound resonating inside of you, almost like the call of your soul. By doing these chants, meditations and yoga practices, you come to the point where you're clear and still enough to hear what we call the unstruck melody, or anhad."
Unlike the Hindu-based bhakti chanting popularized by artists like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, explains Sat Kartar, "Kundalini chanting and Sikh kirtan are practiced as a seated meditation. Very often there's a specific asana, breathing practice, mudra and visualization that goes with each mantra. So it's a different kind of practice. Although both are wonderful."
Which means that Sat Kartar's kirtans combine elements of concert and yoga class, energized by live percussion, electric bass and the singer's open-tuned acoustic guitar playing. Sat Kartar used to lead Friday morning sadhanas at Gurmukh's Golden Bridge yoga center in Los Angeles before settling in Phoenix to be near her two sons, now in their 20s. She teaches Kundalini classes and Naad Yoga workshops locally, tirelessly integrating these pursuits with her musical career.
"I feel like my job is to serve people with this music. For me, it's a continuous quest to find ways to make this tradition accessible to people, so that they can get the experience."

- Yoga Journal


"Artist Spotlight by Leanne Woods"

SAT KARTAR
As Interviewed by Leanne Wood for Sacred Sounds Radio

Sat Kartar has been chanting and performing kirtan since the 1970’s. Her music is beautiful, deeply inspired and engaging. Songs from her latest album “Flow” are currently in rotation on Sacred Sounds Radio. I recently began an email dialogue back and forth with her that resulted in a desire to expose larger audiences to her music and a sincere wish to get to know her better. Below is the resulting interview that I feel in part accomplishes that goal. She is clearly a woman with intelligence, eloquence and a commitment to her journey and although we have yet to meet in person, the expression “still waters run deep” keeps coming to the forefront of my mind…

LW:How did you get your start in music?
SK:Music has always possessed me. At age 5, I was picking out songs on the piano. I studied ballet and would dance for hours to whatever records I had. I used to play guitar and sing after school for 2-3 hours a day. By the time I was in high school, I knew that I’d be doing music. In college I performed cover tunes of artists and it was a time of mass shift in our country’s consciousness. I had a burning desire to write songs about the political and social changes going on, and spiritual awakening I was witnessing. Songwriter’s block motivated me to look for a release in a yoga class, which is where my musical chant journey started. I used to go and chant with my first yoga teacher, Livtar Singh, in Atlanta, at different gatherings. We have played together, and in other chant bands ever since.

LW:In the early 1970’s you found your spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan and also became a Sikh. Can you talk a little bit about that journey and what led you to him and Sikhism?
SK:I was led to Yogi Bhajan by journeying far enough into Kundalini Yoga to go to a Winter Solstice retreat they have annually. There, I first experienced his presence, teaching style, parameters of his consciousness, and the ocean of unconditional, inspiring love which flowed from his heart. Becoming a Sikh was a result of two things: my falling in love with the sound current of chanted mantra and Divine poetry of their scripture, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, one the most richly musical holy scriptures on the earth, which is organized in mystic raga scales. I gradually realized that a lot of the practices and beliefs in the ashram yoga lifestyle I was living, were derived from principles and values of the Sikh path.

LW:Clearly the music you create and share is more than just something you “do.” It seems to be an outward expression of something deep within…can you share what the music does for you on a personal level?
SK:For me, making music is breathing, bloodletting, therapy, stretching creatively, balancing, practicing being an open instrument for the Divine to play upon, lovemaking with God, and birthing parts of myself . There is no choice: its spirit uses me; I have to do it. There were 2 previous generations of musicians in my family. Both my grandmothers, one a singer, the other a promising concert pianist, and my father, a songwriter; they all tried, but never achieved their musical dreams. I think that unrealized impetus drives me on a blood/ancestral level for all of them. My older son is in India, learning to sing classical ragas. I used to tell people that I have 2 stances in my life: making music, and waiting to make music. Instead of waiting, these days, it’s working out the logistics of how to finance touring and other projects, and serve people with the music I share.

LW:What has yoga practice brought to your life and music?
SK:Yoga practice, for my life has been a self-realization journey into the balance and relationship between the human, animal and angelic self , and the ground for development of a spiritual identity. Kundalini Yoga, my drug of choice, is a lifestyle of wholistic teachings with rich concepts of higher consciousness relationships, sexuality, child raising,and many more interesting life choices. It made a lot more compassionate, organic sense than the beliefs I grew up around. For a musician, there are so many tools to work with!!! There are yoga sets and meditations to cultivate creativity, breath control, voice, self-esteem, prosperity, burnout, trust, and a plethora of other practices related to the life and creative process of an artist.

LW:You’ve contributed to other artists projects, including such kirtan & chant artists as Krishna Das and Wah!, do you feel like that has shaped your music in any way? If yes, then how?
SK:I used to drive around L.A. and listen to “Chanting with Wah!” and came to love her pristinely beautiful bhakti chants. Forming the sound sensation of the word “Krishna” in my mouth was like tasting a delicious food I never had had before. Her and Krishna Das’s recording sessions brought me to a greater awareness and experience of bhakti (singing as heart-offered devotion) in chant. Kundalini chanting is shakti e - Sacred Sounds Radio


"Soul Singer by Alan di Perna"

GO WITH THE FLOW

Sat Kartar Khalsa combines Sikh, Kundalini and universal mantras with the science of Naad Yoga in a blissfully musical new album.
BY ALAN DI PERNA


Phoenix, Arizona's thriving Sikh community is nestled within one of the city's downtown historic districts. Anchored by a beautiful, golden domed temple nearing the final stages of construction, it is a jewel of serenity set amid palm lined, semi-gentrified streets.
It is here that the devotional chant artist and Kundalini yoga instructor Sat Kartar Khalsa makes her home. Sat Kartar's newest album, Flow (Sat Kartar Music, www.spiritvoyage.com., www.satkartarmusic. com) is her most gloriously realized work to date. Electronic keyboard textures (provided by producer Thomas Barquee) gracefully interweave with traditional Indian tabla pulses and meditative drones. Layers upon layers of background vocals unfold like lotus petals. But the luminous focus is Sat Kartar's crystalline voice, an instrument imbued with a welcoming, almost maternal warmth and evocative style of phrasing at times slightly reminiscent of Grace Slick and other Sixties musical influences that Sat Kartar absorbed growing up in Atlanta, Georgia.
"I was a singer/songwriter in college," she explains."I had a case of songwriter's block. A friend said, 'Why don't you come to a yoga class with me?' It was Kundalini, the same yoga I'm doing now. I had a feeling it would relax and focus me enough to let songs come. Little did I know I'd stumbled into a whole other world of sound . . . like opening Pandora's box."
Kundalini led the fledgling songstress to Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004), the great patriarch of American Sikhism, whom she first met in 1971 at a winter solstice retreat in Florida. It was Yogi Bhajan who conferred her name on her. "Sat Kartar means Truth Doer," she explains. "The doing, acting, creating aspect of God ( the doer in everything)."
Sat Kartar is also a mantra chanted in the Sikh tradition. A joyously expansive recording of it is included on Flow. "I was looking for mantras that haven't been done very much," says the singer. "Sat Kartar' has never been recorded by anybody. Since it is my name, I thought, 'I need to chant this for my growth."
The mantras are traditional, but Sat Kartar composes her own musical settings for them, often adding lyrical elements in English. Much of her musical inspiration arises out of Naad Yoga, a yogic science of sound and vibration: "There is an inner sound resonating inside of you, almost like the call of your soul. By doing these chants, meditations and yoga practices, you come to the point where you're clear and still enough to hear what we call the unstruck melody, or anhad."
Unlike the Hindu-based bhakti chanting popularized by artists like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, explains Sat Kartar, "Kundalini chanting and Sikh kirtan are practiced as a seated meditation. Very often there's a specific asana, breathing practice, mudra and visualization that goes with each mantra. So it's a different kind of practice. Although both are wonderful."
Which means that Sat Kartar's kirtans combine elements of concert and yoga class, energized by live percussion, electric bass and the singer's open-tuned acoustic guitar playing. Sat Kartar used to lead Friday morning sadhanas at Gurmukh's Golden Bridge yoga center in Los Angeles before settling in Phoenix to be near her two sons, now in their 20s. She teaches Kundalini classes and Naad Yoga workshops locally, tirelessly integrating these pursuits with her musical career.
"I feel like my job is to serve people with this music. For me, it's a continuous quest to find ways to make this tradition accessible to people, so that they can get the experience."

- Yoga Journal


"Listen review"

Record Review by Alan di Perna
LISTEN by Sat Kartar www.SpiritVoyage.com

An inspired American interpreter of traditional Sikh mantras, Sat Kartar Khalsa has spent the last few years pushing gently yet confidently at the stylistic boundaries of what is conventionally considered chant music. Her new album, Listen, is her most adventurous yet, weaving a diversity of engaging musical styles into a compelling listening experience.
Listen expands beautifully on the musical terrain that Sat Kartar explored on her previous album, Flow. Both discs were produced by Thomas Barquee and both highlight the devotional singer's warm, evocative voice. But Listen further broadens Sat Kartar's stylistic horizons by blending in elements of trip hop tabla languor, shimmering 19th Century musical impressionism, yearning Dire Straits guitar drama and suave pop balladry. One piece, "Laya Yoga," even incorporates the "Arabian Dance" theme from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.
By setting traditional Sikh mantras to familiar strains of classical, rock and pop, Sat Kartar draws us deeply into the music, simultaneously comforting and challenging us. The music touches places in the heart that are dear to us, but which we may not ordinarily think of as "spiritual." That's the very reason why the album is called Listen. It invites us to lean in close and contemplate what we're hearing. The main theme is deep listening: the kind we do in meditation when we listen to the truth of our hearts, or in asana class when we listen to our bodies, or at a spiritual teaching when we listen intently to the Dharma.
So, for all it's stylistic wanderlust, Listen never loses its meditational focus. A resplendent reflection of Sat Kartar's committed spiritual practice and long experience as a Kundalini yoga instructor, Listen is ideal for asana class or just setting a calm, centered mood around the house.
In her workshops on Naad Yoga (the yoga of sound), Sat Kartar offers instruction in the mystical nature of all music: how each note and syllable is both an echo and an indivisible part of the universal vibration, the eternal cosmic note, the One. Listen puts that teaching into practice. Like all profound musical experiences, it takes us to that place where there is no duality between listener and music. The two become one.
- Yoga Journal, Feb 2008


Discography

Birth of a Spiritual Nation (Khalsa String Band)1973
Sons of the Tenth Guru(Khalsa String Band)1974
Spirit in Blossom 1984
Domain of Shiva 1985
Transcendental OverDrive(Overlords of the UFO)1997
Guru Ram Das Chant 2000
Daily Practice 2002
Flow 2005
Listen 2007

Photos

Bio

Sat Kartar Khalsa has been teaching, recording, and performing sacred music and chant for over 30 years. Her personal journey with these potent spiritual tools was initiated in 1971 when she discovered Kundalini Yoga and Sikhism, and became a student of her spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan.
Born in Atlanta, Ga., her childhood was full of music. Sat Kartar played piano at 5, guitar at 14, sang in a church choir at 9, and had a keen ear for picking out tunes. By college, she was performing other artists’ songs. Hoping for some kind of release from a case of songwriter's block, she tried a Kundalini Yoga class.
Sat Kartar’s experience of mantra and music came when she began chanting with yoga teacher Livtar Singh in yoga classes, at various events in Atlanta, and later on, in two early chant bands, Sat Nam East, and the Khalsa String Band, which toured internationally in India, Canada and the U.S. During her first trip to India in 1974, Sat Kartar began what would be a life long study of North Indian Classical music and singing in ragas ( Eastern mystic scales), and began performing, recording, and teaching Gurbani (Sikh)kirtan (call and response singing). In 1981, she also began to evolve a unique style of playing the guitar suited to raga scales, which is called modal counterpoint accompaniment. During this time, she created several classical kirtan/world music and meditation recordings on the Invincible Music label, and began performing kirtan, teaching voice and mantra individually, and through workshops.
During a residency in Los Angeles in the late 90s, the chant music genre was growing through several touring bhaki kirtan artists, and she sang on kirtan albums by Krishna Das and Wah!, and began leading chant herself, in yoga centers in Los Angeles, in 1999.
That year, Sat Kartar formed her band, Sat Kartar & Friends, and began touring the U. S., playing conferences, yoga centers, churches, and other venues, and garnered a national following. She became involved in interfaith events, including a televised 911 memorial service, performance at an AZ DiamondBacks baseball game, and multifaith chant at a World Parliament of Religions planning conference. Her new mantra CD LISTEN, is a follow-up to FLOW,released in 2005, which received critical acclaim. Within just a few months of release LISTEN charted in the Top 20 on New Age Charts
Sat Kartar is currently on a worldwide Listen tour, including retreats, sound and yoga workshops, and more. To find out about Sat Kartar’s events, check the calendar here, visit the Spirit Voyage Live Events ticket booth for postings about her coming events, or at www.satkartarmusic.com where you can sign up for her email list.