Suite: Kirtan Soheila - Wisdom and Music for the 'Rest' of your Life

by Simran & GuruPrem with Jai-Jagdeesh

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about

A Song of Peace - Kirtan Soheila
I am sitting with my wife, Simran Kaur, in a Chapel at the start of my sister-in-law, Karen's, funeral. While we wait for the service to begin, a new recording of Kirtan Soheila, the song of peace, is being played. If this was a Sikh funeral then Kirtan Soheila would be an essential part of the memorial and cremation, but this is in fact, an Orthodox Jewish funeral. Simran and I are the only Sikhs in attendance, so it seems curious that Kirtan Soheila would be playing. Was this some random event that the words of the Guru would be pervading in the chapel of the cemetery grounds? Actually, it was my brother Curt’s request that “the song” be played at his wife’s funeral. A week earlier, as Karen lay dying in the hospital, I offered the nearly finished recording of Kirtan Soheila to my brother Curt, thinking the words and music might bring him some comfort. I was bit surprised that after listening he wanted it played by Karen’s bedside. The Guru’s word’s seemed to touch my brother’s breaking heart. So, Kirtan Soheila played constantly in the critical care ward of the Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Karen and all who were present in her room were hearing the sweet voice of my wife Simran, through the small speakers near her hospital bed. It wasn’t long before Nurses, Doctors and even the Chaplin asked about the music. They did not know what this music was, and yet, they all wanted copies. I wish to share the story of the recording of Kirtan Soheila and the transformation it brought into the many lives it has touched.

This recording happened to be completed during Karen’s sickness, diagnosis and passing, but the genesis of the project began two years earlier. I believe from the start it was the Guru’s hand that guided this song of peace, from conception to completion.

In early November 2009 my daughter’s best friend, Guru Simran Kaur, passed away from a brain tumor, she was just fourteen years old. This was a very sad event and a profound challenge of faith for our community. For months during Guru Simran Kaur’s illness, a meditation was done nightly for her healing. I felt compelled to participate as often as possible in these nightly meditations, any excuse to visit Guru Ram Das Ashram is a blessing and I felt blessed to have been drawn to the Guru's house to meditate in the company of the holy. Though Guru Simran Kaur’s life ended and I felt a deep and poignant loss, these months of meditation and contemplation also felt like a blessing so that I might be able to give something back.

In the Sikh tradition, Kirtan Soheila is recited at the time of death and cremation. Then it is recited consecutively for 17 days each evening. On the 17th day after Guru Simran Kaur’s passing, Kirtan Soheila was recited ten times, and Simran and I sang the eleventh recitation in English, with a simple guitar accompaniment. When we finished, Guru Simran Kaur’s mother, Dharam Dev Kaur, asked if we would make a recording of this English Kirtan Soheila. I responded with a quick, “Of course we will”, and thus began a two year journey into the production of Suite: Kirtan Soheila.

The seed of this project really began many years before when my wife was a small child. Simran Kaur was one of the first children born into the 3HO/Sikh Dharma lifestyle taught by Yogi Bhajan. Kirtan Soheila is the Bani (daily prayer) recited by Sikh's just before bedtime, as it offers protection, peaceful sleep and serenity. My father-in-law, Sat Jivan Singh, recited and sang Kirtan Soheila in English to his young daughter, nightly. Simran continued singing Kirtan Soheila through her school years in India. The first time I heard Kirtan Soheila sung in English, was on our honeymoon! From then through our twenty-one years of marriage, Kirtan Soheila was recited before bed. As our children were put to sleep Kirtan Soheila was sung. Even last summer, our thirteen-year-old son, SiriGuruDev Singh, would insist before sleeping, “Mataji, can you sing Kirtan Soheila?"

As a result of her Kirtan Soheila ‘Sadhana'(daily practice), Simran was destined to sing the lead vocal, she after all, truly knew it by ‘heart’. I, on the other hand had to listen much deeper to be able to compose, play, and arrange, what would become one of the more transformational experiences of my life. At this time I began writing the book, “Everyday Devotion - the Heart of Being”. This book was an opportunity to share my experiences with Sikh Dharma and Kundalini yoga, and how they have and continue to transform my life and was published in June 2011. During this same period I worked on the music for Kirtan Soheila. After Guru Simran Kaur’s death, I began playing more piano and guitar, my playing was improving and so was my song writing. This experience with death helped me to listen deeper. I began hearing melodies and arrangements that came from a new place within me. Initially, I thought a simple accompaniment of Simran Kaur singing and reciting would suffice, the Bani was calling for more, so I began with a blank page. The original words of poetry by Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjun Dev, are in Gurmukhi in Indian Raag, singing the English translation required a proper musical context. I decided that a western sounding classical arrangement best suited the translated words. I used some familiar melodies, but for the most part I listened for new ideas and arrangements to deliver the words of the Guru. Having heard my wife sing the Bani over so many years I could hear her sing inside me, that voice that sang to my children and myself many times before, as I listened, I began to hear arrangement ideas.
Once I began the recording process, I soon realized that I would need help with the arrangements and production process. I prayed for someone to appear with the skill and sensitivity to help me fulfill this project. That prayer was answered when I was introduced to Randy Emata. Randy’s playing and production skills were truly a Godsend. Together with the Guru’s guidance we were able to manifest the "Suite: Kirtan Soheila".

A story about the recording of Suite: Kirtan Soheila, and my experience of insomnia and the cure of Guru’s Bani, Kirtan Soheila and Kundalini Yoga.

The recording process went smoothly because I was blessed to hire skilled people that helped me realize my ideas. However, there was a very challenging period toward the end of the production process, for as once the recording began, I could think of little else, the arrangements and how things should sound. The recording project occupied most of my free mental space and there was a portion of the music that was not coming together!
With this part of the project not working, I was further challenged by my sister-in-laws illness, frequent visits to the hospital and struggling to deal with the mortality issues that were confronting my extended family. On top of this I had some painful dental work done. The irony was, while recording the music to help you sleep, I developed insomnia. It got so bad that I began taking medication to help me sleep, which did not work so well. It was a revelation to become aware my own issues with sleep and death. I used these challenges presented me as an opportunity to apply Kundalini Yoga technology to my circumstance. I began practicing the 'Kriya for Conquering Sleep', immediately I began to feel better, in part because I was doing something positive to help myself get to the cause of my problem. By the Guru's grace and with the help of a masterful Cellist, the final pieces came together and Suite: Kirtan Soheila was complete! The Kriya became a very important part of my night, and I started listening to Suite: Kirtan Soheila while I practiced the Kriya. Now, I could listen not as a composer, but as a devotee of the Guru’s wisdom. It has been over forty days since I began my evening practice and my sleep has greatly improved. I addition I no longer approach the sleep Kriya as my insomnia medicine, I now embrace this evening practice as a total joy that rewards me with sleep and rest. The sleep I receive allows me to wake up for morning Sadhana with greater enthusiasm. I am truly blessed.

Click here for the next blog where GuruPrem shares about the technology of Kirtan Soheila
www.spiritvoyage.com/blog/index.php/kirtan-soheila-facing-the-little-death/

credits

released November 21, 2011

Produced, Recorded & Mixed by: Randy Emata Los Angeles, CA
Concept & Composition: By Guru Prem Singh Khalsa
Except Section 2 & Section 4*
* Suite: Kirtan Sohila Section 2 cover of melody by GuruShabd Singh Khalsa Section 4 (Azure Salver) cover of melody by Singh Kaur Khalsa Lyrics of: In the Lap of Guru Ram Das Lullaby by GuruPrem Singh Khalsa & Wah!

Simran Khalsa: Lead and Background Vocals
Guru Prem Singh Khalsa: Lead and Background Vocals, Additional Acoustic Guitars
Jai-Jagdeesh: Background Vocals
Randy Emata: Keyboards, Accordian & Percussion Programming, Background Vocals James Harrah: Acoustic Guitars
Akahdahmah Jackson: Percussion
Lisa Liu: Violins
Cameron Stone: Cello

Kirk Margo: Additional Acoustic Guitar on Lap Of GuruRamDas

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Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila - Intro
Ek ong kar sat nam karta purkh, nirbho, nirvair, akal murat ajoonee, saibang gurprasadh jap ad such jugad such haibee such Nanak hosee bee such
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 2
In that house where holy men dwell ever on the Lord reciting his name,
in that house meditate on him and joyously sing his praises,
Sing the praises of the Lord the fearless one,
I would give my life for that song which imparts the peace eternal.
Everyday the Lord is watching all his beings, the great giver,
looks to the needs of all. His gifts are beyond all measure
than how may one describe the giver?
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 3
The day of marriage of the soul bride with her Lord has dawned,
Oh friends, my friends pour the oil of love down on the threshold
and give me all of your blessings, that I may know a perfect union
with my Lord.
This call is being sent to all, sent to all homes each day,
so forget not the one who calls, the one who calls each day.
Oh Nanak the day is drawing near for everyone.
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 4
There are six systems and six teachers and six are their different teachings,
but the teacher of all is the one Lord who meets a man in so many forms.
One should practice those teachings where his praises are in someway
sung, then one will gain honor.
There is but one sun which runs thru the seconds, minutes and hours, the solar and lunar days the changing seasons of the year.
There is but one God who gives life to everyone.
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 5
The sky is the azure salver, the sun and moon are thy lamps,
the stars are thy scattered pearls, the sandal forests are thy incense
and the breeze is thy fan. These along with the flowers of vegetation
are laid as offerings at thy feet. What other worship can be compared
to natures own festival of lights while the divine music resounds within.
Thousand are thine eyes and yet thou hast no eyes
Thousand are thy forms and yet thou hast no form,
Thousand are thy lotus feet and yet thou hast no feet.
I’m enchanted with thy play, it is the light which lives in every heart
and thy light which illumines every soul.
It is only through the Guru’s teachings that this light can be shown
Whatever is pleasing to thee that is the true worship
And my soul yearns for the honey of thy lotus feet
Night and day I am a thirst for thee, I am like that bird who cries “peo, peo”
waiting to receive the drop of water, which is the nectar of your
kindness so that I may live in the ecstasy, so that you may live in the
ecstasy, so that we may live in the ecstasy of thy name.
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 6
This human body is filled with the passions of lust and anger,
but in the presence of the saints I am freed from their bonds,
My last life’s Karma has led me to the true Guru
and by his kindness my heart has obtained a permanent place
in the Lords sanctuary of Love
Make a salutation before the saints an act of piety,
bow deeply before them this brings great virtue.

The Maya worshipers stuck by the thorn of pride
do not know the taste of the Lords nectar,
as they walk away from God that thorn pierces deeper
and greater is their suffering ‘til they bring death upon them selves.

Gods slaves live ever in his name, they have broken the fear of birth and death,
they have found God Eternal they are honored thru all the universes and worlds.
I am meek and lowly but I belong to thee oh Lord, save me for thou art greatest of the great!
Thy Name is slave Nanaks only support and in thy Name he has found perfect peace.
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila, Part 7
Listen my friends I beg of you
Now is the time to serve the saints and earning merit here
you will live in bliss forever.
Each night and day brings this life closer to its dreaded end
seek out the Guru.
The shadows of your heart will leave,
Your soul will be received
This world is lost in evil and duality.

That man alone whom God awakens
to the nectar of his Name
comes to realize the truth of the indescribable Lord
Walk the path and do your best,
trust the Guru to do the rest
All will be healed from your past you’re going home to God at last
Oh Lord who knows the inner most reaches of our hearts and minds
who gives to each what we need through out all these days of our lives
Nanak begs for nothing more than to serve thy saints at your door.
Track Name: In the Lap of Guru Ram Das Lullaby
I am beautiful I am bright within is God within me is light,
I’m Sweet and strong it’s here I belong tonight.
Guru Ram Dass will watch over me, Guiding me ever to infinity,
Sleep will come the formless one will guide.

Here in the lap of Guru Ram Dass, Miracles happen in perfect bliss,
Heal me tonight I am peaceful kind and bright.
Sa Ta Na Ma Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say Sohung.

I am peaceful graceful and strong, I sing to my soul a pure and sweet song,
My destiny comes easily with God.
Innerpeace, innerlight come to me on this beautiful night,
God and me, me and God are one.

Here in the light of Guru Ram Dass, Miracles happen in perfect bliss,
Heal me tonight I am peaceful kind and bright.
Sa Ta Na Ma Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say Sohung.

Celestial sounds float down from the sky, Shabad Guru is my faith and my guide,
mantra resounds I cherish the sounds divine.
Bountiful blissfull beautiful bright heavenly thoughts heavenly sights,
God and we, we and God are one.

Here in the love of Guru Ram Dass, Miracles happen in perfect bliss,
Heal me tonight I am peaceful kind and bright.
Sa Ta Na Ma Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say Sohung.
Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Dass Guru.

May the long time sunshine upon you,
All love surrond you and the pure light within you guide your way on.
Sat Nam, Sat Nam, Sat Nam

Heal me tonight I am peaceful kind and bright, Guru Ram Dass will guide your way on.
Track Name: Kirtan Soheila Gurmukhi
You can find the original Gurmukhi, translation and transliteration at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirtan_Sohila
Track Name: Mool Mantra
Ek ongkar Sat Nam Karta Purkh Nirbho Nirvair
Akal Murat Ajooni Saibhang GurPrasadh Jap

Ad Such, Jugad Such, Haibee Such, Nanak Hosee bhee Such

One Creator of creation, Truth is that Identity, Doer of everything, No Fear, No Revenge,
Undying, Unborn, Self Illumined, By the Guru’s Grace, Meditate!

True in the beginning, True through all ages, True even now, O Nanak forever True.
Track Name: Suite: Kirtan Soheila - A cappella
See the tracks Suite: Kirtan Soheila Part 1-7 for lyrics