Artist: Sat Nishan Kaur
As a music journalist, one of the things I treasure the most is the opportunity to write about music that is uplifting to the body, mind, and spirit and that promotes positive energy, unity, and world peace. The music on the latest release by Sat Nishan Kaur certainly fits that description. This quote from the bio page of her website provides a perfect summary of her intentions and motivation: “In everything that Sat Nishan Kaur does, the overall goal is to contribute to creating a more peaceful and loving world. She is motivated by a deep desire to help bring more light to this planet so that all of us can know love and peace in our lifetime. She uses the power of voice, yoga and meditation to increase her energy frequency and experience her aliveness. She is a singer/songwriter who writes songs from the soul as a way to heal, grow, and connect to the Divine.”
As mentioned, yoga and spirituality are basic elements in her music and lifestyle. Although her birth name is Amy Therrien, she goes by the spiritual name of Sat Nishan that was given to her on the path of Kundalini Yoga which she follows and which she has completed a 250-hour Teacher Training course in. Her studies also include workshops in Reiki and sound healing with a number of well-known authorities in the field, as well as a B.A. in Psychology. Her desire to help others is deep seated and earlier in her career, she worked for five years in the Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program. Currently, Sat Nishan practices Reiki and teaches workshops in yoga, meditation, and various aspects of music and sound healing.
Singing came naturally to her, starting around the age of 3, and she eventually blossomed into a singer-songwriter performing in the New England area and releasing two original folk-rock albums – Breathing in1999 and Fires Burning in 2005. Her latest release, Surrender, takes it to the next level. The album was produced by Thomas Barquee, who also produced recordings by the popular devotional singer Snatam Kaur, who, incidentally, is one of Oprah’s favorite performers and was recently invited to give a private concert at her home on Maui. Thomas Barquee also adds vocals, keyboards and bass on Surrender. Sat Nishan’s constant companion in her life and music has been her husband Vaikko Allen, who is present on this recording, as he has been on her previous CD’s and performances. A number of other fine musicians add their talents on guitar, percussion, cello, flute, vocals, and santoor (a Persian stringed instrument).
The album opens with the title track and its clear from the start that Sat Nishan is a gifted songstress. The tone and timbre of her voice is quite lovely, and is sweet as honey with a touch of spice. I was impressed with the way she was able to sustain long notes, adding just the right amount of vibrato and modulation, giving her voice an almost instrument-like quality at times. Acoustic guitar is another of her “voices.” Some of the songs, such as the second track start with a chanted mantra before evolving into lyrics sung in English. I appreciated that the liner notes include an explanation as to the meaning of the mantras. The tabla drums on this track, as well as on others, add a bit of Eastern vibe and world music flavor. While Sat Nishan’s voice is the jewel in the lotus of these compositions, there is definitely an ensemble feeling to the music. I particularly liked how her voice soared above a rich choir of background vocals towards the end of a track called “Love Is The Fire.”
The ambience is more introspective on “Through It All,” which starts, as do a number of her songs, with a quieter, more-subtle introduction before adding additional instrumentation and emotional elevation. The accompaniment is sometimes understated, yet always tasteful, adding fullness and animation to the overall sound. Another common thread that runs through the music on the album is the fact that the lyrics all reflect themes of love, peace, and spiritual awakening. While many of the songs have their roots in folk music with percussion providing a light groove, a track entitled “Hallelujah” carries a more soulful vibe with cello, acoustic guitar, and piano setting the stage. The last song on the CD, “Remember,” is a nice showcase for the range of Sat Nishan’s voice, which can go from a soft, almost-spoken tone, to a more powerful spirit-filled chant.
The music on Surrender has been compared to that of Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur, and Tina Malia, and I’m sure that fans of those angel-voiced vocalists will find a kindred spirit in the deeply devotional and heartfelt offerings on Sat Nishan’s latest release.