CD: Heart of the Universe
Artist: Peter Kater and Snatam Kaur

Heart of the UniverseSome of the qualities of the Age of Aquarius that we stand on the threshold of are harmony, synergy, and people of diverse backgrounds working together to bring peace and beauty to our world. So it is not surprising that two well-known musical luminaries such as Peter Kater and Snatam Kaur would come together to create a unique artistic offering like Heart of the UniverseOther than once collaborating with singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, Peter Kater’s numerous recordings have been primarily instrumental. Another of his current releases, Light Body, does feature the vocals of Trish Bowden, but they are of a more ethereal Enya-like nature than based on lyrics. Peter has a vast and impressive resume of musicians, actors, directors that he has worked with. He is a multi-platinum selling pianist and composer who had received 8 Grammy nominations in the last 9 years, including being a current nominee for Light Body. He also has an extensive list of theatre, television and film soundtrack scores he has composed. Snatam Kaur is also a chart topping and best selling artist in the new age genre. As a member of the Sikh faith, she brings a deep spirituality to her music that has touched the heart and souls of many around the world over the last decade. I was impressed to learn that Oprah Winfrey considers Snatam Kaur to be her favorite sacred vocalist who she listens to every day, and that Snatam was invited to give a private performance at Oprah’s estate in Maui.


In addition to Peter and Snatam, Heart of the Universe also features a host of A-list musicians such as Paul McCandless of the Paul Winter Consort on oboe, English horn, and penny whistles, Glen Velez on frame drum, percussionist Christian Teele, Larry Thompson on drums, bassist Bijoux Barbosa, and the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra. One thing that distinguishes this recording from many of Snatam’s other sacred chant albums is that the lyrics are mostly in English. As she explains: “It is essentially poems mostly in English from the Sikh tradition along with personal writings from Peter and I put to music. The music is not only supportive of the lyrics but also has a story to tell with the beautiful expressions of the piano and passionate energy of the orchestra.”


Peter KaterThe process of collaboration between them was an interesting one. While they had much in common, they both had strong musical opinions about the direction of the music that sometimes varied from each other. At an earlier point in the project, it became clear that Peter wanted a greater level of production and instrumentation, while Snatam felt that it was perhaps a bit “bold” for her taste. In the course of discussing it Peter was prepared to trust his creative instincts and advocate for his vision of the music. However, something unlikely happened in the course of the discussion. According to Peter: “Within a short time I surprised myself by seeing her perspective, that something had been lost in the production and extra instrumentation. I agreed to strip the songs down to basic piano, vocal and orchestra arrangements really featuring her voice and my piano playing. It was really the last thing I was expecting to agree to. But the process of it was so interesting. And it affirmed something that I’ve always believed in . . . that often times it’s what you choose to delete, remove and create space with that speaks more to the wholeness of the expression.”


I’m not sure what was left out of the production, but from the first track, “Song Of Your Heart,” the orchestration was full and lush. However, it certainly did not overshadow the crystal clarity and purity of Snatam’s heavenly vocals. There was also space in the midsection for Peter’s exquisite piano artistry to shine. A deep devotional feeling permeates the words and music of “Sanctuary” which is further enhanced by the tasteful playing of Paul McCandless. The sparse arrangement that begins the title track builds slowly and gathers momentum as it unfolds with Snatam’s multi-tracked vocals creating soaring harmonies.


Snatam KaurInterestingly, when asked if any particular tracks were especially significant to them, Peter and Sanatam both cited a song called “Carry Me.” Peter talked about: “sitting there for hours at a time just enjoying the space that was created in playing “Carry Me” and just bathing in the warmth of the simple but longingly sweet melody and words.” This song was pivotal in Snatam’s creative process. In her words: “The essential core if this song sprang forth from Nam Dev, a Saint of India whose writings appear and are honored in the Sikh scriptures.  The Gurmukhi lyrics that I sing are his original words.  Peter and I wanted to also create English words for the song.  As we did so, at one point I remember the English lyrics not quite matching up to the meaning of the Gurmukhi lyrics.” After considerable searching, she received the inner guidance she asked for and it all came together. As she shares: “It gave me a deep sense of fulfillment to be expressing his words so clearly.”


While Peter and Snatam may come from different musical backgrounds they are of one mind on the meaning and intention of the beautiful artistic collaboration they have brought forth.  For both, it was about the desire within all of us, whether we are conscious of it or not, to connect with the Divine. As Peter shares: “I think we are all born with an inner yearning to experience “God” or what on this recording could be referred to as “The Heart of the Universe.” Snatam goes on to say: “I feel that the songs on this album are simply a pure experience of that connection.” Heart of the Universe is born of devotion and nurtured by the love of two gifted musical souls. What Peter Kater and Snatam Kaur have provided the world with is a deeply moving and spiritually uplifting listening experience. Perfect for our time.