Blessed with a voice so pure it permeates your body and washes away your troubles in one soothing note, Manika Kaur is a rare and gifted soul. Her songs are the music of true devotion and her mission is to heal the world with her voice, as Manika says, hers are “Kirtan for Causes” with all proceeds from her music going to charity. Her recent video “Guru Ram Das Rakho Sarnaee” has received an amazing worldwide response with over 4½ million views on YouTube.
On the heels of that success along with the success of her album throughout Asia – notably in India and the United Arab Emirates – Manika has teamed with Phoenix’s long running label Invincible Music to release her album Satnam Waheguru in North America, Europe and Australia on January 21, 2014.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Manika came from an extremely spiritual home where the family was, quite literally, responsible for spreading the teachings of the Sikh founder Guru Nanak Dev ji. Her family would have the Sikh Holy Scriptures brought to Australia and then personally distribute them to many Sikh homes across the continent. “It is impossible to describe the feeling of growing up in such a unique environment” says Manika, “every night our parents would tell us stories about our Gurus, and then later my brothers, sister and I would have ‘jam sessions’. The boys would play the tabla whilst my sister and I would play the harmonium and sing Kirtan. It is the foundation on which I build my life.” Growing up, Manika always dreamt of combining music, charity work and spirituality.
Manika moved to Dubai after she married in 2006. It would have been easy to slip into a laid-back life in the lap of luxury, but in her words, “I knew I wanted to make a positive contribution to humanity but I had no idea how, so I prayed. ‘Kirtan for Causes’ happened without me even realizing and I feel blessed to be walking this path.” Graced with a divine voice and writing poetry since she was little girl, Manika spent a lot of her growing years mimicking her favorite singers, musicians and ragis. Despite her lack of musical training, an Australian producer recorded an English song with her before she moved to Dubai. In Dubai, she recorded some more English music with another producer and went on to win a radio competition (by popular vote) for singing an original composition in December 2008.
Her first recordings were in English with western producers until she met the “Prince of Bhangra” Sukhbir Singh at a social event and that’s when Manika’s dream of recording an album came to life. Her debut album Satnam Waheguru, is Manika’s offering of beautifully delivered Kirtan – devotional chants and hymns relaying messages of love, peace and truth.
As is typical in Singh’s productions Satnam Waheguru features the usual Bhangra instruments like the dhol and dholak. The music is complemented by Spanish and Portuguese rhythms, while he also uses instruments like tablas, congos, guitars and keyboards to support Kaur’s beautiful voice.
In line with her ‘Kirtan for Causes’ mission, Kaur personally takes no profits from her album sales. She is currently supporting the S.O.S Initiative, a humanitarian organization focused on uplifting Sikhs in India out of poverty. Their S.O.S Initiative focuses on educating children and ensuring that they reach their full potential in hopes of breaking the painful cycle of poverty. When her album was released in Dubai and India she raised over a million dirhams, which helped finance a new Gurdwara (temple) in Dubai.
Spreading the message has been surprisingly easy for 31-year-old Manika and music is her way of giving something back. “Music is a wonderful medium through which one can spread any message. God has been really kind to me, and I’m sure I can do more. I have been blessed with a very comfortable life, but I feel that I must do something for those less fortunate than me. And I honestly believe that if each of us can look out for others a little bit more, the world would be a much better place to live in. Music has no barriers, which is why it brings people together. At times you don’t need to understand it but you feel it. Kirtan has something more extraordinary, when you connect to it; you are connecting to the purest love. This is why people often cry when they listen to or sing kirtan. It is hard to describe the feeling even for someone like me who is unable to fully grasp the true meanings of our Guru’s teachings, it feels like floating in a warm pool of light!”