Produced by Ullamaija Kivimaki for teh Society for Universal Sacred Music
“The naad, the cosmic sound, reverberates through space… The wise Guru listens intently…” Such was the message full of mystery and devotion that was brought forth by Kabi who was an unusual, unique saint in many ways. He was born in the 14th century to Hindu parents, was brought up in a Muslim family of weavers, lived over a hundred years, and rejected all sects and idolatry. While rejecting forms and rituals, Kabir embraced the love of God more directly and marked the beginning of the Bhakti movement, the yoga of devotion. In doing so, Kabir liberated the religion from dogmatism and made it accessible to the masses. Suh was the force of Kabir's devotional moment that he was revered by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of the Sikhs, contains many verses of Kabir’s poetry written in his own style called, Doha, which literally means "a couplet." These couplets of Kabir are profoundly philosophical; they have metaphors and mystic symbols. They repeatedly talk of ether, cosmic sound, water, sushumna, the path of the rise of the Kundalini within the body. They ultimately describe the interplay of the microcosm and the macrocosm, the individual consciousness and the divine soul. It is the union of these two that is the goals. And the struggle that ensues in the process manifests as the entire universe with its manifold drama. This is the message of Kabir’s poetry.
The most popular Bhajan today has simple lyrics that praise God and express devotion. Bhajans do away with elaborate rituals, with special knowledge of hymns in Sanskrit, with priests and other religious authorities as intermediaries between God and the disciple. Many great musicians composed music to the bhajan lyrics and turned them into memorable songs that have occupied a place in concerts. Today, not only the concerts halls but many temples and households in India will have common people singing bhajans spontaneously late into the night. This practice of devotion and worship of God is, and should be, that simple.
Kirtan literally means chanting the name of God. The “call and response” form of the kirtan is very popular. The singer chants a line and the audience repeats after. The continual repetition of God’s name in a simple lyrical melodic line creates strong vibrations that are compelling, draw listeners in, and immerse them in a joy of devotion.