Simrit-Songs Of Resilience.

Ethereal, haunting, mesmeric and spiritual describes the beautiful, poignant and meditative music that features on Simrit’s album Songs Of Resilience. It was released on Simrit Kaur Music and went on to top the World Music Charts. This came as no surprise, as Simrit’s songs speaks to all of humanity, who can relate to the powerful music on Songs Of Resilience. It’s the latest album from the latest in a long line of talented Greek female vocalists…Simrit.

Her story began in Athens, Greece, where  Simrit was was born into one of the city’s most important musical families. Sadly, circumstances dictated that her parents had to give up their newborn daughter for adoption, and Simrit was adopted by an American-Greek couple, who lived in South Carolina. That was when Simrit grew up and first discovered her love of music.

It has played an important part in Simrit’s life since childhood. Even  before she went to pre-school, Simrit’s parents remember their daughter humming along to her own little tunes. It seems that even at such an early age Simrit was musically inclined.

This continued to be the case as Simrit grew-up. As she learnt traditional Greek dances, she can remember music playing in the background. Simrit can also remember learning the Greek language, and then singing in the Greek Orthodox Church choir. Even now, she can remember being fascinated and mesmerised by the chants and hymns that were part of the service.

Simrit recounts: “There was a specific system used to teach us the melodies and it made them very interesting to learn. Many are in these haunting minor keys, with this deep, mystical sound. I was steeped in that from the time I was really young. It’s still some of my favourite music and has had a huge impact on my work.”  So would some of the other music that Simrit was listening to.

By then, Simirt was an aspiring musician, whose parents proved supportive. They paid for piano, drum and singing lessons. Meanwhile, Simrit had an eclectic taste in music, and was listening to everything from the dreamy rock of Mazzy Star, to singer-songwriters like Jeff Buckley, folk singer Loreena McKennitt, roots reggae and world music from the Mediterranean to the Subcontinent. This provided the backdrop for Simrit’s life as she finished high school.

Now college beckoned for Simrit. It was around this time that Simrit became interested in African drumming. This came after she heard the Ghanaian Odunde Ensemble at the Spoleto Festival. Simrit was captivated by the Ensemble. So much so, that: “I wanted so much to be a part of this. I approached the drum master from Ghana, though there weren’t a lot of European-heritage folks or women in the group. I said I’d never played this way, but I knew something about rhythm. They invited me to come to practice the next week, and they gave me a djembe and some rhythms. I was hooked.” For Simrit this was  a turning point.

Since then, Simrit has incorporated her passion for West African drumming into her own music. She has been inspired by several drum masters, including American kora player Salif Bamakora, who was originally born Gordon Hellegers. He later studied  in Mali with drum masters Toumani and Madou Sidiki Diabate, Karamo Susso and Yacouba Sissok. They influenced Salif Bamakora who in turn, has been a big influenced on Simrit. Salif Bamakora’s influence can be heard on Nana,  which is a reworking of an old Manding song Salif was taught as a student. This has been dedicated to Salif’s grandmother, and is  a truly poignant song and features one of the things that has influenced Simrit.

Apart from West African drumming, Simrit has been inspired and influenced by the songs, tales, mantras and excerpts from devotional literature that have been gathered by religious leaders over hundreds and thousands of years. These texts are usually recited or sung as part of the worship process and are used for guidance. They’re also used widely by yoga practitioners. That was where Simrit first encountered the poems and mantras.

The first time that Simrit encountered the poems and mantras was during a Kundalini yoga class. The songs which have been based on the Gurmukhi-language works play a role in the practice of Kundalini yoga. These songs affect both the singer and listener physically. They change the way they think feel and think. “Simrit explains that: “This music changes consciousness, and that is where we can start. For the world to shift into a potentially peaceful place, we must start with ourselves first.” Before long, the mantras and yoga began to play a bigger part in Simrit’s life.

At first, yoga played a much more important part in Simrit’s daily life. Gradually though, Simrit began to spend more time listening to the mantras, and they began to influence her daily life. She remembers: “I started to listen to some mantras at the time. I really loved the repetitive nature. It reminded me of Byzantine music. A light came on. I realised I could contribute my talents. I could bring something really powerful to this.”

It was then that Simrit had an epiphany. If she were to incorporate the mantras into her own music, it had the potential to subtly transform the music that she was making. This lead to Simrit writing her own songs. Soon, she decided to perform both her new and the traditional songs at various workshops and gatherings that brought the yoga community together. Not long after this, Simrit began hearing and working on new arrangements for her music. By then, yoga and mantras were part of everyday life for Simrit.

Over the next few years, Simrit dedicated herself to music. Still though, yoga and the mantras were part of her daily routine as Simrit’s recording career began.

Simrit released her debut album The Sweetest Nectar to critical acclaim in June 2010. Just over three years later, Simrit returned with much-anticipated The Oracle Sessions. This beautiful, powerful album received praise and plaudits upon its release. So did Simrit, when it was released in July 2014. It was an enchanting album that featured the voice of an angel. A year later, came From the Ancient Storm which was released in July 2015 and hailed as a career defining album. By then, Simrit was topping the World Music charts. Now she had to do all over again on Songs Of Resilience.

For Songs Of Resilience, Simrit wrote five new songs and cowrote the three others that would feature on the album. She wrote Clandestine with Salif Bama Kora and Kenny Childers. Nana was adapted from the traditional Manding Song, and was written by Samrit, Salif Bama Kora and Rowen White, while Still I Cry was penned by Samrit and Kenny Childers. These eight songs would eventually become Songs Of Resilience.

Recording of Songs Of Resilience took place at Primary Sound Studios, in Bloomington, Indiana.  Veteran rock and Americana producer Paul Mahern was drafted in to record the album, while Mahan Kalpa Singh took charge of production. Joining Simrit was a versatile and talented band.

This included a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Devon Ashley who also played conga and pueblo log drum; bassist, pianist and slide guitarist Heidi Gluck and Kenny Childers who switched between electric and acoustic guitars. They were joined by Jason Wilber who also played acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, cellist Shannon Hayden took charge of electronics, while Mahan Kalpa Singh added treatments and played the pueblo log drum. Salif Bama Kora who had been such a big influence on Simrit, played kora, pueblo log drum and conga. Simrit added vocals and played harmonium and mellotron. Gradually, Songs Of Resilience took shape and was ready for release in America in September 2016.

On its release, Songs Of Resilience topped the World Music Charts. It even reached number three in the prestigious US Billboard World Music charts and reached number one in iTunes World Music charts. For Simrit, Songs Of Resilience was the most successful album of her five album career. That was no surprise given the quality of music on Songs Of Resilience.

Prithvi Hai opens Songs Of Resilience is a driving folk rock track. It’s also a song that Simrit says can bring: “deep peace, balances left and right hemispheres of the brain, and re-aligns the mind.” Chiming, chirping guitars combine with the rhythm section and create the perfect backdrop for the ethereal beauty of Simrit’s vocal. It captivates, as it soars high above the arrangement. Then when it drops out, a wistful cello adds a contrast. Soon, though Simrit’s tender, heartfelt vocal returns, and is accompanied by weeping and strummed guitars. They add an atmospheric accompaniment.  Especially when joined by the cello and later pueblo log drums. Together, they create a beautiful, mesmeric and dreamy backdrop for Simrit on this elegiac and ruminative song,

An acoustic guitar is panned left, while electronics are panned right on Clandestine. Before long, the kora is added and the arrangement meanders along. Soon, the rhythm section usher in Simrit’s wistful and emotive vocal, and she delivers the cinematic lyrics. Meanwhile, hypnotic drums never miss a beat and combine with guitars,  a pueblo log drum and kora. Sadness fills Simrit’s voice as she sings: “I look and can’t be seen, I listen and can’t be heard, I reach and can’t be grasp.” Later, comes the realisation that: “we return to nothing.” It’s a poignant truism, that’s framed by melancholy strings and flourishes of kora. There’s even a roar, that soars above the captivating arrangement. Then Simrit  repeats the thoughtful refrain “we return to nothing” on this melodic, memorable and cerebral song.

Slowly the atmospheric arrangement to Pavan Guru meanders and sways along. A less is more approach is taken to the arrangement, allowing Simrit’sl elegiac vocal to take centre-stage. That’s where it belongs. Meanwhile, a drum provides the heartbeat, while percussion, shimmering, chirping and weeping guitars accompany Simrit. Later, the cello adds a rueful contrast. Mostly, though, there’s an air of positivity as the arrangement sweeps along,  accompanying a beautiful, ethereal vocal during this uplifting song that Simrit believes: “increases the life force energy in a person.”

The focus of the mantra Ad Such Simrit says: “is  to help remove blocks when you get stuck and help get you moving.” As the arrangement unfolds, it’s understated. Gradually, though, it builds as a rumbling bass joining the kora, guitar and harmonium. They accompany Simrit’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Later, a cello plays adding a melancholy sound, before the vocal drops out. This allows Simrit’s band to showcase their considerable skills. Then when her vocal returnsm its full of emotion, as it soars elegiacally above the arrangement. It features a captivating combination of disparate instruments that combine create a heart-wrenching and beautiful accompaniment to Simrit on this inspirational and meditative mantra.

Nana is a poignant song that was dedicated to Salif Bama Kora’s grandmother. It features one of Simrit’s finest vocals. Before that,  acoustic guitars and the kora combine with clip clop percussion as the arrangement flows alongs. Soon,  a ruminative cello interjects and is joined by a bass before Simrit delivers a powerful, impassioned vocal. As it soars above the arrangement it briefly quivers, before becoming clear and crystalline. Then when it drops out, the band fill the void, as drums pound and join a kora, cello and percussion. Soon, Simrit returns, and delivers a vocal masterclass, as she reaches new heights on this heartfelt homage to Nana. 

The origins for Song Of Bliss can be found in a sixteenth century Gurmukhi hymns. It’s totally transformed, but retains its spiritual sound. Thunderous drums provide the backdrop for Simrit as she delivers her mantra. Soon, instruments are being added to the arrangement as it builds.  This includes a  guitar, percussion, kora and cello. Taking centre-stage is Simrit’s vocal, which veers between heartfelt and tender to impassioned and spiritual. Behind her cymbals crash and rinse, while drums play and the mournful lament of the cello plays. It’s joined by flourishes of kora as the arrangement builds, and reveals its secrets and subtleties and heads towards its crescendo. In doing so, they add to what is without doubt a spiritual sounding Song Of Bliss from the truly talented Simrit.

At just under three minutes, Still I Cry is the shortest song on the album. It’s also one of the most beautiful. As a piano plays, Simrit delivers a soul-baring vocal on this song about love lost. Meanwhile, the rhythm section play slowly and a cello sweeps, adding to the sense of sadness as the arrangements waltzes along. All the time, Simrit lays bare her hurt and heartache for all to hear on what’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Songs Of Resilience. It features the sound of a heartbroken angel.

Sat Narayan closes Songs Of Resilience and is a mantra that’s: “chanted to create inner peace.” A strummed guitar accompanies Simrit’s ethereal vocal as she delivers  her mantra. Soon, washes of sound quiver and shiver, but they’re sculpted so that they become part of the arrangement. By the time they drops out, the rhythm section have joined and play slowly and deliberately. Later, Simrit adds elegiac harmonies before continuing to deliver a tender, heartfelt and elegiac vocal. By then, Simrit and her band have combined to create a dreamy, ruminative backdrop as she delivers her mantra and message of positivity. It’s a beautiful and uplifting way to close this captivating album.

Songs Of Resilience is, without doubt, the finest album of Simrit’s five album career. She’s well on her way to becoming  one of the biggest names in world music, after Songs Of Resilience topped the charts. That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music on this carefully crafted album. 

That is the perfect way to describe Songs Of Resilience. It features music that veers between dreamy, elegiac and ethereal to haunting, mesmeric, meditative and spiritual. Sometimes, the mantras on Songs Of Resilience veer between inspiring and uplifting,  to melancholy, poignant and wistful.  Other times, the songs are ruminative and invite reflection. Often, they’re cerebral and thought provoking. Always though, the music on Songs Of Resilience are memorable, melodic and proves to be captivating, compelling and beautiful. That’s why Songs Of Resilience is a powerful, career-defining album from Simrit, whose a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician who is destined for greatness. 

Simrit-Songs Of Resilience.

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