Reflections on April 2016

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As many of you know my music career fuels the philanthropic work of my charity Kirtan for Causes: the relationship between the two being both financial and, as I’ve realised this month, increasingly creative.

Regarding the former, all profits from concert, digital and CD sales are funnelled directly to projects being carried out in rural Punjab. These funds are used to enrol children in our school program. This month we also saw the first Kirtan for Causes construction project reach near-completion. Monies raised from these sales are never used for administrative purposes or incurred expenses, meaning my time and that of all volunteers and is given for free and in the spirit of love and compassion only. Hence supporters can be assured their donations are spent exclusively on direct action. It is my responsibility then to ensure that the work we are carrying out is effective and appropriate to the particular needs of the community within which the charity works.

The initial approach to our work has always centred on the greatest gift that society can and should bestow to a child: education. Children are sponsored or ‘adopted’ by the charities supporters and seen through school academically, financially and pastorally. Recent enrolments though have been hindered by the entrance exam which all students must pass in order to be eligible for academic tuition. It goes without saying the lack of ability to pass this test is not due to aptitude but obviously linked to extraneous disadvantages which can tragically obscure a child’s development. Succeeding in the face of poverty, addiction in the family, ill health and societal pressures is no mean feat. That is why recent work by Kirtan for Causes has expanded to a more holistic approach. Our first endeavour in this field was the building of a house for Sulakhan Singh, Gurwinder Kaur, Amritpal Kaur (age 17) and Sartajbir Singh (age 5). Prior to our involvement the family were living in a basic one-room structure with no roof, separate kitchen or bathing area. This month I received the first photographs of the new home we have been building for them and I’m so pleased with the progress. Having a safe, quiet shelter and a stable base will give Amritpal Kaur and Sartajbir Singh the basic tools to be able to engage with his/her education. It is my sentiment that this nature of work is imperative to the success of Kirtan for Causes and we will be taking on more construction projects in the coming months. Ever learning, this recent experience has taught me that the best charity responds directly to need.

This approach is something that I can use in the creation of my music too. As mentioned in my last blog, Talvin Singh and I are currently working a new album which includes field recordings of Indian instruments which have been forgotten in the kirtan tradition. The tanbur and taus are no longer used in Sikh praise-song, the memory of their use erased from years of harmonium and tabla dominance. In this project, we have responded directly to what we see as a need to preserve and revive Sikh sacred history within the kirtan tradition. In April I will travel to London to work with Talvin who is producing four and co-producing another four tracks on my forthcoming album. Working with Talvin allows for objective analytical approach to the sounds I create. Talvin hears my music with fresh, razor-sharp ears. We discuss, debate and derive the final tracks in collaboration. Talvin’s role as producer is to help me realise what within my music I can pull out, manipulate, amplify and accentuate to greater effect – he responds to my creative needs and helps me to realise and develop what I already have in front of me.

In charity, music, family, friendships and in the practice of faith the processes are the same. If, with love in our hearts, we strive to first see the need and then respond to it directly and sensitively, I believe we cannot fail in creating things of beauty.