Music Review: Manika Kaur - Ek
By Samir Shukla
(Six Degrees Records)
Kirtans are devotional singing or sacred chants performed in South Asian religions, especially Hinduism and Sikhism. I first heard Sikh kirtans at local Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and during a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India where they are performed continuously while the main sanctuary is open. They are generally sung and performed in Gurudwaras by men. Manika Kaur has parted this tradition and become one of the foremost proponents of Sikh kirtans. Her latest recording, Ek, melds her soothing voice and trance-inducing musicality, bringing kirtans and their spiritual aura to the greater world.
Kirtans can be universal in the way they encounter with listeners, evoking a sense of connection, even when one doesn't understand the words or lyrics. This recording is among those in invoking universality with its vocals, words, and music. You don't need to follow Sikhism or understand Punjabi, traditional language of Sikhs, to feel the devotion and connection Kaur makes with her voice, which is instilled with a sense of peace and tranquility.
The recording is composed and performed with traditional instruments and arrangements. Kaur sings in English and Punjabi. Every song on the album leads with one of several traditional instruments accompanying Kaur's vocals along with contemporary sounds and production values.
The recording works as a cohesive whole, including the album artwork, created, and designed by the Singh Twins. Kaur is also very active in charity and social work, including raising funds to educate young girls in rural Punjab.
The recording Ek (which means 'oneness') is now available on Six Degrees Records.
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