By: Manju Chandran
HOW SINGER HARSHDEEP KAUR USED THE HEALING POWER OF MUSIC TO HELP HER DURING LOCKDOWN
by ASJAD NAZIR
PERFECT live performer Harshdeep Kaur usually spends most of the year in front of audiences at packed concerts around the world, but she was prevented from doing so by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead of being defeated by a difficult period locked indoors, the world-class singer made the best of a bad situation by reconnecting with music in a deeper way.
The versatile artist has been recording songs at home and recently released her own solo version of Sikh hymn Satguru Nanak Aaye Ne, which she had recorded with nine top singers a year ago. That spiritual hymn helped a lot of people during lockdown and this new version is doing the same. It is also another impressive chapter in the story of a singer who has delivered songs adored by millions globally and made a name for herself as one of the greatest live performers of the modern era.
Eastern Eye caught up with Harshdeep Kaur for an uplifting conversation about her new music release, lockdown lessons, future plans, spirituality and inspirations.
How have you handled the lockdown?
Well, it has been like a rollercoaster ride actually. Initially, we thought it is going to end quickly in a month and things will get back to normal. But we soon realised it is going to go on for a long time, so we got used to it and for an artist like me, who travels maybe four times a month, it was a little difficult to stay at home. But then again, time teaches you everything and I started recording from my home.
Tell us about how you adapted to life in lockdown?
I got a home set up and microphone. I started learning how to record my vocals. That gave me an opportunity to sit with my own self, make new songs and learn to record myself. I got a chance to learn. Then the new concept of online/virtual concerts started. So, there was an audience on Zoom app and everything. So, it was a different experience and now people are getting used to it, and it’s becoming normal. People have learned to live with coronavirus.
Have you had a chance to look at your success and the fact that millions love your voice?
Well, for that I am always grateful. It is not just the lockdown that has made me realise it, but yes, I constantly feel very grateful about millions of people loving my music. Even during this lockdown period people have been messaging me that, ‘your music, especially the devotional and spiritual’, gave them a lot of strength. So, that inspired and motivated me to do more music for them.
How much has spirituality helped you during lockdown?
It was very important to keep your mind calm because it can get to you when you are not able to travel and live your regular life. So, to keep the mind calm you need to listen to healing music, which really helps. When I worried about the future, I played a nice shabd (hymn), which soothes my mind. It makes positivity return and you feel it, and that everything is going to be ok.
What led you to latest music release Satguru Nanak Aaye Ne?
Last year on the occasion of Gurupurub, which was Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th and a huge historic event in Sikh history, I had released a shabd that was a collaboration with nine legendary singers. But this year, I released my own version. It is just my voice singing the same shabd. People gave so much love to the shabd we released last year that many fans wanted to hear it in my voice. So, you can call it a reprise or revisiting the same shabd.
Tell us about it and its meaning?
Well, the shabd talks about Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings about his principles; about how he taught us to respect each other, share food, believe in equality and all the good messages he used to convey. The shabd talks about that. When we collaborated on this before all the artists belonged to different religions, like Salim Merchant is a Muslim, Shankar Mahadevan is a Hindu, UK-based Sukshinder Shinda is a sardar jee, and I am a Sikh. My friend Neeti Mohan is a Hindu, so it had people from different religions coming together through music.
It was very unique that you brought together singers of different faiths to sing a Sikh hymn…
Indirectly, we are passing on the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji that let’s forget all the differences and believe in humanity, which is the only religion, especially at this time, when you are seeing so many people fighting each other. There is discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, so we should think beyond such differences and unite, which is what we did.
How does recording a spiritual composition compare to commercial songs?
When I am making a shabd my only intention is to release good content and spread a good message through music. Nowadays, you listen to a lot of songs that have no meaning and sometimes you feel, is this what our future generation is going to listen to? So, I feel it’s my responsibility to release music that is meaningful and children can listen to with their parents. Music that can live on forever. So that was my intention.
It’s a good intention…
(Smiles) I have heard that people who do stuff with good intentions, God always blesses them. So, I think this shabd is also a blessing because when we released it, we didn’t know it would become such a huge hit, but people connected with it and it became viral.
What is your musical plan?
I have recorded a lot of songs during the lockdown. I just shot another music video, following all the safety guidelines. The new song, which is a modern Punjabi track, will be out soon. I had released a romantic song in August, dedicated to my husband, which was received really well. We shot the music video for that at home. I did my own makeup and everything, so learned all those things. I think people will enjoy the new song.
We focus on your voice so much that we forget you are an accomplished musician. Will you compose more?
Yes, definitely. I am working on it. For films you have to sing for other music directors, but when you compose yourself, it is an expression of your own emotions. So yes, I would like to do more of it in the coming future.
What inspires you today?
Whenever I listen to any good artist, even if it is on social media or a newcomer, who is not known, but I really like their style, that inspires me. The fact there is so much talent in the world to be discovered inspires me to kind of pull up my socks, do better and become better each day.
What is the secret of the incredible power in your voice?
(Laughs) I should thank my parents because they discovered the talent of music in me at a very young age. They helped me to learn classical music, took me to different gurus and music schools. My teachers helped a lot too. In the end, I think it is all God’s blessings and the love that people give you, which gives you the confidence to do better. The love and blessings you get from people is the secret.
Has lockdown changed you?
Yes, it has changed me a lot. It has taught me to be more independent, especially, in a country like India where you are mostly dependent on house help and so many people. Like when you go for a recording, there will be a sound engineer, someone to set up a mic; for shows there will be technicians and engineers to help you out. The lockdown made me more self-dependent. I used to set up my own mic, headphones and track. Even when I was shooting at home, I had to set up my own camera, be my own director and makeup artist. You start respecting all the professions more, now that life has become so difficult without them. That has changed me and made me a more patient person.
What about on a personal level?
To value people who really matter, especially in lockdown, because you couldn’t be with all of them, friends and family. So, it has brought me closer to my family and those who really mean a lot to me.
Would you like to give a message for your fans?
I would just like to say that there is already so much tension in the world, so just do your bit by being kind and nice to other people. Always believe that humanity should be the biggest religion. Spread love and peace. Live and let live. Always be kind to each other. There is too much hatred already.