Kids Corner

Manika Kaur's Bandhana

by MANPREET KAUR SINGH

 

Not many of us develop a unique style of presenting devotional music at a young age; fewer still blend Gurbani with modern rhythms and tunes which appeal to the young and old alike; and far too few devote their singing to various causes they feel passionately about.

Manika Kaur's debut Kirtan album, Bandhana, encompasses all of the above ... and more.

She collaborated with internationally acclaimed bhangra/pop singer Sukhbir to create this CD, essentially to raise funds for the Gurdwara being built in Dubai. And in just over a month of its release, the CD has already helped to raise nearly US $100,000.00 for the construction of Guru Nanak Darbar at Jabel Ali, Dubai.

26-year-old Manika was born and brought up in Melbourne, Australia and moved to Dubai after she married in 2007. It would have been easy to slip into a laid-back life in the lap of luxury, but in her words, "I was sure that I didn't want to become just another socialite; I wanted to make a positive contribution to society, and at least try to make a difference."

Blessed with a divine voice and writing poetry since she was little girl, Manika spent a lot of her growing years mimicking her favourite singers, musicians and raagis. Although she had no formal training in music, an Australian producer had already recorded an English song with her before she moved to Dubai.

In Dubai, she recorded some more English music with another producer and went on to win a radio competition (by popular vote) for singing an original composition in December 2008. A chance social encounter with the well known singer Sukhbir shaped her dream of recording a Kirtan CD to raise funds for building the Dubai Gurdwara.

What started as an experiment to record a single Shabad, went on to become a unique musical collaboration between the two.

"I wanted a Kirtan album which people could listen to by the seaside, something that had a modern contemporary feel. Sukhbir had already produced a Kirtan album for his father - which also featured a Shabad sung by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. But rather than impose his ideas on me or cramp my creativity, he actually enhanced it with his great musical genius. I think he is a spiritually gifted singer and I'm so lucky to have met him."

But with humility, Manika is quick to point out that it's the cause that is the major motivation behind the CD, not personal recognition. "The building of the Gurdwara is much bigger than me or Sukhbir or even this CD, for that matter. We are all so grateful to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum (Vice President of UAE and ruler of Dubai), who donated a plot measuring 25,400 sq ft to the Sikh community, free of cost, to build the first Gurdwara in the United Arab Emirates.

Many architects have collaborated to design the 100,000 sq ft building, and it is estimated that it will cost US $20 million.

[More information about the planned Gurdwara is available at www.gurudwaradubai.com

On his part, Sukhbir says "The new Gurdwara in Dubai was the inspiration for both of us. It may sound strange but it seemed that the project started by itself and before we knew it .... it was finished! Working with Manika was very easy, as she is a very versatile singer who sings in English or Punjabi with equal ease. Her vocal range is unbelievable! She sang the beginning of the Shabad titled 'Ram Ram' in almost a whisper and hit some really high notes in the verses! Brilliant!"

Sukhbir goes on to add, "The vocal recordings, some of the pre-production and all the final mixes took place in the Darbar (prayer) room at Manika's residence in Dubai. For me, that in itself was an overwhelming experience, as Guru Granth Sahib's presence made it very very special for me. The violin was recorded in a hotel room in New Delhi, guitars were recorded in Mumbai and at home in Nairobi. I worked on the project in any conceivable place, from a seat in the airplane to the television room at home in Nairobi!"

The CD doesn't sell for a fixed price - in fact, people just use it as a means for a donation, with some individual donations running into thousands of dollars.

Recalls Manika, "We had only just begun working on the CD and Sukhbir played the vocals to a family friend in Kenya. She was so moved that she immediately donated $1,000 to the CD, even though it hadn't yet been fully recorded, let alone released! That was just the beginning of the overwhelming response we've received from people the world over. It seems like everyone is eager to be a part of this collective building effort - even if to offer a single brick on the tiniest wall of what will soon become a wondrous house of God."

As for Manika herself, she believes that, "Music is a wonderful medium through which one can spread any message. I know that there are many singers around the world who are much more gifted than I am, but God has been really kind to me, and I'm sure I can do more. I have been blessed with a very comfortable life, but I feel that I must do something for those less fortunate than me. And I honestly believe that if each of us can look out for others a little bit more - feed an orphan, donate some clothing to the needy, educate the poor, etc., the world would be a much better place to live in."

Manika has gone on to record a music video for the song "Hallelujah," originally sung by Leonard Cohen. The song is featured on YouTube, highlighting issues of world poverty and impoverishment.

"The lyrics of the song mean different things to different people, but I interpreted them as man's spiritual quest and the soul's misery at its separation from God."

Manika's rendition of Gurbani in the CD Bandhana and her interpretation of Naam Simran with some lyrics in English have inspired her to produce another album along similar lines.

Currently working on an album of English songs, she hopes to collaborate again with Sukhbir for another Kirtan album.

She says, "Working with Sukhbir on this project has been a glorious experience for me. His patience and humility are virtues one doesn't often see in those who have fame and recognition. But I feel like it's only the beginning. Hopefully the architect of destiny will allow us to make many more Kirtan CD's together for many different causes that need help in raising awareness and funds. All we can do is try our best to make a difference in the short time we have on this earth ... what else are we here for!?"

Sukhbir echoes the same sentiments and says, "I loved every bit of making this CD and simply cannot wait for Waheguru to give me another opportunity to work on the next project!"

By the sounds of it, divine causes find divine ways of bringing beautiful voices into heavenly collaborations. So let's all say hallelujah ... for more!

 

July 7, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 07, 2009, 7:54 AM.

Fantastic. How can one get a CD here in New York?

2: Kaviraj Singh (Braintree, MA, U.S.A.), July 07, 2009, 11:07 AM.

And in Boston, is there a website to order from online?

3: Manpreet Kaur Singh (Melbourne, Australia), July 07, 2009, 5:54 PM.

I think www.gurudwaradubai.com may give you the option to order under the link "audio" or simply mail Manika on manika@manikamusic.com. I also recommend that you listen/watch her adaptation of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah on YouTube.

4: Kavi Raj Singh (Tustin, U.S.A.), July 08, 2009, 4:27 AM.

Congratulations, Manika! I wish you all the success and best wishes for future projects!

5: Richi Madan (Melbourne, Australia), July 08, 2009, 4:30 AM.

Big up, Manika. Enjoyed the CD. Keep up the good work!

6: Iris Ortner (Vienna, Austria), July 08, 2009, 4:41 AM.

'Hallelujah' is really beautiful. I haven't found how to order the CD from this site, but would really like to get a copy here in Austria.

7: Pavanpreet (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), July 08, 2009, 7:01 AM.

Beautiful voice and a great cause. I can help post your album online.

8: Rifi Sachdev (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), July 08, 2009, 9:49 AM.

What an amazing accomplishment for something bigger than everyone! Love the CD, can't wait to get the next one.

9: Mithu Singh (Patiala, Punjab), July 09, 2009, 8:08 AM.

Many, many congratulations. May God bless you. Keep doing sewa.

10: Harry Singh (Dubai), July 10, 2009, 12:48 AM.

What a beautiful voice and an amazing cause! I heard you live in Dubai and it was heavenly! Transported me to another world! I listen to your CD everyday!

11: Manika Kaur (Dubai, UAE), July 12, 2009, 5:41 AM.

Hi, sorry for not responding sooner. We are trying to get the CD's online as fast as possible. Please go to the link below to hear the shabads online. Thank you so much for all your support and kind words! http://www.gurudwaradubai.com/html/music.asp?catid=7

12: Japinder Kaur (Dubai, U.A.E.), July 12, 2009, 1:57 PM.

Congratulations on the success of the CD, Manika. The CD is very professional and rightly described by someone as 'heavenly'. I also really enjoyed reading this interview. Hope to see more of your projects coming up soon.

13: Randi Krueger (Dubai, U.A.E.), July 13, 2009, 4:16 AM.

I love the CD and the spirit in which it was created! Such a beautiful voice and kind heart inspires me to be my best and do more for those who have less. Thank you!

14: Bani (Australia), July 13, 2009, 4:34 AM.

I'm so proud of you. Your CD is wonderful. Lovely voice, excellent composition. God bless you!

15: Simran (Bangkok, Thailand), July 14, 2009, 12:24 AM.

Great work and a lovely voice! Best wishes for your future projects.

16: Gurjeet (Washington D.C., U.S.A.), July 14, 2009, 11:20 AM.

Is this available in the Washington D.C. area?

17: Satwant Singh Puri (Knoxville, U.S.A.), July 21, 2009, 12:15 PM.

Wow! Your sweet and beautiful voice, plus your devotion at this young age towards this noble cause, makes this CD all the more sweet. Gurbani is already sweet, but you've made it even more. Continue with Good Work and Waheguru will bless you.

18: Simran Singh (Oceanside, U.S.A.), July 28, 2009, 11:07 PM.

Great job! Your music is awesome and your rendition of Gurbani is soothing and uplifting at the same time. I can't wait to share the link with my 13 year-old sisters and their friends. We look forward to the CD.

19: Dr. J. Kaur (Melbourne, Australia), July 29, 2009, 11:31 PM.

Great piece and an amazing CD! And, for a great cause too. All those that I have given it to in Kuala Lumpur love it. You always had an amazing voice. I'm so happy you've done something fantastic with it! Can't wait for the next CD.

20: Raman (Vancouver, Canada), July 31, 2009, 7:51 PM.

Love it! Thank you, Manika and Sukhbir, for such a lovely CD. Truly inspirational. Very peaceful and tranquil. Sometimes life's journey can be very difficult and it's very reassuring to know that others in the world have been blessed with such talent and dedication. I just wanted to let you know your CD is very uplifting and calming. I have already shared this website with everyone I know because this gift needs to be shared with everyone. God Bless ...

21: Simmer Singh (Dubai), August 14, 2009, 11:21 AM.

Hey, where can I get the CD in Dubai?

22: Darshan Singh Abbott (Mumbai, India), September 29, 2009, 9:02 AM.

Soul stiring voice with melody and devotion. Hope to hear Japji Sahib in your divine voice. May God bless you with a very long life and prosperity so that you can carry on the wonderfull task that you have undertaken. My best wishes to Sukhbir ji. May God bless you all.

23: Amrinder (Melbourne, Australia), October 12, 2009, 2:44 PM.

It is awesome ... I have no words to describe it, because Manika's voice is so sweet. I pray to Waheguru that he fullfil all your dreams. How can I get this CD in Melbourne?

24: Harjinder Singh (Melbourne, AustraliaIt), October 16, 2009, 2:34 PM.

It is great and must have taken a lot of work to produce it. Your voice is so natural and sweet, it makes us calm and cheerful. Keep it up. Thanks, Manika ji, and Sukhbir too, for all of this. Congratulations.

25: Harjeet  (Delhi, India), October 19, 2009, 4:40 AM.

How can I get your CD in Delhi or India?

26: Amarpal Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), October 21, 2009, 3:56 AM.

Please see posting no. 11 by Manika. You can listen online at: http://www.gurudwaradubai.com/html/music.asp?catid=7# I take this opportunity to thank Manika and Sukhbir for creating this masterpiece. Please do not delay the next one. Whole world is waiting.

27: Kulwant Singh (U.S.A.), November 05, 2009, 4:09 PM.

Manika, you have a melodious voice. Please use it to bring Sikhi to young boys and girls, especially high School/ college students (even explaining in English, at some places). May Guru bless you.

28: Shereendar Kaur (Singapore), March 26, 2010, 2:13 AM.

Awesome! Inspiring! Waheguru must be smiling :)

29: Harpreet Kaur (Dubai), April 06, 2010, 11:19 AM.

Hats off to you, Manika Kaur ... you did a great job. May God bless you!

30: Harbans Kaur Williams (Auckland, New Zealand), April 13, 2010, 4:56 AM.

Great combination of modern and meditative music - I am so proud of you both. The younger generation will want to be part of this journey of Sikhi through your music. I actually got lost listening to it. Well done!

31: Manika Kaur (Dubai, UAE), April 16, 2010, 1:21 PM.

Thank you for all the words of encouragement and support! It brings tears to my eyes to read these wonderful, motivating comments! My email is manika@manikamusic.com - please mail me and i will organize to get CDs out to you! Thank you, all!

32: Achharhit (U.S.A.), September 19, 2010, 4:43 AM.

A wonderful voice. May God bless you.

33: Jasveer Singh (Malaysia), September 29, 2010, 4:55 AM.

The kirtan (CD) was lovely. I can't stop listening and, to tell you the truth, I cried while listening to it. The feelings were different while listening. May Waheguru bless you. Lovely voice ... it's cool. GurFateh.

34: Gurson (Windsor/Dubai), October 22, 2010, 8:28 PM.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/manika-k/id371076710 - I found this link on iTunes for Manika Kaur's Bandhana! :) Beautiful album :)

35: Gurmander Singh Kohli (Irvine, California, U.S.A.), November 06, 2010, 6:02 PM.

Manika ji: Your Bandhana is like meditation. 'You are not just a drop in the ocean. You are the mighty ocean in the drop" - Rumi. Much good luck.

36: Dalvinder (Perth, Australia), November 18, 2010, 6:39 AM.

Bhen ji: loved the CD! It was amazing. Haven't seen you in years! Hope everything's going well for you.

37: Gautam Jagasia (Mumbai, India), November 20, 2010, 11:00 AM.

You have a very nice voice and the shabads touch the heart. Keep up the good work. God bless.

38: Manjit (Sydney, Australia), January 10, 2011, 8:30 PM.

How can I get this CD? Your voice is just beautiful, you are God-gifted indeed. I really like the Satnam Waheguru shabad.

39: Avtar Sidhu (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), November 19, 2011, 3:02 PM.

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful kirtan album, Bandhana. May Waheguru uplift and bless you all :-)

40: Harvinder Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 19, 2012, 12:14 PM.

Manika ji: your voice is very soothing and heart-touching. Hope you will come up with more gurbani shabads. Proud of you. God bless you.

41: Mandeep (Australia), July 06, 2012, 4:23 AM.

Beautiful voice and shabads. Really very good.

42: Kamaljit Kaur (Netherlands), August 23, 2012, 12:18 AM.

You have presented the shabads in a unique style which is highly appreciated by the young generation. You have a very soothing voice and Sukhbir has done the rest to make this CD a great success. Looking forward to your next CD. God bless you.

43: Daljinder Singh (Jalandhar, Punjab), September 08, 2012, 2:36 AM.

I've heard many of her shabads. They're all beautiful. Manika ji, your voice is so smooth.

44: Balwinder Sehmi (Swindon, United Kingdom), September 15, 2012, 1:00 AM.

lovely kirtan. You have a beautiful voice. God bless.

45: Tajinder Singh (Jammu & Kashmir), September 15, 2012, 8:48 PM.

Your voice is so heavenly.

46: Aditya Khagwal (Meerut, India), September 17, 2012, 7:41 PM.

Need more and new shabads from Manika!

47: Raman Monga (Haryana, India), September 21, 2012, 10:09 PM.

I love the CD and the spirit in which it was created! Such a beautiful voice and kind heart inspires me to be my best and do more for those who have less. Thank you!

48: Karan Teji (Punjab), September 22, 2012, 10:10 AM.

You have a very sweet voice and you do lovely kirtan. I look forward to listening to more shabads by you.

49: Gagan (Punjab), October 07, 2012, 5:00 AM.

Sikhi di shaan ho tusi, bhain ji.

50: Baljeet Singh Bagga (Jabalpur, India), October 08, 2012, 12:46 AM.

Blessings - Nice work!

51: Hemant Khurana (Delhi, India), October 30, 2012, 2:04 PM.

God bless you, Manika Kaur ji. You have been gifted with such a divine voice. Today I got to listen to the shabad you sang and I was enchanted by the divine grace in your voice. I cannot stop myself from listening to it again and again, you are truly awesome. You are helping sinners like me follow the righteous path. Thank you.

52: Indrajeet Singh (Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India), November 12, 2012, 7:36 AM.

Aap ki awaaz dil ko chhooti hai aur main yeh chahta hoon ki aap isi tarah se apne mitthey bol se guru ki seva nishkam karti rahe(n). Waheguru aap per mehar karey aur aap se yu(n) hi seva lete rahe(n).

53: Ajit Singh Rakhra (Canada), November 22, 2012, 4:59 AM.

What devotion, what a voice! I have no words to express my real feelings.

54: Teji (India ), February 16, 2013, 2:55 AM.

Awesome.

55: Manu Chandira Mani (USA), May 22, 2013, 9:13 AM.

Need lyrics to all the four shabads in the Bandhana CD to be ready for Guru Nanak's B'day gurpurab in Miami, Florida, USA.

56: Raman Chadha (London, United Kingdom), October 06, 2013, 12:43 PM.

Absolutely amazing voice and fantastic mix of vocals. The ras in her rendition of shabads is beyond words.

57: Gurminder Kaur (United Kingdom), January 06, 2014, 5:27 AM.

Very nice shabads. Manika, you are truly blessed. I first saw Manika on one of our great Sikh TV channels in the UK. Please, can anyone tell me where can I buy this CD in the UK? I need to get it to play it in the car when taking my kids to school.

58: Kaly Poonia (United Kingdom), January 10, 2014, 3:04 PM.

Fantastic kirtan, Manika, love it! Waheguru has blessed you with such an amazing voice and hope you continue to create more kirtan CDs. Have managed to download onto my phone and burn a CD but it doesn't play in my car. Does anyone know were I can get the CD in the UK?

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