Yoga Journal|May - June 2020
I’m sitting with eight others in a semicircle on the floor, slowly unpacking my harmonium for the first time. I revel in its cuteness. It looks like a toy piano crossed with an elegant teak accordion that folds up on itself like a child’s suitcase for easy carrying. I’m at a yoga studio, where I’ve signed up for a class to learn to chant and play 10 Kundalini mantras performed by some of my favorite musicians, such as Snatam Kaur and Jai-Jagdeesh. As a singer and a newbie Kundalini Yoga teacher, the big sound and simplicity of the harmonium appealed to me. I enrolled in this six-week course with the goal of accompanying myself while leading a mantra meditation or chanting during class.
Our teacher, Michael Cohen, founder of the Kirtan Leader Institute, walks us through setting up and positioning our instruments. “You can play just one chord on the harmonium, and it sounds great,” he tells us. And that’s exactly how we start—by simply holding down C and F on the keyboard with one hand, pumping the bellows (the mechanism that pushes air across the reeds) with the other, and chanting “Om.” He’s right. The tone is deep and rich, and when we all play together, the sound becomes even more expansive, filling the room and vibrating deep inside my solar plexus like a soothing full-body hum.
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May - June 2020