Who sings devotional songs? They went out of youth vocabulary with the Emergency in the seventies. It’s uncool now to be caught singing hymns in praise of sundry gods; one would rather sing paeans to the love of vodka.
Some women, though, didn’t get the memo.
Kitty Khanna (a catty name for a singer you have to admit), a young housewife from Bandra, Mumbai, actually sings bhajans in private and public — because she loves to. The wife of a businessman and mother of a year-old baby girl was inspired and trained by her mum, who gets quite a bit of action at a local neighbourhood temple in Delhi, where Kitty too grew up. The big mammas there have all kinds of musical instruments, and have spent much of their lives honing their vocal abilities to fit socially acceptable devotional music.
It’s rather refreshing to see a modern young woman now do the same — not out of any reason to conform but simply because that’s all she really wants to do. She admits the kind of deep peace and spiritual fulfilment she finds in singing love songs to Lord Krishna is more addictive than any vodka, EVER.
We happened to hear Kitty sing in that deep, throaty, passionate voice of hers. And we got goosebumps enough to ask her to share a few tips for those looking to sing bhajans a little more seriously than with an embarrassed grin at old-people gatherings. Here’s what she suggests:
1. Like quitting alcohol, it’s not easy to make a practice out of your passion for bhajans unless you have help. Find a group of like-minded singers in your neighbourhood.
2. Meet your groupies often; devise singing sessions instead of kitty parties (no pun intended). Do it at least twice a week.
3. Use technology. There are some great Sufi songs up on YouTube like this one that can really inspire you to start off crooning on your own.
4. Make a book of songs and note down all the ones you like. “My mom and I compare songs every time I come home to Delhi and we note down the nice ones the other one has come across. We constantly teach one another new singing tricks,” says Kitty.
5. Invest in your voice. Stay away from throat busters like ice cream, pickles, candies, iced drinks, and food laden with preservatives.
6. Sing often else you’ll lose both the voice and the confidence to burst into song at a social or public gathering. Practice daily even if the only audience you have is your little baby. Kitty’s daughter Samaira (right) starts clapping the minute her mother takes to song.
7. Have fun and do it with sincerity. “The most important ingredient in any hymn is love. Sing it like you mean it.”