It can be a little controversial to explore the music-spirituality connection. Many question whether it is appropriate to teach “religious” songs from a faith other than your own. A lot of traditional music was born in places of worship. And a lot of great musicians and composers were priests and saints who created their art for the divine.

From Mirabai to Johann Sebastian Bach, many composers and poets wrote music as their own worship. There are a couple of things to unpack here. Firstly, what place does secularism have here? Secondly, can we appreciate music if we don’t subscribe to the same beliefs as the composer?  

How do we approach the music-spirituality connection?

Of course, there is plenty of music that has nothing to do with religion, God, or philosophy. So, is it enough tojust work with that and steer clear of anything that could cause trouble? Honestly, no. If we try to sanitise everything and share work that is neutral and safe, we’ll lose a lot. Especially in the world of art, culture and music. So, instead, why don’t we look at a representative view of secularism? We know that representation matters, so why not represent everything? Or at least many things?  

This has been the idea with SaPa in Schools: to present young people with different styles of music and perspectives. The larger idea is to create a generation of global citizens that can respect Indian and global cultures.

When we present inclusive secularism, students will learn to respect music for music’s sake.  If Bach wrote for the church with his belief system firmly in place, you can still appreciate its grandeur. If Mirabai sang for her beloved Krishna, you can still appreciate her poetry without necessarily having the same feelings. As individuals, we should be able to respect the art for what it is.  You don’t need religion to appreciate the magnitude of the Sistine Chapel or the Tanjore temple!

To explore India’s rich collection of spiritual music, sign up for the self-paced course by Anup Jalota – India’s bhajan king. Sign up here.

Interested in improving your voice? Or busting some myths on songwriting? Read about them on the SaPa blog!

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