Years ago, I stumbled upon the haunting sounds of Gregorian Chants and felt a wave of tranquility wash over me, but I did not however set off in the pursuit of mastering the complex Latin verses. Once the moment passed, the memory too fled.
So, when I heard about how Brenda McMorrow began to pursue mantra music after listening to some shlokas few years ago, I simply had to know the why? When? What-on-the-earth for?
Who knew I would have the pleasure of unveiling the identity of Canada’s bona fide Bajrangi Behen.
Good news: you can catch Brenda at a kirtan concert happening in our wonderful city. British Columbia native Brenda McMorrow is the real deal. She can, not only recite the Hanuman Chalisa and other Vedic chants, but can speak about their meaning and relevance.
(For those unfamiliar with Bollywood: In the Hindi blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the main character played by Salman Khan is shown as an endearing and ardent devotee of Hanuman aka Bajrangbali).
Brenda’s rendition of the mantra music is upbeat and infused with western influences. But that’s not all. When Brenda is paying homage to the verses, her face radiates with inner peace. Little wonder then that, this Canuck describes herself as a “true bhakt walking along the devotional path of yoga”.
You are probably wondering what would compel a white woman to dedicate herself into learning a dead language (Sanskrit) and gain mastery over it so much so she’s guided through some force of nature to compose, sing, cut records and host Kirtans around the world?
Before her serendipitous introduction to the shlokas, Brenda was rock/folk/bluegrass artist. Then, in 2004, she heard some Sanskrit chants during a yoga workshop. She had no clue what they were, but they stirred something in her.
“The first time I heard mantra chanting, I knew at every level, that that was what I
was meant to do,” she says.
Three years ago, she recorded her version of the Hanuman Chalisa and has since performed it in cities across Europe, Asia, North and South America. In fact, Brenda has recorded two versions of the Chalisa: the windblown and heart version.
Last year, Brenda travelled to Varanasi and was invited to sing the Chalisa on the banks of the Ganges at Tulsi Ghat before the evening’s aarti and later at the Sankat Mochan temple.
“Little did we know that this would be the most enthusiastically participated in rendition of the Windblown Hanuman Chalisa, ever,” she writes about that experience. “Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we were playing right below Tulsi Das’ residence (the writer of the Hanuman Chalisa).”
On Friday, Sept. 25 Brenda will hosting a kirtan concert at the St. George’s Anglican Church at 410 College St. (one block east of Bathurst) at 8 p.m. Tickets cost S25/person and $35/person (premium).
Also, Brenda’s new album My Heart Bows Down to You, by White Swan Records will be released Sept. 18.
Tickets to the concert can be bought online and via Pay Pal or through www.anahatatimes.com.