As a female founded brand, BELLA's mission is to celebrate our female trailblazers to empower and inspire you along your journey. That’s why we’ve started our Monday Muse series. Each Monday, to start your week on a high, we will highlight one woman who’s paving the way in their own field and in life. Here, they’ll answer questions on everything, from how they started out to challenges and highlights, plus beauty advice they think everyone should know, along with their favourite top trick. What's better is that you can ask them anything via the comment section below!
This week: Manika Kaur, Musician, Author and Philanthropist
Who are you, what do you do?
I am Manika Kaur, a Kirtan Singer. Kirtan is spiritual music, usually Sikh, spiritual music. I release spiritual music albums and take passages from holy scriptures and compose music for them.
My albums are a mixture of traditional and modern. And this year my 7th album is being released. With the profits from those being donated to charity, with the funding currently supporting three hundred girls in India.
How did you get into making music?
Having grown up in Australia, where I was born, my family were involved in building the first proper Sikh temple in Melbourne. Where the elders in our community encouraged us to sing, to connect to our roots and to our spirituality. Connecting us to our divine selves. Even though I do not have any formal training, the support and encouragement I received allowed my passion to blossom from within.
What or who serves as inspirations behind your songs?
For me my inspiration comes from my level of self-awareness. As well as the state of my internal universe combined with the larger world outside at that moment or time, this plays a large role in shaping the sounds that move through me.
Tell us more about your charity Kirtan for Causes?
My charity work and foundation is called Kirtan for Causes. I don’t accept donations; it is not something you can donate to. It is more a mission that I make for myself, that whatever money I make in this world through my work, music, or writing children’s books goes to the foundations. That 100% of that goes to uplifting communities who are struggling. A big focus for this is the Punjab, as that is where my ancestors are from and that is where I know I can make a real difference.
What is your best beauty hack?
My best beauty hack, as someone who does not wear a lot of make-up, is that I like to keep it light. My favourite product is a soft finish foundation. Using only a drop, I mix it into some kind of strobe cream, and then I combine the two on the palm of my hand and use a brush to give myself a soft, natural look.
Of course, another favourite of mine is my BELLA WANDERLASH mascara. I love that it is water-based and natural. I especially love that when I wash it off at night, I don’t have panda eyes the next day.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My parents and my children. They inspire me in each and every way. Their gracefulness and messiness, their passion and complexities. Just the thought of them provides me relief when I most need it.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting all over again?
Take your time to get to know yourself and the things you want before you get married and have children. Learn to be responsible for yourself before bringing others into the equation. In my case I had an arranged marriage at 23 but times have changed, and I feel it’s important my children have the freedom to figure out who they are and what they want.
What surprises people about you?
Few years ago, I managed to do at sixteen days fast. Which meant I drank only filtered water for sixteen days. It was a very challenging process but taught me a lot about myself, especially our relationship with food. It was truly a life changing experience for me.
How do you love yourself?
I focus on healing instead of escaping. When anxiety or frustration arises I allow myself to be still and bring my awareness to it. I invite it in, I allow it to be there, to express itself and then I cycle that emotional energy that is charged with a low frequency and focus on raising it to the frequency of love and sending it to someone in need or absorbing it into myself. This can be terrifying at times but worthwhile.
What is a moment in your career which has truly impacted you?
An impactful moment for me in my career is releasing my 7th album this year. It is a moment which has truly impacted me, especially in creating spiritual music. This is because you are understanding so much and depth of yourself and your ego whilst creating this musical project. It helped me shift and accept the work you need to do.
With this new album, being able to record it in Abbey Road Studios was so special. Kirtan music had never been recorded there before. I was able to work with incredible musicians. It feels that is a moment I shall never forget. Working with Martin Glover as my producer and having Jill Furmanovsky, who photographed Pink Floyd and The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, and Bob Marely. Having him there capturing my studio time was magical.
Also, all my other previous albums I had sung very traditional Kirtan. Very much rooted in Sikh tradition. But for this album I ask my friends, how do you pray? And I wrote down that information. The I started studying how different cultures and different times and religion pray. So, on my 7th album, there are prayers from all different backgrounds. From Druid, Celtic backgrounds, from Native American prayers, from Buddhist prayers, Islamic prayers, Hindu prayers. I think I covered most of the world.
For me the most profound moment was that it did not matter what I was singing or recording. It was feeing the same way, the sense of oneness. That I was nothing and everything at the same time. That is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
What is your daily motto?
This can change with the phases I am in. I am a mother with a twelve-year-old son and then also twins who are four. So, I feel my daily motto can be connection over correction.
I feel there are enough things which go on life, where both children and adults can be in a constate state of performing. Whether this is with teachers, or our friends, at our jobs. We all need a place where it is safe for you to be you. And I try to this for my children.
Offering a space which shall always be met with connection. Instead of me being the judge, jury, and referee. I played that role for a while, and it took the enjoyment out of it for me a little. So, switching to the connection pathway, has improved my relationships with my children and my experience as a mother. Helping me balance raising three children, especially twins.
What is your advice for seeking an enlightened state?
I am stilling doing this for sure, so maybe not in a position to advice anymore. But defiantly understanding how the body works is very important and how the brain works.
Understanding that every experience you have impacts your nervous system first. Your brain makes sense of it, and you apply language to it. When you are feeling disconnected and shut down you are in the dorsal vagal. When you are easily irritated by small things like your coffee spilling or your children freaking out, you can be a sympathetic state. If you can move through life with a level of ease you are in the ventral vagal.
So, understanding how your body is built and created. Connecting to this and bringing your awareness within allows you to shift and do the most important work which we can do on this planet. That being to heal. And having that journey of healing and share it, you never know who this could resonate with or how it can impact their healing journey. You can walk to a more enlightened state when you are more aware of yourself.
You can invite any 2 people to dinner, who has made the guest list and why?
1. Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Guru Arjun Ji was the 5th Sikh Guru and the first martyr. In the mid-1500’s Sikhism was rapidly growing because it promoted equality between men and women, there were no superstitious religious practices and no caste system.
Guruji became a target as other religious leaders saw their power base rapidly declining. In 1606, Emperor Jahangir would order the arrest and torture of Guru Arjun who was made to sit on a burning iron plate while hot sand was poured over him.
As he was being tortured he said “All is happening in accordance with the will of Waheguru.. the true test of faith is in the hour of misery.."
Being a follower of the Sikh faith this example (along with many others) humbles me on so many levels. Just to be in the presence of a true servant of humanity and protector of women, religion, and equality would be a blessing.
2. Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was one of the key figures of the scientific revolution. Before him, it was widely believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, and he dared to argue the complete opposite, despite scorn from the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo still stands for the belief that scientific inquiry must be pursued even if what it reveals is uncomfortable.
He was so far ahead of his time. I want to know how he managed to keep on coming up with ideas and not give in to self-doubt when they were just so different to everyone else.