Snatam Kaur's parents brought her up in the Sikh tradition as taught by Yogi Bhajan. From an early age, she practiced yoga and meditation daily and her mother taught her Gurmukhi. "My mother taught me the alphabet on my way to school every morning," recalls Snatam. Her Sikh community augmented these lessons with instruction in kirtan (devotional chanting). "Through these experiences, I learned the pronunciation," she says, "but also I learned the passion for what I was singing because these gatherings were so spiritual."
As a child, Snatam also had training in voice, violin, guitar, and percussion. She obtained a solid foundation in Western classical music while playing violin in an orchestra and giving solo performances. Her many opportunities to use and expand her musical talent in a spiritual setting emphasized for her the connection between her music and spirituality. "I learned about the importance of sound currents from Yogi Bhajan," she says, "but I also had the personal experience of how the energy of these sacred words can have a very real, positive effect."
Snatam further explored the power of sound in India. After high school, her love for the Indian musical tradition and for children took her to Miri Piri Academy, a boarding school for children in India. She spent time taking care of the young children, teaching physical education, and providing music for the children's morning and evening chanting. When she returned to the United States, she attended Mills College in Oakland, California, where she obtained a degree in biochemistry, taught yoga classes, and shared her chants with Western audiences. But India called her back. After touring and performing Kirtan in northern India, Snatam settled in Amritsar where she studied music with the accomplished ragi (Indian master of Sikh-style kirtan) Bhai Hari Singh. This was a great honor for her, and particularly meaningful because Singh was the same teacher who had taught her mother when she was just a little girl.