Starter Kit CD

Starter Kit: Songs and Chants for Practical Purposes is an organic mix of songs and chants composed between 2009 and 2013.  It includes folk songs with a spiritual bent and chants in the zikr and kirtan traditions.  I call the sound “homegrown,” because it combines the writing styles and music forms I’ve been most interested in over the past few years, and because it was recorded (with the incredible help of Jen F. of Windhorse Studio) in a homey environment and with an intention of simplicity.  I like what’s called “people’s music,” music that people can use; if this music is useful or speaks to you, then I’ll be very glad.  These songs also reflect the influences of the Appalachian and Ozark regions where I “grew up” physically and spiritually, so don’t be surprised at the occasional twang.  😉

You can now listen to this set online and download all of the songs for free here:

Below is the cover art for the CD.  Below that is a list of the songs, and below THAT are chords, words, and translations for the chants, in case you are curious.

Starter Kit Cover

1.   Saraswati Mantra

2.   Been Here Before

3.   Bowing Bismillah

4.   Walk In This World

5.   Forward Motion

6.   That Is What I Like About You  (Sufi Camp Tribute Version)

7.   Govinda, The Wave

8.   Hot Zikr  (for 102 degree days and full moon nights)

9.   Be Kind

10.  Ukulele Zikr


Saraswati Mantra

Om Aing Maha Saraswataye Namaha

Om Aing Maha Saraswataye Namah

Om Aing Maha Saraswataye Namaha

Om Aing Maha Saraswataye Namah

Saraswataye Maha Saraswataye, Saraswataye Namaha Namaha

Saraswataye Maha Saraswataye, Saraswataye Namaha


This is a Sanskrit mantra invoking the Hindu Goddess Saraswati.  She is the goddess of knowledge, music, the arts, and “creative intelligence” in both the personal and universal senses–and many other things too.  The chant uses the seed syllable “Aing.”  Seed syllables are said to contain the essence of the vibrational energy of the whole mantra.  Maha means “Great,” and Namah/Namaha are two forms of a word that can be roughly expressed as “I salute you with adoration.”  Nice sentiment!  I’ve always thought of this particular melody as “campfire Kirtan.”

Bowing Bismillah

Bismillah Bismillah Ir-Rahman Ir-Rahim

Bismillah Bismillah Bismillah Bismillah

This is played in open (GGDGGD) tuning in G, though I sometimes capo 1 or even 2 if I’m feeling very adventurous.  Sopranos and tenors could and should make it even higher.

This Arabic phrase is commonly translated as “We begin in the name of Allah” (Bismillah) “who is mercy and compassion” (ir-rahman ir-rahim).  It’s interesting to note that both of those words for mercy and compassion come from the root word for womb.

Forward Motion

This chant includes a mantra invoking the Hindu God Ganesha, remover of obstacles, and one that invokes the Great Mother Goddess Durga, who rides a tiger and carries sharp weapons to help us cut through illusion.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

Om Durga Ma



“Gam” is a seed syllable for Ganesha’s mantras; Ganapataye is another of his names.  Ganesh is the one with the elephant head.  He’s also the god of writing!

Hot Zikr

La ilaha illallah

Ya Allah


The first part of this chant is a phrase that can be translated as “there is no God but God” or, with different nuances, “nothing exists – only God is,” suggesting something like “there is nothing that exists that is not part of God (Allah).”  You can spend some time with the phrase and see what it means to you.  The second part, Ya Allah, is calling on the Divine.  According to Wali Ali Meyer, Bilal Hyde, Faisal Muqaddam and Shabda Kahn in Physicians of the Heart, “‘Ya’ is a vocative form used to indicate that we are calling out, invoking” the Name of God (xvii).

The drumbeat of this chant came first, then the melody snaked around.

Ukulele Zikr

Zikr, by the way, means “remembrance,” and refers to the spiritual practice of singing, chanting, saying, repeating the Names of God.

La ilaha illallah (repeat)

‘Ishq Allah Maboud Allah (repeat)


We’ve seen the first phrase before.  The second phrase is often translated as “God is Love, Lover, and Beloved,” which is part of it.  One (I) could go on for paragraphs trying to express this and never getting it, so I’ll refer you again to the authors of Physicians of the Heart, who say ‘ishq is “the most ecstatic and passionate of all the loves” (115) which the Divine feels for us and we can feel for the Divine.  Elsewhere they write, “The great love that is at the core of all existence loves both intoxication and sobriety, just as it loves both the beautiful face and the wrathful and powerful one” (190).  Is the ukulele an instrument of intoxication or sobriety?  I wonder.  You can find your own layers of meaning in this phrase, too.

One thought on “Starter Kit CD

  1. Pingback: New CD: Starter Kit! | Heartland Soul

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