Sunset as seen from Sat Kirtan Kaur’s home (classroom).

Rag Kedara
7/18/01 Monterey

From stillness
The call emerges, “come”.
The dance of the singer’s voice
Draws the beloved near.
In an instant he appears
And the glow of his presence
Consumes all sense of time and space.

While the world stands still
The two dance on
Around the fire of sound
Caller and called,
Together as one.

Then into the silence
he slips away again
leaving only a shadow
and the fragrance of his coming.

Until now, this little poem was the only attempt to describe my first experience with rāga kedāra. The first time I heard rāga kedāra it was a summer night in Monterey, California. Bhai Baldeep Singh sat in front of a wall of windows overlooking the seamless black expanse of sea and sky, dotted with stars that twinkled in the heavens and sparkled on the water. The small sangat circled around, wrapped in shawls, our ears just beginning to register a barely audible note resonating in the cool night air. The note slipped easily, transforming itself, fluid like water in the bay below, circling, flowing into the lower octave, than spiraling, stretching to the higher. As the alāp developed the patterns became more complex, the pace quickened, the sound filled the room.

To me, a listener, time seemed to stand still and the world seemed to pause, hushed in silence as rāga kedāra unfolded, emerging like a living presence among us. Then, like the tide, the song receded until all that remained was the stillness it had itself evoked, damp with traces of the song memory. I felt transported to a new vantage point from which to see.

The bāni in rāga kedāra spans the full spectrum of human life– birth, attachments, ego, work in the world, entanglement and death as well as grace, peace, meditation and nām intoxication. The devotee lives in the world unattached. Remembering nām, affairs are taken care of. In the Lord’s sanctuary there is no resistance, the world is not avoided, but there is a sense of ease, trusting the Doer to set things right.

Like the sky merging into the sea, rāga kedāra flows seamlessly between the lower notes of the octave and the higher notes. Whereas the pancham appears in some rāgas as a springboard for ascending, there is no dividing line in rāga kedāra. The notes in rāga kedāra slide easily between low and high as if life itself flowed with no effort between inner and outer, work and worship, heaven and earth, a dance of simultaneous engagement and renunciation, without duality, encompassing all of reality into One.