Engaging the Healing Qualities of Music and Voice with Silvia Nakkach
Please share what you do in a few words: I play music and sing, I am a ‘yogini’ musician, a recording artist, and a university teacher who designs academic programs that explore the healing qualities of music and the voice on human consciousness.
Why do you do what you do? Throughout many years of research and traveling the world, I’ve developed a skillful method to teach and inspire others to manifest and enjoy a sound healing practice that they love. My path has been devoted to “engaged participation,” and my yogic journey is about mastering the singing of the ragas of India. My teachers endowed me with the gift to transmit these melodies effortlessly, as a contemplative practice that promotes neuroplasticity, cellular awareness, and releases joy and trust. I want to give more people the chance to sing more and explore the potential of sympathetic resonance … and the subtle happiness that follows.
What are you currently fascinated by in your work? As a result of more than 35 years of uninterrupted practice, and having been exposed to so many cross-cultural ways of knowing, devotional singing became my passion. The teachings I offer bring new light to the affective quality of sound in the human psyche, and examine the ways that chanting and sound production, rendering, transmission, and transformation can determine human psychological and physiological states. In order to understand the value of the most current yogic practices of sound, the dual focus of my work is on the healing qualities of mantra and raga singing, defining and exploring how these ancient vocal arts transform consciousness and emotions by enhancing the sensibility of the subtle in the mind and the body of the practitioner. This is the missing piece in most conventional music education.
[Listen to a Sounds True interview with Silvia, The Secret Sound, about this topic.]
How did you come to your path? Any aha moments or key teachers?
I have been in music since I remember “me,” as a composer, performer, teacher, and I was a former music psychotherapist with a clinical practice. I actually designed curricula for many music therapy schools around the world. My interest in yoga, indigenous music, cosmology, and spirituality has led me to collaborate with renowned master teachers of Indian, Tibet, and South American shamanic traditions. The meetings with these remarkable masters oriented my path into a more integrative approach.
I dedicated my latest book, Free Your Voice, to my three main teachers that inspire my work: my music guru for 30 years, the late Ali Akbar Khan; my wisdom-mind teacher Chögyan Namkhai Norbu; and my spiritual father Pai Dary, who shares with me the African Yoruba shamanic tradition. We have arrived at a time when ancient and modern technologies of human development are greatly benefiting from the exploration of their differences and commonalities, bringing forth integrative insights and surprising possibilities as the roles of the yogi, the musician, and the healer inform each other.
What book(s) are you currently reading? What I have now in front of me and I continuously come back to, are three books that originated as part of art exhibitions: Yoga, The Art of Transformation (I adore the book and adored the show); the second is called Seduced by the Beauty of the World, which is a journey through India that explores the meaning of masti, which roughly means to see the world clearly and whole, and knowledgeably enough to fall in love with it. The third book is Voice and Void, which accompanies a modern art show that presents an inquiry into the human voice as a fundamental component of corporeal and emotional manifestations.
What surprises you about teaching here? What surprises me the most is the delicate balance between discipline and the emergence of genuine happiness. I feel so safe when I am in the ashram! I think this is conveyed by the purity of the lineage, the diversity of teachings and cultures, felt as one, aiming to deepen devotion and spiritual service. Plus, the timeless beauty of the ocean and the ashram somehow feels like a miracle.
The people are really kind at the ashram. I meet wonderful people every year. The beauty of the space attracts only more beauty. It’s an absolute pleasure and enjoyment to meet the same sangha and staff every year; it's very coherent to feel embraced and nurtured by a spiritual family that is continuously evolving the perception of the “Subtle.”
Silvia Nakkach, MA, MMT, a pioneer in the field of sound and transformation of consciousness, is a Grammy-nominated musician, an award-winning composer, and a former music psychotherapist. She is the founder and artistic director of Vox Mundi School of Sound and the Voice, an international project devoted to teaching and preserving sacred musical traditions. Silvia has pioneered the integration of yogic chanting with somatic and music psychotherapy, and teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she created and coordinates the Sound and Music Healing Certificate program. She studied Indian classical ragas with the late maestro Ali Akbar Khan for more than 30 years and has released 12 CDs. Her latest book is Free Your Voice.