Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed singer-songwriter Jai Anand about her career, what inspires her music, and the release of her new track Ra Ma Da Sa.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a musician, visual artist, yogi, entrepreneur, and a mother. I am Jai Anand (née Julie Yannatta), founder, owner, and now, an artist on Be Why Music. My California-based, multi-Grammy-winning record label is dedicated to releasing music that uplifts humanity.
I am also the founder of Club Kundalini, a global digital community of yoga teachers and students thriving on Clubhouse and Discord. I started Club Kundalini to heal the planet with the wisdom and sacred technology of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma. I live in Los Angeles with my son and our two-rescue dogs Chocolate and Mochi.
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
Until my youngest brother died in 2000, I didn’t write songs. The week before his college graduation, his heart stopped while he was playing pick-up basketball and he died on the court. I was destroyed. I still don’t know exactly why I turned to music instead of some other creative endeavor.
I wrote poetry in college and the odd poem here and there after that, but I didn’t ever feel I wanted to write songs. When my brother died, I felt like I had to write them. I had no experience and started teaching myself. Writing poetry helped me become comfortable with coming up with lyrics.
I formed a band and learned more from the other members. We wrote, practiced, played shows. Then we started recording. My grief gave me fearless determination and I healed myself with music.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
My brother and I used to play this game in the car. We called it “Punch Buggy”. Every time we saw a Volkswagen Beetle, we would punch each other. Not hard or anything. We were having fun being silly and passing the time. I wrote a tune about playing that game with him. I burned a few CDs and made the cover but it was never commercially released. Still, it was my first “real” song.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
Ra Ma Da Sa is the mantra I released recently on Be Why Music. It is a healing mantra said to contain the radiant healing energy of the cosmos.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Ra Ma Da Sa?
I hadn’t released a song since before my son was born and he’s now in middle school. My biggest challenge was finding my way back to my singing voice and believing in myself enough to ask Heday Ikumo to work with me. I had to mine that fearless determination I found when my brother died to make the leap.
How many songs are you working on right now?
I am now working on an album of mantras. I have four front and center with Heday and four more in sketch form.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
Currently, I’m recording mantras from the Kundalini Yoga tradition, so that’s the unifying theme. The words to the mantras are already written in Gurmukhi, the sacred script of the Panjabi language. When I started on this spiritual path, I didn’t know the meaning of any of the mantras. I am recording for people who don’t know them either. I let the sounds guide me because that’s what initially attracted me.
What is your favorite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
The songs I recorded before are totally different from the mantras I am working on now. Ra Ma Da Sa is my favorite because it’s the first and I love it for being the first. I love it for the healing frequency it holds. And I love how I believe in the positive impact its healing frequency can (and will!) have on humanity and the planet.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
Yes! I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. When I started singing again, I went back to my comfort tunes to sing along with, mostly old standards. Blossom Dearie for the high notes. Ella Fitzgerald for the everything. I’ll never be able to sing like they did, but it’s a fun way to practice. For the past year, I’ve listened to two Sikh ragis on repeat, Baba Nihal Singh and Ragi Sat Nam Singh, immersing myself in the traditional shabds (hymns).
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I am not a skilled enough musician to write on my own. I always collaborate.
Do you play any instruments?
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I used to like performing live. It doesn’t scare me. One of the guys in my band used to say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It only has to be live.” Isn’t that excellent advice for all of life? My mantras are specifically recorded works, so I won’t be performing them live.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Yes. My music is available globally on all digital platforms.
Are you able to make music full-time, or do you have a day job?
I am not able to make music full-time. I work for myself, which I love. My record label, Be Why Music is pretty successful and I also co-own a music merchandising company.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
My family and friends are really into me being happy and making music makes me happy. So, everyone around me is supportive. I am lucky and happy!
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
I refer to the time before my son was born as the “BC” era, as in “Before Child”. I thought writing songs was something I had left behind in that era. I never expected to do it again. I really suffered during the pandemic. We all did. For me, the isolation and uncertainty were traumatic and suffocating. I was depressed and started meditating with the Ra Ma Da Sa Mantra to heal myself. When I recognized how well it was working, I was compelled to share it. I was inspired and the times were desperate enough for me to set aside any hesitation I had about making music again.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
Until recently, my son didn’t know me as a singer. When Ra Ma Da Sa came out, he didn’t realize I had ever recorded any music. When he first listened, he came into my room and said, “Mamma, you can actually sing.” You can imagine how great it felt to say, “Yes, I actually can.” (Please do not tell him that I told you that he still occasionally calls me Mamma.)
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
I don’t, but if you follow me as an artist on any of the digital platforms (don’t forget to like Ra Ma Da Sa), you will be notified when my next single is released.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
Write at least once a day, at the same time of day, for the same amount of time. I am always more creative in the early morning. Also, never think you will remember that great idea that crosses your mind when you get home. Record a voice memo on your phone or make a note. Capture it then and there.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Absolutely and absolutely. Did I mention I never expected to be writing and recording songs again?
Pop all your music, website, and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Jai Anand (née Julie) Yannatta
My New Single “Ra Ma Da Sa”
Founder, Owner – Be Why Music
Founder – Club Kundalini
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