sandhya music℗

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Since 2001, ‘Give Peace a Chant’ celebrates inter-spiritual community, singing songs for peace, sharing story-telling, artistic expression, dance and of course, beautiful chanting from bhakti yoga traditions.

GPaC Journal
It was 2001,
a few of us were taking a YTT course together, and as a part of our training, we began offering ‘live’ conscious music / meditation gatherings that were to become a regular Friday chant night in Vancouver, BC. That was a long time ago, now!

From my diary, I will attempt to describe from 2001 – 2005 (ish) when we advertised our gathering with posters or sometimes, in local free papers and we didn’t have social media, yet. I worked, almost non-stop to create the get togethers, plus, a team of various volunteers, with a focus on fund raisers, that included local guests , musicians, friends, family, all different backgrounds, including First Nations Blessings, mostly on traditional, unceded, occupied territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh), and Musqueam (Xwméthkwyiem) Nations.

Fund raising efforts included a regular donation to The Vancouver Food Bank, in the form of  vegetarian food donations.

Gratitude for all who played a part of the GPaC event and chant community!

Friday night GPaC, we shared a nice run of yoga studio fund raiser celebrations. This one was for Vancouver Foodbank, where we donated vegetarian food. Later, this studio was demolished!

And, more memories!

2004 – 2005 – GPaC’s CDs, A Loving Flame / Peace Through Music w/ Sandra Leigh, David Embry, Lyle Povah, and beautiful singing community in Kits, 2004-2005. Produced by Greg Birdsall. Recorded live, in the above yoga studio in Kits, with community. Great fun!

2005 (or so) –  Rob Scharein helps put GPaC’s first website online. Many thanks to Rob, as he also created GPaC songbooks. Later, we enjoyed wonderful slides and sometimes, a short talk on astronomy. Rob also archived many years of ‘GPaC’ live audio recordings, videos and photos. A heart-felt thanks to Rob, and to all the volunteers who helped the GPaC community chant night!

Around this time,  we also began hosting more visiting guest artists.

From 2001 – 2008, I worked at Banyen Books and Sound, and would help Banyen Sound’s Kirtan events in Vancouver. Banyen sponsored larger events and concerts, like Krishna Das, for many years. Thanks to my hours working at the bookstore, (and a good old bulletin board) I made many great friends and connections.

Eventually, I would take the GPaC program out to more places, including yoga conferences, festivals and mini-tours around BC 🇨🇦

2008 – GPaC joined social media and began more networking online, and attendance at bi-weekly events went way up!

2009 – Forever remembering local beauty, Chantal Jolly, my karmic soul sister. Chantal shared her incredibly beautiful singing, Bass, Guitar and 12 String with GPaC. Singer, sound-healer, and a highly accomplished and compassionate musician. After a very long, hard fought battle with breast cancer, Chantal left us in 2009, but her passing songs healed our hearts, leaving our lifetimes changed forever!

2009 – Sandra Leigh, in Vraj.

2009 – It was immediately following Chantal’s passing away that I went to India, still feeling her presence while on this trip. She told me once, she always wanted to go to India! Chantal also told us she would be of more help (to all of us) from the “other side” and she said this, even though she was more of a science minded person!

It was on this 2009 INDIA retreat, that I met Shyamdas for the very first time, in Vrindavan, across from a place called MVT. He was buying bananas. It was a memorable meeting for me. I got his number, and I went back to my room (excited) hoping to share with my retreat group, but sadly, no one wanted to take up the invitation to go visit him in Jatipura! I felt it was a missed opportunity, to be sure. The Teachings of Shri Vallabhacharya translated by Shyamdas was even on the retreat reading list, but the itinerary was already set.

When I returned from  the retreat in India, we held a celebration of life for Chantal, at the Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace in Vancouver. We sang her favourite songs together, and I shared the story of how Chantal and I met, and how we had an odd commonality, in that, we were married to the same man! Not at the same time, of course! But oddly, we became friends and healed together, before she passed. Even though she was unwell, Chantal never missed a gig, and she had a smile that would often light up the entire room. She moved to the West End, getting an apartment a couple of blocks from my place, so, we spent some important time together. We had some kind of Karma, maybe some magic… who knows? Bless HER!

2010 –  The year came and went and GPaC continued playing and by now, we were getting more participants and including a ‘Celebration of Light’, singing in Sanskrit. This was our way of showing appreciation for a traditional Indian ceremony, called Arati. From my humble perspective, I learned about Arati kind of backwards. First, I learned about Arati at the ashram in BC, then, the spiritual name of Arati was given me at Salt Spring Island, although I have not used this name. Then again, I experienced Arati at the ashram in the UK. It was not until much later that I was able to experience an authentic Arati ceremony in INDIA.

For many years, our understanding of this (ceremony of waving lamps) was as a symbol of purification of the the 5 sense perceptions, and the acknowlegment of peace. We called it a Celebration of LIGHT.

Also 2010 – I started a YouTube Channel givepeaceachant108/ Sandhya Music℗

2011 – Thanks to Tina in Whistler, Shyamdas visited us in Vancouver! He was here for skiing. I was delighted to see him again! He was so unique, a genuine character, and he remembered me from MVT. I eagerly helped set up a few concerts (Shyam loved the fabulous Tabla player) Tina and her Jivamukti YTT Grads had special celebration! So, I also began planting seeds for a possible GPaC / India – Bhakti Yoga Retreat with Shyamdas. He said yes, it was possible to bring our group! It was not meant to be though.

2012 – Kirtan continued, twice per month, anchored in Kits. We also helped with a number of outdoor gatherings that Summer, in the park. However, eventually the local yoga studio venue would be closed forever, demolished, along with The Ridge Theatre.

2013 – Then, sadly and suddenly, Shyamdas passed away in 2013.

– with the yoga studio venue demolished,
I tried to keep going with gatherings at a few other venues and we enjoyed many more cozy home programs, picnics, etc.

I also embarked on a mini tour adventure that included singing in North Wales, Glasgow, Sterling, Edinburgh, and Paisley, Scotland. Looking back, this tour was my way to process the earlier passing of my Mother, that same Spring, 2014. She was Scottish by heritage, Canadian by birth.

I began my first dream recording project in the Summer of 2014, in Glasgow. For years I had wanted to try tracking Bagpipes for the (not-yet- named) ‘Kirtan Lila’, CD. So, that’s exactly what I did for that entire Summer. It was all about tracking Pipes and Harmonium, and I became very interested in sound recording, that Summer. I dedicate the ‘Kirtan Lila’ CD to my Mom, with love.

2015‘Kirtan Lila’ by Give Peace a Chant was finally released in June, 2015. This album has a lot of energy, and some amazing musicians / friends helped me see this first project off the ground. I learned a lot / processed ALOT during this project!

2016‘Divine Play’ CD (Instrumentals from Kirtan Lila) by Give Peace a Chant was released, January 2016, and kind of took me by surprise.

Instrumental soundtrack for ‘Yoga Moves for Every Body’ TV show, which aired in Vancouver and Calgary on Shaw community television, Channel 4 and Multicultural Channels. The TV show project can now be seen on YouTube as YogaMovesTV  and features yoga with ‘Divine Play’ soundtrack.

2017‘Gopal Lila’ EP by Give Peace a Chant, recorded at Park Sound Studio in North Vancouver was released on SandhyaRecords℗ as a new soundtrack project.

2018 – was established in 2018 representing SandhyaRecords

2019 – I started the year in India with an invitation to India!

At this point, it is safe to say, that if it were not for Shyamdas, I would never have experienced such a blessing as my last trip to India.

2020 –  A “new age” of COVID-19. My thoughts (at the moment) are with family and friends. I am still learning about the outcomes for my small yoga business. Although I have been super productive, I also feel this is a good time to rest, study and work on music, and reflect on offering more recorded music. 2020 was a year to be grateful for all we have!

2021 – I’ve started the year with a 12 week Music Business course at BCiT online, and so far, it’s been really great! Stay tuned!

Thanks for subscribing for more music. My hope is that we will be together, soon.

More Bio:
My name is Sandra Leigh (pronounced Lee). I first took interest in chanting on a one year ashram residency in 1996 in the interior BC 🇨🇦 near Nelson, BC, close to where my grandmother passed away, there is an ashram near, across Kootenay Lake.  I first learning about satsang and chanting there, from Swami Sivanada Radha’s Yasodhara Ashram.

From there, I went on to continue studying yoga with Lilian Bianchi and learned about toning and sound healing in White Rock with her teacher,  Sandra Sammartino.

I met the Dru Yoga group in 1999, and certified with them for Yoga, Meditation and Sound trainings that were held in Canada, North Wales, UK, and India.

I’ve been lucky to have visited India a number of times. The first time was finally, in 2008. I had wanted to go to India, for what seemed like an eternity.

I saved my money and finally arranged for a 4 month leave from work to participate in an immersion/musical study retreat at the Varanasi Academy of Indian Classical Music located in Varanasi (Benares). Gratitude includes Pandit Shivnath Mishra & Deobrat Mishra of Varanasi, based on Benares Gahrana music tradition in Varanasi. This longer trip was also my first of many visits to Vraja Dham.

Back in Vancouver, I was fortunate to continue studying Sanskrit in Vancouver at UBC with Professor, Thomas Hunter. Sanskrit is much like music, requires daily practice and I have discovered it is a very good practice for organized thinking, in general.

Later, in 2016, I met my teacher, Pushtimargiya Acharya, Sri Milan Goswami for the first time whilst attending a Find the Beloved India Lifestyle retreat. I was blessed with a first initiation for Shri Vallabhacharya’s Pushti Marg, the path of grace.

Then again in 2019, I had rare invitation to go to India for a very special, very big celebration of Pushti Marg family lineage thread ceremony with Sri Milan Bawa, in Kota. I also took a 2nd (final) initiation, and experienced what is called “Brahma-Sambandha” which means complete surrender to Bhagwan Shri Krishna’s non-discriminatory Seva. I am still learning, and I am most grateful to all my Teachers.

I’m presently residing in Vancouver, BC. 

We honour that our events take place on traditional, unceded, occupied territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh), and Musqueam (Xwméthkwyiem) Nations.