Meet Keya Goswami, Interview with the Teacher of Indian Classical Music

Welcome at Keya Goswami’s Music school in Rishikesh, where we immersed into learning harmonium and singing mantras during our month-long stay in the city. Keya teaches harmonium, Shruti box and Mantra singing, as well as techniques necessary for developing a fine-tuned voice, including voice exercises, breathing, and throat chakra opening.

Many international students exchange the door handle to her simple, humble room, in which Keya uniquely guide the seekers into music and singing. After decades of teaching and sharing her wisdom directly from the heart, she is able to transform her own passion for music onto her students, whom are all her children. Now being a part of her global family, we are greatly honored to bring a tiny bit of her knowledge back with us.

While drinking a tea together at the end of our last class, Keya shared interesting insights about music and mantra singing. Enjoy the transcription of the interview and meet Keya better in the highlights video.

The Timeless Journey: Keya tell us about your musical journey and what are your passions?

Keya: I am from Calcutta, I studied at universities in Calcutta and Varanasi and I learnt Indian classical Raga, focusing on opening the seven chakras [energy centers] through sound and music, practicing Nada meditation and mastering correct breathing. Being from Calcutta, I love Kirtan [call and response singing], Bhajans [collective devotional singing], and Bengali folk songs. Now residing in Rishikesh, I have my school, my altar, my home, a very simple living.

The Timeless Journey: We observed so many nationalities being among your students and seeking not only harmonium lessons but also the voice tuning program. Why is it so popular?

Keya: Many news readers or actors come, wishing to learn how to correctly use their voice, so we do special training and exercises, alongside advice on what drinks/foods to consume and avoid for improving and maintaining a great voice.

The Timeless Journey: And what about the musical  instruments that one can learn from you?

Keya: I teach harmonium and Shruti box and I used to play tanpura, however I now focus on teaching Indian classical instruments, mantra singing and the voice training.

The Timeless Journey: During our harmonium lessons, you mentioned Nada Yoga and meditation a few times. What are the important elements which connect Yoga and music?

Keya: It is very important to pronounce a Mantra correctly. Because if not, there will be no effect [the purpose of chanting will be lost and it would only be for fun]. If the pronunciation is clear, melody is easy. People often change melodies when chanting mantras, which contradicts with chakra opening (explanatory note: in traditional mantra chanting, the dynamics of a melody cover all notes associated with each one of the seven chakras to support their purification and opening). This is related to Nada meditation, which a meditation method utilizing specific sounds. I focus on Indian Raga melody meditation and relaxation, good for the evening time, such as a Raga melody with Om sound or Om Shanti Om, sometimes Hari Om Tat Sat. This is also what I teach the foreign student, simple, easy to remember and effective.
If you practice Yoga, then you understand the chakra system. The [tonal scale] SaReGaMaPaDhaNiSa (explanatory note: Western DoReMiFaSolLaTiDo) refer in their sequence to the seven chakras. Each chakra corresponds to a different note. So if you have knowledge about this, it is easy to understand how to connect it with a Yoga practice [and sound meditation], which is also targeting individual chakras.

The Timeless Journey: As you said, correct pronunciation of a mantra is very important, so the simpler the better for us. Mantras are praises to God and by singing them, we are connecting to these divine qualities within us and benefiting from their healing effects. Did we understand correctly?

Keya: God is the help, which we are calling by singing mantras. If pronunciation is wrong, there won’t be a connection. For example Tryambakam Mantra is a powerful healing, medicine mantra but if someone cannot learn the whole mantra [because the words appear difficult], it is enough to sing AUM, this is the best mantra. Or some very simple ones, such as Om Namo Narayanaya or just use sounds like a humming sound Mmm… and mudras [hand signs] for connection.

The Timeless Journey: We wish we could continue learning with you longer! We are very grateful for this opportunity. What is your wish for the days ahead?

Keya: It is my wish that everybody learns music, because it is a major stress relief. Every society has problems because of stress, but when one joins a Kirtan concert or music lessons to play an instrument or sing, naturally everyone relaxes, feels better and is never alone. My opinion is that everyone should learn music […].

And we can only confirm this after our time with Keya, who remains our motivation for actively playing the harmonium and singing mantras. She is also a strong reason behind wishing to return to Rishikesh again! We sincerely recommend her classes if you are thirsty for learning authentic Indian songs and instruments or develop your voice. We will very gladly share more information and her contact with you!

Thank you for your heartfelt guidance Keya, may your teachings and wisdom keep spreading around the world through your happy, musical children! Om Namah Shivay, Shiva Om, Shiva Om, Om Namah Shivay!

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