Soca superstar Machel Montano last night said his chanting of Hindu devotional songs during a recent performance was not meant as a disrespect to anyone and apologised to anyone who was offended by it.
After video footage of Montano singing the Hindu chants at a recent performance at Woodford Cafe surfaced on social media, Pundit Satyanad Maharaj yesterday issued a letter saying "many devout Hindus are incensed that the popular artiste should desecrate Hinduism by singing Hindu devotional songs at such a licentious event."
Speaking to the T&T Guardian following a surprise visit to the Blue Diamonds panyard on George Street, Port-of-Spain, last night for Panorama judging, Montano said he was aiming to use his music to unite the nation rather than divide it.
Asked about the controversy following his Woodford Cafe performance, Montano said: "A man might see a woman walking down the road and say hi to her, and she might feel disrespected. You will feel what you feel according to you. For me, chanting mantras is a part of my daily life and I understand the power of it, the positivity of it and what it says.
"I don't know what was the disrespect felt. If anybody in any situation ever feels disrespected by me, the first thing I will want to do is clarify and say I am sorry I offended you but what made you feel that it was an offence.
"And some of them will say that it is in a place of alcohol or a place of dancing and wining but I think all this has a lot to do with judgements and I really feel that if you don't understand, first seek where a person is coming from."
Montano said he is a practising Yogi who was born a Roman Catholic, passed through Buddhism and also "passed through the knowledge of a lot of "Hinduism and Rastafarianism."
"I take from (the religions) the positive and the love from everything and once I take that into me I want to share that with people, so that at no point in time I am using this for any gain. I am using my platform always to say something positive to somebody," Montano said.
He said when he performs he tries to reach out to people no matter what culture they are from or what language they use and that is what he was trying to do during the Woodford Lodge performance.
"I reach out to people in their language and at that point in time there were people of that culture there and I thought it was a way to bring us closer together. I would not say that my God is my God and your God is your God, it is one universe, one people, it is time for us I feel to transcend these barriers and try to seek first to understand before you seek to be understood," Montano said.
"I have respect for all communities and I have respect for all religions because I have been part of it and they have all contributed to who I am, I do not see anything above anything and I am never stepping out as an individual to do harm to anybody or disrespect.
"So to those who felt disrespected, I feel they must look again but if it has offended you then I am sorry but to my knowledge, this (chanting) is something that I utilise."
He added: "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs. I have transcended all those ways, I don't eat meat, I practice yoga every day, I meditate and I use mantras and I know the importance of them and the power of them and they are just like positive affirmations, so at no point in time you will ever see me taking a mantra and using it in a disrespectful manner, I will always use my music as a platform to inspire others."
- by Joel Julien