JO MALL KAHN - VAANI - 30/12/1978 - 21/9/2015
Jo Mall Kahn, played music virtually all her life. Growing up in a small country town in Malaysia there was little to do but to climb mango trees, eat laksas, and make music on her beloved piano. As her exotic beauty suggests, Jo was born to a truly multi-cultural, duo-faithed family. Her mother is Chinese, and used to take her "to every Buddhist temple possible to throw fortune-telling chopsticks and light joss-sticks, in reverence to our Creator and ancestors". Jo's father is Indian, an atheist doctor with a mission to serve humanity. If you thought growing up as a ‘Chindian’ (local slang for a fused Chinese and Indian) in a Muslim country was not enough, Jo attended primary school at a Catholic convent. She was mad for Mother Mary and Michael Jackson.
The fusion of Eastern and Western cultures began when Jo and her family immigrated to Australia when she was 10. Strangely enough, she later discovered that her beloved husband Edo Kahn migrated from Israel on the same month and year. At this time, Jo's music sensibility was very much influenced by her older brother who was into The Cure, Depeche Mode and Public Enemy. True to her nickname of the time, ‘chameleon’, at the age of 15 Jo played keys/flute in her first band, a heavy metal group called Apocalypse.
Jo was a classically trained piano and flute, playing in the Melbourne Symphonic Youth Orchestra. However over the years music had become structured, strict, and she started to feel disharmony in her soul. She packed her suitcase and left for London leaving her flute and all reminders of her classical music studies behind. For many years, she worked as a jet-setting Management Consultant coaching executive leaders about change. She worked hard. Travelled hard. Partied hard. And yet, in amongst those days of fun and frivolousness, slowly a shift was beginning.
She started to take yoga classes in a small studio in Brixton. She learned that her perfectionism was painfully paralysing. She snow-boarded the alps of Andorra to face her fear of heights. She learned that there was an invisible magnetic love force between her and music festivals, as she hopped from Benikassim in Valencia, to Glastonbury in the U.K., Carnaval in Bahia South America, the LOVE Parade in Berlin and many more. She discovered that Germany and its minimal electronic music made her body move again.
As fate would have it, it was losing her Malaysian passport in the depths of the Amazon jungle in 2007 that brought Jo back to Australia. She started to collect vinyl and learned to DJ. She says now that she wasn’t very good, but she thoroughly enjoyed listening and dancing to deep electronic sounds. Eventually, Jo began to wonder at the deeper essence of music. Electronic music moved her physical body, but what was That which moved her soul? What was That which sat between each note? And so her search began...
Each morning, religiously, before starting her Ashtanga yoga practise and incantation, Jo began praying for a teacher. She never told anybody, but she would also secretly write a letter to “God” in the mist formed on the glass door from a hot shower. (This was how she used to talk to God when she was little.) And God would always write back to her in the letter of her heart. In the mysterious ways of this universe, Jo found a deck of angel cards in her wardrobe one night. The first three cards she pulled were: Surrender, Music, Teacher. From that point on, everything changed.
Jo's travels begin again and a year later, at a yoga retreat in Bali Jo met Edo (the love of her life) who showed her a photo of a young Indian saint living in a small village in South India. Mesmerized by the photo, Jo knew instantly that she had to meet him and booked a ticket for India. Upon laying her eyes on this young saint, Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma, she knew that her search was over. What was meant to be two days in the village turned into three months, then to six. Her soul started to sing all colours of the rainbows. Shadows of the past began to unfold and release. As all this unravelling (and expansion) took place, Jo captured these songs of her heart on an old, cobwebbed, Indian-style Givson guitar that she found in the guesthouse storeroom.
For seven years, Jo spent the majority of her time in this small village, Thirumalaikodi, with her beloved teacher, Amma, and husband, Edo. She continued to learn and grow. She delved into all the corners and crevices within. She managed the renovation of the local orphanage, drinks chai and teaches music and yoga in the village. She played harmonium, wrote amazing music, and sang from the heart.
Jo Mall Kahn toured extensively as half of the duo Edo and Jo around Australia, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and India, playing in festivals, yoga schools and orphanages. Her debut album will be released posthumously under the moniker ‘Vaani’. As per her history, it will be a fusion of East meets West, Indie meets India, electronic pop meets mantra, and old versus new. We are blessed that she left us her beautiful songs and voice recorded to cherish and her loving spirit which lives on and inspires people to live a life of spirituality and service.