T.L. Mazumdar speaks to Candian-Indian singer-songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia.
Singer-songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia writes and performs songs of breakup and love with equal conviction, exhilaratingly mixing Indian music with West African Blues riffs and languid Jazz. The result is a merging of elegance and crispness, all with an easy, inviting charm. Her music is contemporary and fresh, yet still feels somehow familiar. Born In India, brought up in Toronto, Kiran studied Indian music since childhood. Winning two JUNO Awards (Canadian Grammys), over the course of seven albums Kiran has created a style uniquely her own. The beautiful harmonies and addictive guitar riffs of partner Rez Abbasi, and their shared love of trancy rhythms masterfully played on drum kit, tabla and djembe have shaped the songs on Kiran’s latest release 7 Billion (Six Degrees). Both a lyricist and composer, Kiran’s songs speak of cultural intolerance, fighting civil wars within ourselves and realizing female desire by throwing away shame. Her re-working of the classic Qawwali tune Mustt Mustt with the Malian super group Tinariwen has racked up nearly 3 million views online.
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Kiran Ahluwalia had a small epiphany as she wrote what eventually became the title track for her latest album: The eruptions of intolerance and violence plaguing societies around the world had to be directly countered. Yet the focus on divisions and differences neglected a central fact, that we are all united in our difference and uniqueness. “There are seven billion of us now on Earth and every person has their own unique perspective and set of experiences,” she reflects. “We each have our own way of dealing with things, of hearing things, of moving through life.”
Ahluwalia, with over nearly two decades of music making that took her from Punjabi folk and Indian classical music to refreshingly original borderless songs, has found her own way on 7 Billion. (Six Degrees: May 4, 2018) Touching on the need for tolerance and boldness, the songs on 7 Billion encompass all Ahluwalia’s myriad musical fascinations: the guitar twang of Mali, the heavy heartbeat of Southern soul, the gorgeous nuance of Subcontinental sounds.