Indian-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia has created more than an unique sound: she introduced the world to a whole new genre of music. Over the past 15 years the artist has mixed traditional ghazals and Punjabi folk music together on six albums so far. But for Ahluwalia fusing these music styles did not end there. On her latest album Sanata: Stillness which will available from the 30th of March 2015, she also explores Tuareg music from the Saharan dessert. It’s a process Ahluwalia already started on the track “Tere Darsan” from her album Wanderlust (2007) and on her album Aam Zameen: Common Ground (2011) on which she collaborated with the well-known Tuareg band Tinariwen.
“Before Aam Zameen: Common Ground, I would work alongside other musicians and that is how the fusion happened”, Ahluwalia says. “But I really wanted to create something new. So, I travelled to Morocco, Timbuktu and Mali to learn more about Tuareg music and let the fusion come from inside of me“.
Travelling for the sake of music was nothing new for Ahluwalia. Born in India, she moved with her parents to Canada at the age of nine. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Industrial Relations, she decided to dedicate herself completely to music. During the 1990’s she therefore went to cities as Mumbai and Hyderabad to take classical ghazal classes and travelled through the Punjab region immersing herself in folk music.
And it sure has paid off. For her albums Beyond Boundries (2003) and Aam Zameen: Common Ground (2011) Ahluwalia received 2 Canadian JUNO Awards, the most prestigious music awards in the North American country. She also won the 2007 Songlines Best Newcomer Award in the UK, with editor Simon Broughton of Songlines Magazine later describing her music as “vibrant” and “very exciting”.
Not surprisingly, it’s not only traditional elements that inspire her as a fusion music artist. “I have always loved acoustic and rhythmic singer-songwriter songs that you hear a lot in Canada. Jazz has also been a huge influence that always comes back in my music”.
From the 24th to the 27th of March 2015 Ahluwalia will perform in different cities in the Czech Republic. And the singer is eyeing the rest of Europe as well. Ahluwalia: “I see it as a great way to spread my music. Europe is such a big region. Some people are aware of me in the UK, but in Sweden I’m considered a newcomer”.
Too much planning is out of the question as she wants to get to know each country step by step. “What works in Finland, does not have to sound good to audiences in France”, the singer explains. “That’s why I will have to see how I can connect to a certain crowd. It’s definitely going to be a discovery!”
Still, India remains the place to which the vocalist always returns. It was there, sailing on the Ganges River, where she also filmed her latest video for the song Hayat Although there is a limited music scene for non-Bollywood artists in the country, she hopes many Indians will also be exposed to her work.
Ahluwalia: “I’ve performed at the Jaipur Literature Festival and the response was very good. It would be great if people could also hear me on the radio. And I mean everybody, not just the ones with a laptop or a credit card who can order my music online”.
Whether that will happen or not, one thing is for sure: with her mixture of Saharan, Western and Indian musical influences Ahluwalia has already reached a global audience. An audience that through her music get’s to know India in a completely different way.
Written by Stefanie Amirkhan