Singer-Composer KIRAN AHLUWALIA releases "SANATA: STILLNESS"
New CD out October 14 on Magenta
Two-time JUNO Award-winner brings "the wild factor" in a modern meltdown of
Indian grooves, Saharan blues and Western jazz;
CD features DownBeat magazine's "Rising Star" jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi
Upcoming concerts include Toronto, New York and SFJAZZ
"SANATA: STILLNESS" DOWNLOAD (mp3 + booklet)
"A rising international star." VILLAGE VOICE
KIRAN AHLUWALIA "Sanata:Stillness" 2014/2015 TOUR
Wed Oct 1 Montreal QC, CN Sala Rossa
Thurs Oct 2 Quebec City QC, CN Palais Montcalm
Fri Oct 3 Toronto ON, CN Koerner Hall
Sat Oct 11 Burlington VT University of Vermont / UVM Recital Hall
Sat Feb 21 Brooklyn, NY Roulette
Fri Mar 20 San Francisco, CA SFJAZZ / Miner Auditorium
ndo-Canadian singer-composer Kiran Ahluwalia's sixth album Sanata: Stillness is an intoxicating swirl of Indian rhythms, African desert blues,
modern jazz colors and a farflung lot of other things, while her previous releases explored the ghazal and folk styles of her native India,
Portuguese fado, Celtic fiddle and Afghani rhubab as well. Ahluwalia finds in these disparate cultural languages common ground for a
thrillingly new music of discovery and joy that is perhaps best termed None of the Above.
Born in Patna, India, Ahluwalia grew up in Canada and trained in Indian classical music and the Indian-Pakistani poetic song tradition ghazal. Her
work borrows from these and other tradition-laced forms but moves so far beyond the traditions that they're recognizable only as great-sounding songs. Her
musical odyssey into uncharted terrain accelerated when she met and married Pakistani-American guitarist-arranger Rez Abbasi (voted No. 1 "Rising Star" in
last year's DownBeat critics poll). Their union of musical cultures, she says, could only have been possible among the diaspora of those living
outside of India and Pakistan.
"Since the partition of India and Pakistan, relations between the two countries have often been at the edge of war. If we had not migrated to the West it
would have been impossible for us to meet and do this music," she says. "This music wouldn't have existed had we had not been outside those borders."
pops with the best thing any music of any kind can offer: The sound of discovery. As if carrying strands of cultural-roots DNA, Ahluwalia's musical
melanges tip their hats to the past while sticking determinedly to a freshly hybridized music of sheer sonic surprise, efforts that have earned her JUNO
Awards (World Music Album of the Year) for 2004's Beyond Boundaries and 2012's Aam Zameen: Common Ground.
"I never wanted to be a classical Indian music performer," she says. "I learned Indian classical music to be able to be a better ghazal singer and
Punjabi folk singer." Ghazal is a highly literate poetry made up of mostly couplets, and has very particular rhyming schemes. While her first
couple of albums hewed closely to the musical and lyrical forms of ghazal, Ahluwalia now pens most of her own lyrics in a contemporary song style.
It's an idea largely inspired by her passion for the guitar-heavy grooves of the Tuaregs, nomadic tribes from the Sahara desert.
"One of the key elements of Tuareg music is taking the fewest notes in a melody and building a groove and a trance with it," she says. "Most of Tuareg
poetry is about civil war and the hardship of living in the desert, but also the beauty and the love of the desert. I wasn't able to find the words in ghazal poetry that would allow me to compose a melody that would incorporate more Western arrangements along with Tuareg phrases and rhythms, so I
incorporated Tuareg rhythms and wrote my own words."
Freed from the formal restrictions of the age-old ghazals, Ahluwalia now sings of the personal and political in ways that adhering to traditional
forms would not have allowed her to do. "For me it's a release of whatever is inside, a release of joy in some songs, or just where the music is propelling
me." In "Qaza" she melds a Western singer-songwriter type of rhythm and enchantingly sings of the need for letting go and exploring "the dark alleys of the
mind," an overarching theme on Sanata: Stillness.
"There is a corner of the mind that has a sign up that says 'Do Not Enter,' and these songs are about trying to get the guts to enter that corner and to
deal with whatever's in there. So it's the struggle with the 'civil war' within." Her soaring voice on the lively "Tamana" celebrates unchained female
sexuality; the haunting "Hayat" conveys the resonant disconnect of being an Indo-Canadian living in New York City; built upon Indian/Pakistani rhythms, the
galloping qawwali cover tune "Jhoom " was inspired by the joys of wine.
Making divergent musical roots unify is a challenge that Ahluwalia enjoys; creating a frisson between daringly juxtaposed sounds is even more to
her liking, for her music is about rubbing them together and watching the sparks fly upward. As heard on a cooly bluesy cover of the Nusrat Fateh Ali
Khan/Peter Gabriel song "Lament" and elsewhere on the album, she and Abbasi introduce innovative harmony to musics that don't normally emphasize it.
"We say, Let's do something that's nice but different. We don't want to repeat the same old thing. You're meant to have a 'wild factor' for the harmony,
you're supposed to pay attention to it, and experience joy from it, as well as the groove and the melody."
Pushing the perimeters of familiar musical genres requires a courageousness that Ahluwalia proved again when she performed last year at the annual Festival
in the Desert in Mali, during a truly dangerous time -- kidnappings had already occurred and normally intrepid world music fans were staying away in
droves. (They actually needed air cover during the festival.)
Everywhere she has traveled recently, from Africa to India and the USA, people recognize Ahluwalia from her video for her last Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan song
"Mustt Mustt," which just goes to show how she has crossed cultural/political boundaries by staying bravely true to her self. Just imagine: A New
York-based Indian singer is now the new face -- and a female one at that -- for these two Pakistani qawwali classics.
Call it The Wild Factor: Sanata: Stillness delivers a blueprint for a borderless world.
Kiran Ahluwalia BIOGRAPHY
At the center of Kiran Ahluwalia's music is love in all its shades, from the yearning romantic to the divine love of Sufi Mysticism.
She is a modern exponent of the great vocal traditions of India and Pakistan which she honors intensely yet departs from in masterful, personal ways. Her
original compositions embody the essence of Indian music while embracing influences from both the West and Africa - specifically the Sahara. With her
5-piece group of electric and acoustic guitar, harmonium, tabla and electric bass, Ahluwalia creates boundary-breaking songs that invite us to explore the
Born in India, raised in Canada and currently living in New York City, Ahluwalia's discography, now six albums deep, is one of global music's most
interesting adventures. Kiran has toured regularly in North America, Europe and has performed at desert festivals in Mali, Morocco and India.
From the time she was seven, Kiran immersed herself in Indian folk traditions and ghazals. "My father would play tapes of Indian music for me on
his reel-to-reel player and we would also listen to Bollywood on the radio," she recalls. "So when a song came on that I wanted to learn, my mother would
quickly write down the lyrics for me and I would sing along to learn the melody. When the family immigrated to Canada she continued her musical training
alongside her regular schooling. After graduating from University of Toronto, Kiran returned to India where she spent a decade in intense vocal study,
which included poetic ghazals as well as Punjabi folk songs. Returning to Toronto in 2001, she recorded her first commercial CD, Kashish -Attraction. This was followed by the 2004 JUNO Award-winning Beyond Boundaries and then a self-titled compilation that was
released in 2005.
Kiran's musical and marital partner Rez Abbasi is a New York City jazz guitarist with a Pakistani-American background whose accolades include "No. 1 Rising
Star Guitarist" on DownBeat magazine's 2013 International Critic's Poll. His arrangements and ideas have played a crucial role in influencing Kiran to
compose and present in a more modern sensibility. Together they traveled to Portugal to collaborate with fado musicians for Wanderlust -
winner of the 2007 Songlines/WOMAD Best Newcomer Award.
Through a chance encounter with the legendary Malian group Tinariwen, Kiran became fascinated by the guitar-driven approach of Tuareg music of the Sahara
desert. After intensely studying Tuareg and other West African music she was convinced she needed to own the addictive, hypnotic and cyclic rhythms in her
own compositional ideas. In 2012 she released her second JUNO Award-winning album aam zameen : common ground. Recorded in Paris and Toronto, it
featured her Saharan friends, Tinariwen.
Her latest recording Sanata : Stillness is a synthesis of Indian, western jazz and Saharan sounds - all of which she brings into a style uniquely
her own. Kiran's songs speak about the unattainable (both the beloved and the divine), realizing female desire, and untying the knots that bind us. Her
compositions and arrangements are a reflection of an ongoing quest to create timeless music in a modern and global context that looks to the future while
still maintaining a vital line to its storied past.