Eastern Soul

Kiran Ahluwalia challenges our preconceptions – “Does tradition mean – doing things the way they were done 30 years ago, 300 years ago, 3000 years ago?”

If you haven’t heard of Kiran Ahluwalia yet, you’re in for a treat. For ten years she’s been making her own brand of beautiful, classically influenced music. We think there’s no-else making music quite like hers and we were delighted to interview her. (Don’t forget to download our monthly podcast after reading the interview – it features one of her tracks).

Copyright Amar Khoday

I’m going to make a bold assertion ; that in the field of Ghazals and Punjabi folk songs, right now there’s no-one else out there making music like you – am I right?

I think I have been able to evolve a sound and style of my own. This is partly due to the fact that I spent so much time learning in India and then growing up and developing a career in Canada. My music is definitely influenced by both my homelands.

You have certainly immersed yourself in traditional music to get to where you are today – Do you consider yourself to be living a modern life or following a traditional path?

I find traditional to be a very ambiguous word. Does tradition mean – doing things the way they were done 30 years ago, 300 years ago, 3000 years ago? 200 years ago the harmonium was not a traditional Indian instrument — today it has run its course as a traditional Indian instrument and has been used in all sorts of Indian genres from classical to ghazal to folk — and is now in danger of fading away. I love it. Played well — it always enters my heart and it is always a part of my music — right along with guitars and bass.

I guess to answer the question directly — in my own definition of the words — I relate to being contemporary — mainly because I am not a purist and I am more that willing to cross my musical boundaries to incorporate sounds and ideas that I fall in love with.

What other musicians do you draw influence and inspiration from?

I listen to music of many other cultures. Lately I’ve been immersed in music from the Sahara desert — mainly Tuareg music. I composed songs that would work with collaborations with Tuareg musicians and we recorded in France with the group, Terakaft and the famous group, Tinariwen.

In terms of other Indian genres, I listen to Indian classical, folk, Bollywood and of course the old ghazal maestros.

There’s a certain style in your album artwork and photos and you have a beautiful website: It makes me wonder if there are there any visual artists or designers that have influenced you?

Lots — I do go to museums and exhibitions quite often. I also like leafing through art magazines. There is no one particular artist that I am influenced by though. I also like to follow discussions among visual artists and writers.

Enjoyed this interview? You may also like…

• Download the April podcast featuring a track from Kiran Ahluwalia
• Vote now on which artists have ‘Eastern Soul’