NRI singer bubbles up 'Indian blues'
An Indo-Canadian singer here is bringing several generations together with her music that combines ghazals, Punjabi folk songs and African blues, apart from other musical strains.
Many of India-born Kiran Ahluwalia's fans identify her as a singer of the "blues of India".
Kiran, raised in Toronto and now living in New York, is just back from performing in Marseilles, France, where she was a big hit - though people didn't understand her songs. "It's such a global world now that many tastes are similar," said Kiran, a Juno award winner.
The 40-year-old added that typically 80 per cent of her audience, even South Asians, can't understand the lyrics.
"My own friends don't understand the language because so many young South Asians never learned the language. English is their mother tongue. They don't understand the poetry. But the melody communicates the poetry to them. So they can enjoy the essence of the song and get the same emotional release from hearing it even if they don't understand the words," Kiran said.
Most of her songs are based on lyrics of South Asian poets.
"I'm always looking for poets and Toronto has a dearth of them. It's so exciting to compose something that was written right here in Mississauga or Brampton. The Toronto scene for Indian and Pakistani poets is pretty active," said the ghazal singer, who is presently busy with her next album "Wanderlust".
The new album is a fusion of Portuguese music, jazz and Saharan African blues with ghazals, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
But she refuses to call it fusion music. "I don't think any artist loves the word 'fusion'. I like calling it 'my music'. It reflects what my culture is - Indian and Canadian and all my influences," explained Kiran.
Despite her international success, her biggest fan base remains in Canada. "I perform in Canada so much still, I'm pretty much here every month. Toronto will always feel like home."