VMACCH logo, click here to return to the home page

Kiran Ahluwalia

Arts & Expression, South Asian, Music

Portrait of Kiran Ahluwalia - Photographer: George Whiteside

Kiran Ahluwalia explores the language of the heart through ghazals and Punjabi folk songs.

Kiran Ahluwalia's enchanting and seductive music has garnered glowing praise from critics around the world. Hers is "a voice destined to enchant more than one generation" (fROOTS) and she possesses "a deep spirituality and tranquility that borders on the mystic" (Sing Out Magazine). Kiran is a unique and inspiring performer and composer who explores the language of the heart with beautiful artistry and smouldering intensity, all the while building on a fan base that continues to be thrilled by every captivating performance and each new recording.

Growing up in India and then Canada and now living in New York City, Kiran has long been on a path to mastery as a singer and composer of ghazals - the sensual and highly literary poetry about unrequited love and passion for all things.

"When I was growing up in India, very few people had recordings of any kind," she recalls. "There were state-sponsored concerts that people from all over would crowd into. These concerts were not primarily for children. They featured a repertoire, language and content that was both demanding and beyond the experience of a child. I, however, was immediately entranced by the sound and feel of the music, even from an early age."

Seeing the strong connection Kiran had to this music, her parents purchased a reel-to-reel tape machine on a visit to Hong Kong.

"My father would play tapes of Indian music for me on the reel-to-reel and we would also listen to Bollywood on the radio," Kiran recalls. "So when a song came on that I wanted to learn, my mother would quickly write down the lyrics for me".

While Kiran studied Indian classical music and ghazals from the time she was seven, she also spent a decade of intense training with her guru Vithal Rao, starting in the early 1990s. At the same time, she traveled throughout the Punjab, learning all she could about the style and history of Punjabi folk songs. Finally, in 2001, she recorded her first commercial CD, 'Kashish-Attraction'. This was followed by 'Beyond Boundaries' in 2003 and then a self-titled compilation that was released worldwide on the Triloka label in 2005.

Her latest CD, 'Wanderlust' (Time Square/World Connection) was released in North America in late 2007 and in Europe in the spring of 2008. All of her albums have been nominated for JUNO Awards - the highest musical honour in Canada - and 'Beyond Boundaries' also went on to win the prestigious prize in 2004. The success of 'Beyond Boundaries' also lead to her winning the Canadian Arts Presenters Touring Artist of the Year Award in 2005.

In 2008, Kiran did her first major European tour, which included a show as part of Amsterdam's Indian festival, which was a collaboration with the renowned Zapp String Quartet. Aluwalia also joined forces with Hugh Masekela, Natacha Atlas, Natalie Merchant, Rachid Taha and other international stars, to make a chart-topping video in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights called 'The Price Of Silence'. The year also ended with a bang when Songlines Magazine put 'Wanderlust' on their Top Ten Albums of 2008 List.

Kiran Ahluwalia has made a career of transcending the boundaries often imposed on artists. On album, her compositions and arrangements have contributed to the evolution of the ghazal genre, through the subtle use of a multitude of sounds and styles from other cultures including: Portuguese fado guitarra, African sub Saharan percussion, Celtic fiddle, Pakistani qawwali vocals, the rhubab of Afghanistan and more. In live performance, she has also been a keen collaborator, working with everything from full orchestras and avant garde jazz ensembles, to Inuit throat singers and dub electronica groups.

Kiran's music is a reflection of her on-going quest to bring the ghazal style into a modern and global context while maintaining a seamless through line from its storied beloved past. Though she may sing about unfulfilled desires, her music reveals a compelling harmony that unites diverse inspirations into a truly sublime and satisfying whole.

"A stunning singer and rising international star" -- Village Voice

"Ahluwalia¹s voice is caressing and seductive and the arrangements are magnificent." - Songlines

"Her crystal clear voice arched airily above rhythms that coursed through the audience....an evening of fascinating, newly revealed music."-- LA Times

"A powerful woman who has a depth of character in her wonderfully pliable expressive voice"-- Observer UK

"Honeyed sensuous and resonant. A graceful fearless young artist" -- amazon.com

Back to top