Kiran Ahluwalia has previously performed in Mazzoleni Concert Hall and made her Koerner Hall debut on January 22, 2011.
When did you start working on Sanata: Stillness?
I started working on the album pretty much as soon I was finished the last one three years ago. Composing is a way that I release my own emotions that are tangled up inside so I pretty much am composing even if I just finished an album!
Who writes the lyrics of your songs? If it’s you, what events inspire you to write songs? If others do, how do you select the lyrics you will choose for your album?
On this album Sanata : Stillness I’ve written most of the songs myself – words and music.
My inspiration comes from what I am personally feeling — challenges in my personal life or challenges in the world at large that resonate with me. One of the songs on this album is Tamana and it’s a song about female sexuality. It’s about finding and unlocking female desire and parading it like a crown on your head. Even with all our gender equality, society still has different expectations for women and how they show their sexual desire. Women themselves have different and often unforgiving expectations of other women in terms of exhibiting sexuality. At first I thought I felt this way because of my more conservative Indian upbringing but as I spoke with other women I saw that this is a feeling that exists across ethnicities – and age groups. It may take different shapes but feeling ok with connecting with another human being in a physical way and not feeling guilty is a problem unique to being a women.
None of this is new to feminist thinking but I’m finally at an age where I am comfortable enough to write and sing about it. My favourite line of the song is “How can I reveal my cure – it is to throw away all shame”.
Which is your favourite soundtrack from Sanata: Stillness and why?
Well, I have a lot of favourites – Tamana which I talk about above is a favourite. Another is Jaane Na; We’re all familiar with external enemies — of war, office politics, social gossip and family politics. This song is about an internal enemy – it is about that self-sabotaging part of our brain – that we all have. The song is about fighting a civil war with yourself – and winning. It’s about that room in your mind that has a sign that says, ‘Do not enter’- and entering it and finding all sorts of horrific things – and dealing with them.
You’ve been involved in many collaborations with other artists (from Qawaalis to music from Mali). Which one of these have been most memorable and why?
They have all been great – but the collaborations that stuck with me the most are the ones I started with my jazz/world guitarist and life partner – Rez Abbasi – and also the collaborations with Tuareg musicians from the African Sahara. Both of these are present in my new compositions and my music is a hybrid of these things.
Are there any plans to release a single or an album in a language other than Hindi or Punjabi?
Maybe — not sure yet.
You were born in India but raised in Canada and now you are living in New York City. How has each place influenced your music?
I divide my time between Toronto and New York City. I’ve always lived in big cities – even in India and this has influenced me because I have always been able to see a lot of live music – not just Indian music but music of other genres. This has contributed to my evolution as an artist who likes to incorporates styles outside my own Indian musical upbringing.
What are you working on these days?
Right now I am working on the release of the new album — I am in the middle of the Canadian CD release Tour – the CD release concerts will carry on into the next year in the USA and in Europe.
Your role model?
My friend Sukti Dhital – she started a non profit to fight for the human rights of the adivasi population and women’s health rights in Assam
Your biggest strength?
Your worst fear?
Losing my partner Rez and laryngitis
What’s on your bedside table?
Books – right now I’m reading a Hindi book of amazing short stories by Kishore Choudhary
Your favourite singer?
Hard to choose just one – ghazal singer Jagjit Singh is the person
Describe yourself in one word.