FolkWorld #73 11/2020
© Angie Lemon

Lockdown with Kiran Ahluwahlia

Singer-songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia and multifaceted guitarist Rez Abbasi are a real-life couple and music world duo. One of Indian origin, the other Pakistani, they perform love and breakup songs with equal conviction, exhilaratingly mixing Indian rhythms with West African Bluesy riffs, languid Jazz and Indian improv. The result is a merging of elegance and crispness, all with an easy, inviting charm. The music sounds raw and fresh, and yet familiar, a rarity in these times.

Which city have you spent Lockdown in please? – New York City.

Kiran Ahluwalia

Artist Video Kiran Ahluwalia @ FROG

How have you been able to reach your fans during Lockdown? – We've had three tours cancelled but we've had several livestream concerts. One that was quite special for us - was commissioned by Pakistani based - Salt Arts. Current political tensions between my and Rez's motherlands - India and Pakistan make it challenging if not impossible for us to tour in either country together. But the new paradigm of livestreaming gave us the possibility of being welcomed into both Pakistani and Indian homes. Our concert was part of Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan and we've connected with 33,000 viewers from that single livestream. It was great to share our music and the story of taking my father back to his ancestral home in Rawalpindi which he had left 70 years earlier during the partition riots. We've got more livestreams coming up on our Facebook in July and August.

How has Lockdown impacted on your year in terms of live concerts? – Every live concert we had this year has been cancelled. Way back in early April when my August tour was cancelled I felt that presenters/governments were over reacting. I was quite depressed to have tours that we'd worked on for a year just vanish in a heartbeat. Then some of my friends had huge catastrophes - one lost her 45 year old healthy husband, two had to shut down their restaurants forever, many dealt with getting covid themselves and added to that are the atrocities of police towards black lives. Putting things into perspective I realized it didn't make sense to be saddened by my cancellations when there were more important things to be dealt with around me.

What will be your first song you play at your next live concert and what it is about? – There's an interesting thing happening in Punjabi music wherein songwriters are mixing English words into Punjabi lyrics. So one of my new Punjabi songs is called Pancake and it's about a time early on in my relationship with partner Rez Abbasi. We were on vacation enjoying a super breakfast buffet when I noticed that Rez looked heart broken. He'd finished all his pancakes. So I offered him mine and he said - I love you.

What music has helped you get through Lockdown please? – I've been listening and watching a lot of live streams originating in Canada. Livestreams from other parts of the world have been hard to find - I wish there was a calendar for them. But I know of many Canadian organizations funding and hosting livestreams and I've discovered new artists. Two Canadians I recently discovered are Ria Mae and a band called Once.

Kiran Ahluwalia is an Indian singer, songwriter who infuses African desert blues and Western musical styles. Kiran Ahluwalia won the 'Newcomer' category in the inaugural Songlines Music Awards (2009) – announced 1 May 2009 – the new 'world music' awards organised by the UK-based magazine, Songlines. Ahluwalia was born in Patna, grew up in Delhi and moved to Toronto at the age of nine. After completing her MBA at Dalhousie University, she returned to Toronto with the plan of being in the financial services industry, she changed her mind and went back to India to study music and then returned to Toronto to build her career as a musician. Ahluwalia is married to guitar player and co-arranger Rez Abbasi, and currently lives in New York.Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Photo Credits: (1) Kiran Ahluwalia (unknown/website).

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