Some thoughts and feelings can’t be communicated in words.
To express those wordless concepts Kiran Ahluwalia turns to music.
She explores them through rhythms and melodies – through drum beats and the strum of guitars layered behind her voice. Her music is known for its ability to transcend language barriers and speak to a wide range of listeners.
“My intent is for the music and the rhythms to reach them just in the same way I was attracted to desert blues even though I did not understand the words,” said Ahluwalia. “I want it to enter their hearts no matter what the words are.”
Ahluwalia said her song Awara, a nine-minute piece in Urdu, is an example of music that touches people even though they don’t understand the language. The song received a large amount of radio play across Canada.
“It does touch people who don’t know (Urdu) right away. I compose my melodies knowing you might not understand the lyrics,” said Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia said her love of music started at an early age.
“It was ingrained in me as a very small child,” she said. “I myself, as a child, was attracted to the music without understanding the music.”
She found consolation in music.
Ahluwalia remembers coming home from high school and going into the basement to listen to music. It helped her feel connected during a time in high school when she felt alienated, which she said is a feeling many youth experience.
“I remember listening to Indian music and finding solace in that,” she said. “Music helps me release things that can’t be released in other ways. It’s a coping strategy for life and releases my melancholy, anxiety, my joy and joyous energy.”
Ahluwalia’s latest album, Sanata: Stillness, was released in 2015 and combines Ahluwalia’s Indian and Pakistani influences with African desert blues and jazz.
“It’s primarily modern Indian music,” she said, adding that it’s the music of her childhood that has evolved and is reflective of herself as a modern Indian-Canadian woman.
In the song Tamana, from Sanata: Stillness, she celebrates female sexuality and casts away the shame often associated with it that still persists, even in modern society.
“The song is about finding desire,” said Ahluwalia. “The very first line of the lyrics say my desire awakes today.”
She said people can get into a zone with work or other life commitments and their desire gets buried. The song talks about how her desire is awake today and she is “wearing it,” said Ahluwalia.
The lyrics come from conversations Ahluwalia has had with friends and also her own observations that women are not able to express their own physical desires as freely as men are in society. She said the attitude is found in Indian and North American cultures.
Ahluwalia performs at the Port Theatre on Wednesday (March 1) at 7:30 p.m. A pre-show chat is at 6:45 p.m. in the Harmac room.
Tickets are $42, $38 members and $15 for students available in advance by calling 250-754-8550 or visit www.porttheatre.com.
For more information about Ahluwalia, please visit www.kiranmusic.com.