Kiran Ahluwalia sings “Saffar” at Drom

Some truly wonderful world music fusions have come from the melding of the South Asian vocal tradition with western influence (or vice versa). It’s been going on for years, with many fine artists, and pioneers like Najma Akhtar, who with her groundbreaking CD “Qareeb” entranced me as far back as 1987. I love the purity of the tone production and the haunting ornamentation of the vocal style. The addition of western elements — particularly those that support and enhance the strength of the melodic line –can make for a truly rich experience.

Canadian born Kiran Ahluwalia’s explorations into the flexibility of the ghazal and folk traditions are among the most successful and adventurous out there these days. She has incorporated not just Western, but sources as far afield as Tuareg music into her latest work. She trained over many years , shuttling back and forth between Canada and the US and India, working as a devoted singing student to her guru Vithal Rao while learning the ropes of the music business. Her first CD “Kashish (Attraction)was such an unexpected hit, garnering her a Juno nomination, that she decided to take her own career seriously, and she hasn’t looked back since. (Her CD, “Beyond Boundaries” did win the Juno.) Her trusted right arm through her tours and recordings is her husband, guitarist Rez Abassi, who shares her eclectic approach to music.

The tour supporting the release of her latest CD, “Am Zameen: Common Ground” kicked off at DROM, the East Village’s go-to club for world music. The room was filled with the New York world music cogniscenti, Ahluwalia was in fine voice, and the band consisting of Abassi on guitar, Kiran Thakrar on harmonium, Nitin Mitta on tablas and Nikku Nayar on bass, turned in a tight, exciting performance.

“Safar” (“Journey”) is from a poem by Khalid Sohail, with music by Ahluwalia. It is interpreted as:

“I myself have wounded myself in the journey.
I am myself an obstruction in my own path
My home is becoming more and more distant
I have been walking backwards
Perhaps my destination is inside me
While, Khalid, I am searching for it in the outside world.”

To learn more about Kiran Ahluwalia visit her website at

Michal Shapiro

World Music Video Blogger, Artist, Musician, Producer – Michal Shapiro has been surrounded by art and music from her earliest years. As a freelance music producer and journalist, she has written for Global Rhythm Magazine, Rootsworld, and Tower Pulse, and is currently a contributor to Songlines and FRoots, two British publications specializing in world music. After 10 years as Director of Music Programming at Link TV, Michal started her own vlog carried on the channel’s website and subsequently, the Huffington Post. Michal is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association.

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