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A Musical Response to Hate Crimes

Music can often be a method of challenging hate. Think of the Beatles' All You Need is Love or the Original Caste’s One Tin Soldier as good examples of music as a message.

That’s what LOVEfest: Welcome the Stranger is all about, says creator Kiran Ahluwalia.

“The idea of LOVEfest is a musical response to hate crimes,” Ahluwalia says. “(It) arose from my personal interest in exploring aspects of cultural intolerance — the loss of brotherhood in mankind. It is a theme close to my personal experience.”

The event, which is coming to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines on April 13, is meant to showcase diverse cultural artistic expression, combining the talents of sacred and secular artists from both Muslim and Sikh traditions.

Ahluwalia was born in India and raised in Canada. She says hardships experienced by her family were billed as being temporary, but the effects were permanent.

“On the one hand, I developed a wonderful double culture; two sets of wardrobe and multiple languages to think in,” she says. “On the other, I developed conflicting etiquettes and ways of doing things that were neither fully Indian nor fully Canadian.”

LOVEfest, she says, will open the doors into two religions and cultures that at the very least remain mysterious to the public.

“It brings you exceptional performances of both traditional and modern arts from the Sikh and Muslim cultures and hopes to create a positive curiosity,” she says. “Although the West has been introduced to music from Islam in the form of Sufi music, we rarely see dance from Islamic traditions. Tanoura with its colourful spinning skirts is the whirling dervish dance that has evolved in Egypt where it is performed in both religious and folk ceremonies.

Additionally, members of the public are not normally privy to what happens inside a Sikh temple, she says.

“You may never enter one to find out first hand, but LOVEfest will take you there. Sikh spirituals (Shabad Kirtan) are only ever heard inside a (temple) but LOVEfest uniquely brings these wonderfully compelling hymns to the public stage by the Bhai Kabal Singh group.”

Tickets for LOVEfest: Welcome the Stranger cost $49 ($42 for PAC members) and are available at the PAC box office or online at There are also special ticket prices of $25 for university students and $5 for high school students.