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Exclusive : Kiran Ahluwalia talks about her new album “7 Billion”

“There are seven billion of us now on Earth and every person has their own unique perspective and set of experiences. We each have our own way of dealing with things, of hearing things, of moving through life.”

Like most of us, Kiran Ahluwalia too could have seen the failure in the world like but she instead chose to look at the positive perspective. In the world where violence and conflicts have become our everyday reality, she is trying to emphasize on the common things people share including love and compassion. Ahluwalia will soon be releasing her album “7 Billion”. Talking about the method she has used to unify listener’s experience, she said,

“I’ve taken aesthetics I love such as blues, Malian styles, and of course Indian forms and mashed them together in my own way”

On first listen, it seems like the album is purely classical but correcting us for our perception, the singer/songwriter explains that one cannot categorize her work within a single genre or style. Instead, “7 Billion” is an amalgamation of the myriad of emotions and a close listening validates her claim. CelebMix got a chance to interact with the singer about her influences and her new album. Check it out below:

Hi Kiran! Our readers would love to know a bit about yourself. So, can you please tell us about yourself and your journey so far?

Hi readers! I started music at the age of 5 when I was in India. Then when my parents and I immigrated to Canada – they found an Indian music teacher in Toronto for me to continue with. Throughout school, University and my first 9 to 5 job, music was a strong passion – but a part-time one. So after working for 2 years, I made the decision to quit my job and go back to India to be a full-time music student for one year. Everyone said I was crazy – and they were right – I was?

When I came back to Canada I didn’t feel like going back to a job so I went to MBA school and studied finance. I ended up trading bonds on Bay Street but didn’t last long there. For the following 10 years, I bounced back and forth between music studies in India and contract work in the cultural industry back home in Toronto. I would spend a year studying music in India – then return to Toronto to work for a year in radio, TV or a record label – then I would go back to India for a year to do music. This happened until 2000 when I recorded my first commercial album. Then I got a manager and an agent and started touring. Now I’m releasing my 7th album – called 7 Billion.

Considering that you have a very rich background and experience in music, we would love to know your perception of art? How do you perceive your music?

Sometimes our emotions can’t be summed up in words. But whatever the emotion whether it be euphoria or melancholy – it can find release in a certain pattern of notes or a certain rhythm. Even if we don’t speak the same language – we all connect to the emotional release that music brings – and via that emotion, we can all connect with each other.

Today, people usually listen to EDM or pop music. There has been a decline in terms of the number of people who admire classical music. Amidst such transformation in taste, where do you place your music and Sikh musical tradition?

My music isn’t classical or traditional or Pop – but it has elements of those styles. It’s very groove-based. It’s Indian but with heavy influences of Rhythm & Blues, Malian music and contemporary western nuances. It is challenging that there is no one genre that I belong to.

When working on new music, what part of the process are you most involved in – songwriting/singing/composing?

I’m involved in all of those. When I’m composing I’m focused on creation. When I’m done with the composition then I focus on singing it the way I want to.

We love to know about your influences. When it comes to art, who inspires or motivates you to work on your dreams?

There isn’t really one person or thing. I’m inspired by other good art – great movies, songs, dance, photography. I’m also inspired by my own emotions. My music is an emotional release for myself and so whatever I’m feeling finds solace in my music.

Your album “7 Billion” is soon going to be released. Please tell us a bit about it.

In 7 Billion I’ve taken aesthetics I love such as blues, African (Malian) music, and Indian forms and mashed them together in my own way. My lyrics are about cultural intolerance and the loss of brotherhood within the 7 billion people on earth. The song We Sinful Women is about strong women being labeled nasty. Khafa is about the middlemen of religion who hijack the direct relationship we can have with God (or the Universe). Kuch Aur is about feeling like I never learned how to live – my fav lines in that song translate as — I’ve been doing it all wrong / been living this life so badly all along.

Be it “Jhoomo” or “We Sinful Women”, each track is laden with classical music where each instrument can be heard distinctly. But at the same time, some tracks contain tropical tunes as well. Please tell us about the creative process behind the album. That is, how did you come up with the concept and how did you find the “perfect” sound for it?

Well, that’s an interesting definition of classical music. Just because you can hear each instrument distinctly doesn’t define it as classical. My music isn’t classical – but I’ll take your statement as a compliment. The process of the album started with the song Saat – it means seven. I was hearing repeated stories about hate crimes towards visible minorities and at the same time, I was also hearing about people within the same religion fighting over the correct methods of praying. All of this focus on our differences neglects a central reality – that we are all united by the fact that we are all different and unique. There are seven billion of us now on Earth and every person has their own unique perspective and set of experiences. We each have our own way of dealing with things, of hearing things, of moving through life – there is no one right way. These are the notions that compelled me to write most of the songs on the album.

Which song is your favorite from the album and why?

I like Jhoomo – I wrote it for a love scene for a film. The scene is about a woman seducing a shy lover. I like it because it’s about sex and I don’t often write about sex. I usually write about the world being a toilet – so it was good that the director said – “Hey I need a song about sex”. It was so much fun to write and sing.

What can fans expect from your upcoming Spring US/Canadian tour?

The tour is called LOVEfest. It’s a traveling festival – with four performers in one night with one ticket. I created LOVEfest as a direct musical response to the ignorance and animosity many visible minorities and faith communities face. I’ve brought together two performers closely tied to tradition and faith practice, both rarely enjoyed outside of their home communities, a Sikh Spirituals ensemble (Bhai Kabal Singh Group, heard for the very first time on the concert stage) and an Egyptian dervish (Yasser Darwish, performing tanoura, a dance practice tied to Sufi ritual). To present other, more contemporary voices in broadening counterpoint, I’ll perform with my band. And I invited elegant, arresting Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi to share her music.

Would you like to share with us your future projects or endeavors?

LOVEfest has been 2 years in the making. We are touring with 14 people. It’s been a huge project. Future plans after the tour are to relax.

“7 Billion” will be released in May and it will be interesting to see audience’s reaction to the singles. Share your thoughts about the interview via tweet @CelebMix.