Press Clipping
Kiran Ahluwalia: 7 Billion — a personal record

Born in India, Kiran Ahluwalia was raised in Canada and now lives in New York. Her recordings have a wider horizon even than that: when she recorded the Qawwali classic “Mustt Mustt” for her 2011 album Aam Zameen, she enlisted as her backing musicians the Touareg band Tinariwen.

This new mini-album, barely half an hour in length, ranges everywhere from the Sahara to the Deep South to the subcontinent.

The opening track, “Khafa”, lopes in on Desert Blues guitar riffs, underpinned by organ washes, as Ahluwalia condemns the artificial divides imposed by religion. “We used to banter”, she sings in Urdu; “now there’s a wall of religion . . . the entire world blocked your doorway”.

The title track “Saat” (Seven), starts with a burble of accordion, sounding like a harmonium. The lyrics play off “saat arab” (the seven billion population of the world) against “infinite answers, all spectacular”. The music turns inward during the verses, shifting between adjacent notes that never quite resolve; the chorus is like an explosion of sunlight, followed by Rez Abbasi’s jazzy guitar solo.

The backing is more conventional blues rock on “Kuch Aur”, with a funky syncopated interplay between guitar and organ, and heavy drumming from Davide DiRenzo, as Ahluwalia sings about regret. “I’ve been doing it all wrong/been living this life so badly all along”; the album’s most conventionally pretty melody gives way to the temptations of despair. And “Raina” sees the narrator “wandering house to house” as a “beggar of love”.

But then “Jhoomo” breaks the mood with a seductive sway, licks of tabla from Nitin Mitta lapping around Louis Simao’s accordion flourishes. “Be my intoxicated companion”, she implores. “Touch, live a little/drink the pleasure, live a little.”

The closing track, “We Sinful Women”, is a setting of a poem by the feminist Pakistani poet Kishwar Naheed, celebrating “sinful women/who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear robes”. Originally Ahluwalia set it for a dance piece; reimagining it here Abbasi’s guitar crunches harshly and Simão’s organ solos frenetic. “The wall that has been torn down”, insists Ahluwalia, “don’t insist now on raising it again.” The music rises to a crescendo of tabla, keyboards and guitar, and then abruptly crashes to a close.