Courtesy: © Simon Broughton, originally published in the June 2009 #60 issue of Songlines
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
“This is the first time you’ve had the Songlines Music Awards, right?” asks Kiran Ahluwalia down the phone from the US.
She’s the winner in the Newcomer category, inevitably the one that’s going to throw up interesting new names. “Wow,” she gasps, “I’ve been part of history-making with Songlines.”
Sometimes a record turns up that just gets under your skin. There’s the warm, silky voice which twists and slips seductively around a yearning melody and the sweet tingling sound of Portuguese guitar and accordion. And that’s just the first song. Other numbers on Wanderlust are accompanied by more typical Indian instruments like tabla and sarangi, as the voice swoons and subtle harmonies slip one to another. Ahluwalia creates an intoxicating world of heightened emotions – something that ghazal singers in India have been doing for hundreds of years. But Wanderlust is different.
She was born in India, but moved around between Patna, the capital of India’s poorest state, Bihar, and New Delhi. Her family is Sikh, but she was educated in a Catholic school. “We listened to the radio and a lot of records at home – ghazals and Bollywood,” Ahluwalia recalls. “My mum would write down songs from the radio and I would try and memorise them. Some were quite erotic and my mother got embarrassed about the words.” At the same time she was singing Sikh hymns in the temple every Friday.