Music without borders

Indo-Canadian Kiran Ahluwalia at University of Dayton

By CC Hutten

Photo: Krian Ahluwalia brings her unique interpretations of world music to University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre on Jan. 26; photo: Rez AbbasiIt’s not often dreams come true, but for Kiran Ahluwalia, hers keeps becoming reality. Truly a worldly artist, Ahluwalia creates music that transcends cultures across the globe, and she is stopping in Dayton to perform her version of contemporary Indian sounds Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center Sears Recital Hall at the University of Dayton.

Ahluwalia blends musical instruments and inspiration from her travels to create her own “hybrid” music. She said she doesn’t believe there’s a specific description of the genre of her work, but audiences refer to her as Indo-Canadian. Before the JUNO-nominated album that skyrocketed her career, Kashish-Attraction, she traveled back and forth from India to Canada pursuing a passion for creating and performing Indian music.

“The music I learned was practical and traditional. But I didn’t stick to the boundaries,” Ahluwalia said. “I am a product of both India and Canada, and I wanted my character to be reflected in my music.”

Ahluwalia explained the music that will be performed on her current tour, although unreleased, is closer to Indo-Saharan, which reflects time she spent in Africa and how she was inspired by the culture and music that resides there.

“I’m also a citizen of the world,” she said. “So, whatever else I like in the world, I make myself free from boundaries by incorporating it in my music.”

Ahluwalia’s most recent CD, aam zameen: common ground, features African Tuareg electric guitar – something that has never been heard before in this genre.

“I collaborated things from the Sahara desert and Mali,” Ahluwalia explained. “So that meant I needed to compose differently and write different tunes, and stretch outward from the boundaries of the traditional music I learned growing up … and I’m excited to collaborate with this side of the world.”

The University of Dayton has focused on a social justice theme of “Rites. Rights. Writes.” this academic year, and the world artists the Art Series has drawn in by influence of a partnership with the “recently folded” Cityfolk program has certainly reflected that. Eileen Carr, director of the University of Dayton’s Art Series, said the show at UD would transport audiences to another world.

“Our philosophy at the university is if you’re going to have an education, it means being connected with the rest of the world,” Carr said. “These [Art Series performances] bring a real connection to pretty distant places without having to spend a whole semester abroad. It’s not the same thing, but it opens a window to another place, another way of seeing the world.”

On aam zameen: common ground Ahluwalia said she sometimes sings about “external enemies.” There are songs dedicated to the civil war in Mali, as well as the Pakistan and Indian war and the loss of brotherhood. However, she also addresses “internal human rights” and the wars within oneself more often than not.

“I would have to say that more of my music is about an internal enemy, that self-sabotaging part of our own brain,” she said. Alhuwalia’s music begs the question, “How do you fight a war with yourself and win?”

Though her music can definitely appeal to males, she said she has songs that discuss the female perspective – the female desire, a devastating break up, issues in the world and how she sees them through her eyes and heart.

“A lot of times we connect with people we’re comfortable and familiar with, who love the same kind of things that we love,” Carr said. “But part of broadening your education means experiencing what’s outside of your comfort zone, and she does just beautiful work.”

As a result of her travels, Ahluwalia has achieved empathy with audiences despite a language barrier in her songs. Her luxurious rhythms appeal to the human experience, making her music notably accessible.

“It is really enchanting music,” Carr said. “It’s really easy to lose yourself in it. I think that is a beautiful thing that is hard to describe.”

Ahluwalia’s music is far from Western, but because she has spent a great amount of time in the West, she has become practiced at blending traditions.

“For people who are nervous about trying something new, this is a musician who has great skill in weaving the threads of these different traditions,” Carr said. “We’re happy to have her back. We’re excited about presenting her in Sears, a beautiful, intimate space.”


Kiran Ahluwalia will perform Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the Jesse Philips Humanities Center Sears Recital Hall at the University of Dayton. Tickets to the performance are available at the University of Dayton Box Office in Kennedy Union or online at Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for University of Dayton faculty, staff and alumni, and $10 for University of Dayton students and youth. For more information about Kiran Ahluwalia, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at


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