Punjabi folk songs for a cause

Kiran Ahluwalia brings haven to Victorian spirits

Kiran Ahluwalia performs in Victoria Sat., April 27.

Kiran Ahluwalia performs in Victoria Sat., April 27.

You don’t have to speak Punjabi to fall deeply in love with the stories in Kiran Ahluwalia’s songs. You also don’t have to be a fan of Indian music, or even know what a ghazal is to fall under the trance of her smouldering rhythms — but you do have to know that when Ahluwalia comes to town on Sat., April 27, it will be for more than just singing.

Ahluwalia’s Victoria concert is doubling as a mission to help raise funds for Child Haven, a Canadian charity that houses, supports and educates children in India, Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. With a mission to raise funds for their nine homes, the lesser-known Victoria chapter of the Child Haven fundraising team contacted Ahluwalia in 2011.

“I was immediately drawn to Child Haven’s philosophy,” says Ahluwalia.“The quiet success of this charity is startling and I’m excited to offer them my support.”

Support is something the India-born, Canadian-raised, New York City dweller is no stranger to. For a girl who discovered music at age five and “didn’t dare to dream” about becoming an Indian pop singer in a foreign country, Ahluwalia says that, from the beginning of her professional music career, she could not believe her own reality, all due to the support of fans who devoured the music she was offering.

“The world music scene is a tough industry — it’s still an uphill struggle, and there is so much variety that to be ‘big’ in that arena is just unreal,” says Ahluwalia. “I love what I’m doing, and it’s changed my life in every way. When you are living something that you don’t even dare to dream, it’s quite something.”

That sense of dreams is a sister mission of Child Haven, which structures its philosophy of child care according to the principles of Mahatma Gandhi — simple living, no recognition of caste, non violence, gender equality and respect for all religions. Currently, it has helped nurture over 1,200 children.

“Child Haven is not your ordinary charity. They do not spend a penny on promotion. Since 1985, they’ve relied on word of mouth to attract volunteers — with great success,” says Jenny Farkas, who recently started volunteering for the group. “Kiran’s music is upbeat and colourful, and conveys a deep respect for cultures around the world. We thought it would be a perfect fit.”

Ahluwalia says her music is a reflection of herself. With a mix of traditional Indian ghazals, Punjabi folk songs and instruments ranging from guitar and bass to accordion, her mix of mystic and tranquil sensibilities has earned her glowing praise and four Juno nominations for Best World Music Album — which she won in 2004 and 2012 — along with Gemini and Genie nominations and nods from the Sikh Centennial Foundation, the Canadian Indie Awards and the Canadian Arts Presenter Association.

“All cultures have stories, and the part that translates is that we are all human,” says Ahluwalia. “We all need stories, art, dance, song to be who we are.” M

 

Ahluwalia and her ensemble will perform Sat., April 27, 8pm at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall (900 Johnson). Tickets $34 adults / $22 students, available at Ditch Records, Lyle’s Place and brownpapertickets.com. Learn more about the fundraiser at childhaven.ca.

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