If I told you that Kiran Ahluwalia’s new album was inspired by acts of cultural intolerance, you might be forgiven for suspecting a certain U.S. president as the inspiration.
After all, the Juno-winning Canadian chanteuse, who was born in Patna, Bihar in northern India, has been living stateside for more than a decade. How could Trump not be top of mind?
But the truth is, Kiran was well into composing 7 Billion before the present commander in chief began contending for the Republican nomination.
The album, she said, was a response to acts of cultural intolerance perpetrated against religious minorities across Canada and the U.S. – the anti-Sikh flyers circulated in Brampton in 2014, for example, or the violent assault of a Sikh man vacationing in Quebec City.
“All of these things are the things that created angst and sadness in me, and music has always been the way that I release emotions, so naturally, the first thing I did was to write a tune about it,” Kiran said.
That song was “Saat” (Seven), the second song on the album and a song about cultural intolerance.
“It’s not just that religions are intolerant of each other,” she said, “but even within each religion there are different factions and ideas and arguments about how something should be done within each religion, so the notion came to me that there are as many ideas as there are people in the world.”
“There’s seven billion of us, and seven billion of us have our own unique way of doing things. And I wrote the song for cultural tolerance within ourselves, within all seven billion of us,” she added.
After writing the song, however, Kiran still felt helpless, like writing one song and going to the bunch of protests she’d been attending still wasn’t enough.
She wanted to do something positive, and thus was born the Love Fest.
It’s an effort to create an artistic window on the worlds of Islam and Sikhism, two religions widely mistrusted in North American culture, she said.
Kiran, whose heritage is Sikh, will share the billing with Souad Massi, one of the most renowned singers in the Muslim world, along with Sikh temple singers and Egyptian Tanoura Sufi dancers.
The tour will make three stops in southern Ontario in April: Oakville, St. Catharines and Toronto, while Kiran and Massi will continue on to Montreal for a double bill, sans traditional dancers and singers.
Apart from being a rare chance to see the sublime Massi and to hear some traditional sounds that are seldom seen on North American concert stages, the Love Fest will showcase Kiran’s own divine music, which is the very embodiment of cultural celebration – an intoxicating blend of South Asian vocal traditions, Malian influences, western blues, rock, R & B and jazz.
Asked what she hopes audiences will take away from the shows, Kiran said simply, “I want them to have a good time. … I want them to have a night of entertainment where they forget about their own world, their own troubles, … and just be entertained and soothed and experience joy.”
Love Fest Canadian dates:
- Apr 12 – Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, Oakville, ON
- Apr 13 – FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Cairns Hall, St. Catharines, ON
- Apr 14 – Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto, ON
Kiran Ahluwalia and Souad Massi double bill
- Apr 17 – Theatre Outremont, Montreal, QC