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On this inventive album, Canadian vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia brings forth a different approach to Indian music. While the tablas, percussion and the characteristic singing are all present, those are the only Eastern elements you hear. Backing her are rock-tinged electric guitars and an accordion.
This is clearly not an attempt to "Westernize" the music but it is instead a fresh take. The album kicks off with "Hayat," a lively number with unison backing vocals that is followed by the up-tempo "Jaane Na," a tune that showcases a dexterous guitar solo from Rez Abbasi and fascinating accordion grooves from Kiran Thakar.
The North African-inspired "Jhoom" features Abbasi's guitar wandering around the melody, sometimes following Ahluwalia's vocal and when not doing that, the instrument plays a backbeat against the tune's rhythm. Nittin Mitta performs an inspiring tabla solo while the other instruments move to the background. "Qaza" has the feel of a folk ballad thanks to Abasi's strummed acoustic guitar and a more subdued delivery.
Ahluwalia has great vocal confidence, singing with great feeling throughout, especially during wordless vocals. Also quite intriguing is "Lament," a tune with a mysterious tone thanks to its carefully layered keyboards and guitar/bass arrangement.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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