In his 2005 article “Ghazal Original” British music critic Ken Hunt reckoned that Kiran Ahluwalia “has the potential to become one of the great ambassadors of Indo-Pakistani diaspora music, not [just] from Canada, [but] from anywhere…” (fRoots Issue 269). With each new album she has come closer to fulfilling that promise; two JUNO Best World Music Album awards (and several nominations) later, Ahluwalia has proven her perennial appeal to audiences and critics alike. In 2009 the Songlines/WOMAD Best Newcomer of the Year Award heralded her as an international world music star of growing stature. Various World Music charts over the years have echoed that trend. Her 2011 cover of the qawwali song Mustt Mustt, by the celebrated late Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, recorded with the Malian group Tinariwen, has garnered an impressive 314,000 visits on YouTube.
Since Ahluwalia‘s first CD in 2001, her string of album releases, accompanied by evolving instrumentation and stylistic components, has been called “one of global music’s most interesting adventures.” It seems that each new album marks personal growth, the expansion of her careful listening to yet another geo-cultural zone of our world. She has also shown a continued eagerness to contest the borders of her musical comfort zone in live performance. For instance, last year she shared the Harbourfront Centre stage with the rising Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq as well as divas from other musical traditions. On other occasions she’s sung with electronica groups Eccodek and Delerium, with an Afghan rubab player and a Cape Breton fiddler. She has performed her compositions, as arranged by Glenn Buhr, with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The list of genres she’s collaborated in also includes Portuguese fado, sub-Saharan percussion, Pakistani qawwali, and most recently, African blues. Incorporating just one culturally “other” element in one’s music can be problematic on several levels, yet she integrates each new element with seeming grace and ease.