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Kiran Ahluwalia was once a bond trader and is now a full-time musician with a fascinating and unusual mission: she writes and sings modern songs in the ghazal tradition -- one that originated in tenth century Persia and was transplanted to her native India in the 14th century. She also interprets traditional Punjabi folk songs, songs that form the basis of modern bhangra. But her influences range much farther than her native country's cultural traditions; Canada is her adopted home, and on this album she is accompanied by guest artists who include the acclaimed Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, whose playing adds a strange but lovely dimension to the beautiful "Jhanjra"; on that track, guitarist Rez Abbasi serves as a stylistic bridge between MacMaster's skirling Celtic lines and the more traditional percussion and sung melody, by playing Indian scales in a bluegrass-inflected, flatpicking style. For the most part, though, this album sounds less like an experiment in cross-cultural fusion than simply an honestly modern version of the ancient ghazal tradition -- its roots are firmly in the past, but jazzy chords and unusual instrumentation remind you that the music of this region is no more immune than any other to the effects of global communication. The album's highlight track is its final one, a gorgeous and contemplative number titled "Awara." Very highly recommended.
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