Peace on the dance floor

mesmerising

Peace on the dance floor

Try not to move your body to her music. It’s near impossible. A novice may not catch more than a word or two of what she’s singing, but the effect is mesmerising, nonetheless. When Chicago-born rapper Shivani Ahlowalia, better known as Alo Wala, gets onto the stage with her long tresses often tied in two plaits, dancing becomes contagious.

And if some of her moves remind you of good ol’ Bollywood, don’t be surprised. She has India in her DNA! “In terms of my music, I think India is best captured by the overall energy. It’s fast, colourful and dynamic,” says the musician who finds inspiration in her grandfather Rattan Singh Ahlowalia, “96 years strong, a yogi and progressive thinker”.

Loud & clear

For solace, most people may seek music that’s lyrical and soulful. However, Shivani has always found peace on the dance floor. So, when she set out to express herself, EDM (electronic dance music) was a natural choice. “We make the most dance-friendly protest music you ever heard. With the lyrics I approach more political issues of power, money, status, greed etc, which sound real heavy, but the overall impact is usually just fun — which is the way it was intended,” says the founder of the tropical bass group that makes music “to keep the people on their toes”.

And the proof of her ever-growing popularity is as much in the rising demand for live shows worldwide as it is in the countless homemade dance videos uploaded by fans on social media. “They are so heartwarming and hilarious. I actually spent one whole weekend watching the videos, every single one of them…This is perhaps the biggest compliment and encouragement that an artiste can receive.”

It’s not a one-woman show, though. Alo Wala owes much of its success to sassy collaborations with producers, vocalists and visual artists from across the globe. “I began my career working with Copia Doble Systema, a producer, DJ & VJ unit from Copenhagen. One of my favourite songs from this era is ‘Little Lotto’, a collaboration we made with Nucleya featuring MC Zulu. That song just has a life of its own,” muses the rapper best known for numbers like ‘Timbuktu’, ‘Badman Bible’ and ‘Ace of Space’. Interestingly, her first music video, the hugely popular ‘Cityboy’, was directed by her manager Jamil G S, who is also a photographer and art director!

In the pipeline, there are musical collaborations with Branko, from Buraka Som Sistema and Clap Clap, an Italian producer known for his Afro-centric, sample-based music. Not to forget, her new music video that will be shot in India. “It’s Alo Wala 2.0 and I can’t wait to share it with you all.”

Better world

When Shivani was invited to perform at Echoes of Earth 2016, India’s first ecologically crafted music festival recently held in Bengaluru, she didn’t have to think twice. “I appreciate that folks behind the festival have chosen to use the platform to not only curate great music, but to start conversations and hold workshops that enable people to live better, and be more considerate of the environment. That’s powerful. Hope it inspires more festivals to do the same,” she says.

A huge fan of the hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest (for making unwavering protest music) and The Fearless Collective (for enabling magical demonstrative art around the world), for Shivani, the dance floor has always been a magical, sacred space. “Of late, making music has been more challenging as it requires inward-energy and focus. I’ve had a lot going on around me,” confides the American musician, who is still devastated by the presidential election results.

Disappointment, grief and anger are making way for the determination to set things right. “This election has woken something inside of me…I am determined to create the spaces and initiatives to make the world we live in more magical, more loving and more accepting,” she avers. More power to you, girl!

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