Musician, composer and activist: ‘Kahwa Speaks’ is the sophomore album by Pragnya Wakhlu

‘Kahwa Speaks’ is the sophomore album of Pragnya Wakhlu, a musician, composer and activist, based out of New Delhi, India. She is a strong believer of using the power of music to promote positive change.

To reach out to a global audience, the six songs on the album are written in a mix of English and Kashmiri (an Indian language). The album has a contemporary sound, and weaves a folk-based soundscape, that draws on her quest to understand her roots in the valley and present its heritage.

Pragnya infuses a mix of pop, blues and folk-fusion with traditional Indian sounds, even featuring a rap on one of the tracks – Hukus Bukus-The Riddle.

‘Henzay-Returning to Peace’, the first song on the album is inspired by a style called Wanwun and blends together both the Butta-wanwun and Musalmaan-wanun – styles of singing native to Kashmir. The beautiful harmonic vocal layering adds depth to the song as the song transitions from a mellow sound into a groovy drum and bass section at the end.

The title track of the album ‘Kahwa Speaks’ talks about how one can view a cup of tea (known as Kahwa in Kashmir) as a metaphor for life. The premise being that just like the different elements of the tea come together to form a beautiful brew, one can live a life of harmony and connection by being sweet with our words, fragrant with our actions and celebrating our diversity. The afro cuban rhythms and the beautiful guitar solo by Vinay Kaushal stands out in this track.

The featured single on the album ‘Burning Fire’ sheds light on the oft ignored and very critical issue of self immolation in the Tibetan community, and their struggle to preserve their identity. This track features singers from the Tibetan community in the chorus and some beautiful arrangements by Sanjay Joseph.

Based on a childhood poem that has its roots in Kashmiri Shaivism, the funk based track Hukus Bukus-The Riddle is one of the more up upbeat tracks on the album. It features Wakhlu rapping about building the bridges of humanity. The next track Katyuchuk My Love is based on a song by the 16th-century Kashmiri ascetic poet Habba Khatoon. The song starts with a beautiful Santoor introduction rendered by Nikhil Bidwalkar and also introduces the flute by Gandhaar Amin. Lalla’s lore the fifth song on the album features the world’s first ever English translation of the erstwhile poet Lalleshwari’s Vaakhs (verses). The uplifting strains of the Sarod rendered by Praashekh Borkar fused with verses sung to the guitar, creates an uplifting tone that takes the listener to a spiritual realm. For this track Pragnya worked closely with the author of ‘Lalded revisited’ to get a deeper understanding of Lalded’s work.

After listening to the album you come away with a sense of Wakhlu’s passion to try and bring to light the rich heritage and culture of Kashmir; often buried by mainstream news that prefers to sensationalize the unrest in Kashmir. Pragnya plans to take the album worldwide with a fully designed audio-visual tour to support the story behind each song.

With this she hopes to present an enveloping experience that serves a more important act of spreading the message of peace and unity, whilst strictly keeping away from any political agendas.

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