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Hear Pragnya Wakhlu’s Kashmir-Themed Album ‘Kahwa Speaks’

The New Delhi singer-songwriter explores the culture and heritage of Kashmir on her latest release

David Britto Jul 18, 2017
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Pragnya Wakhlu. Photo: Hemant Grover

When we spoke to New Delhi singer-songwriter Pragnya Wakhlu last year, she had just released her ode to Tibet, “Burning Fire.” Wakhlu previously released her debut album Journey To The Sun in 2012. The Srinagar-born singer-songwriter has spent much of 2017 crafting her brand new Kashmir-themed sophomore album Kahwa Speaks, which is set for release this week. “There has been a lot of media focus on terrorism and the negative things happening in Kashmir,” says Wakhlu. “I wanted to do something that can help people understand the different aspects of the culture through music.”

The six-track record was created with the purpose of trying to help the world see more of Kashmir. “I just felt that I wanted to do something with my music that inspired people or [made] them aware of things we don’t always see,” says Wakhlu. “It basically creates an impact rather than just listening to a nice song.” The singer-songwriter sings in both English and Kashmiri on the folk-rock record. “The reason I chose this was because I’m from Kashmir so for me it is a personal thing to do, to go back and understand about my culture and help me understand more about where I am from and improve my own ability to speak Kashmiri,” she says.

‘Kahwa Speaks’ album artwork by Daksh Jain

It’s not just the language that makes the album innately Kashmiri. The title track on the album explores how people come together, using a cup of Kashmiri tea as a metaphor. “In Kashmiri tea they add a lot of different elements like cinnamon, cardamom, sugar and they put all this together and then form this lovely brew,” explains Wakhlu. The  track “Henzay – Returning To Peace” incorporates a form of Kashmiri singing called wanwun, the lyrics sung mean “blessings.” “There are two styles of wanwun, the Kashmiri Pandit style and the Kashmiri Muslim style of singing it,” says Wakhlu. “I’ve tried to incorporate both styles. I just wanted to bring them together.” “Burning Fire” also finds its way onto the record, as the singer-songwriter felt that the Tibetan exile and the Kashmiri Pandit exile are very similar.

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Most of Kahwa Speaks was recorded at Vinay Kaushal’s Guitar Works Studio in Pune. Kaushal also produced and mixed the album. Wakhlu drafted in a number of session musicians to record on the LP. The album was mastered by Gethin John at Hafod Mastering in the U.K.

Wakhlu has organized a launch gig for Kahwa Speaks on July 22nd at Depot 48 in New Delhi. The singer-songwriter also started a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto where she wants to create an audio-visual experience for people and share stories about Kashmir with the money raised. After the campaign closes in August, Wakhlu plans on touring in India and also wants to take her music to the U.S. and the Middle East. “I want to help people understand more [about Kashmir],” says Wakhlu. “As far as we can reach, I’ll go.”

Buy ‘Kahwa Speaks’ here. Contribute to Pragnya Wakhlu’s crowdfunding campaign here.

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