As a community, we strive to embrace all individuals of various ethnicities, genders, religions, and sexualities. We believe that everyone should be treated equally and with respect. This series of spotlights focuses on social justice pieces, so that everyone feels welcomed and supported.
Gurleen Kaur Ahuja, also known as gurl, is currently double majoring in Global Studies and Pre-Nursing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She decided to pursue global studies because she is dedicated to learning about sustainable solutions in the sector of global public health and international development. She is greatly influenced by an organization called Students Helping Honduras, which is aimed to help sustain communities across Northern Honduras by providing educational resources. Additionally, as a Sikh woman, social justice is embedded in her religious values. Gurleen is also pre-nursing, to provide a stable income for her to follow her dreams of pursuing music full-time. After she graduates, she plans on taking time to focus on music and her brand “gurl.” She wants to perform cross-country, until she reaches a comfortability in her music career, and build from there. Eventually, she hopes to open a center for “gurls,” in order to help minority women have access to launching their careers and building sustainable and healthy lives.
Describe your musical background.
When I was around four years old, I began singing and playing the harmonium to Sikh poetry called “Kirtan.” These hymns ignited my song writing passion and thus began my music career. I also picked up the guitar, when I was twelve, and that helped me recover from brain surgery that I underwent that same year. Practicing guitar, singing, and songwriting were my getaways from reality.
Who are your biggest music inspirations, and why?
I am really inspired by Russ, because he mixes, masters, and records music on his own. People do not recognize how much effort and time it takes to create beautiful works of art. Music is a business and it takes a lot of bravery to pursue it. I also love Kendrick Lamar. He incorporates activism into his raps and that is moving.
Social Justice Piece
How did the concept for your video, of women been mistreated, arise? What made you want to address this social issue, in particular, though music?
In high school, I was introduced to two women, both of which had faced extreme difficulty in life. Asia, a human trafficking victim in Baltimore, Maryland, opened my eyes to the tragedies of this global issue. I even found out that it occured in the neighborhood right next to mine. Women are victimized daily because of the sexualization of their bodies. The other woman, Leslie Morgan Steiner, spoke about her experience as a victim of domestic violence. Her stories taught me to be cautious and to stay away from dangerous relationships. It also fostered a new passion: to be an advocate against this problem.
Who choreographed the dance portion of the video and what made you want to expand to include this art form?
Amreen Kaur, a really good friend of mine from Maryland, choreographed the dance portion. She is such a passionate and humble dancer. I wanted to feature her because of her creativity and her knack for acting. Laraib and Molly, two beautiful, bold, and elegant dancers, were also highlighted in the video. All three of them worked incredibly well together and blended their dancing exquisitely. They were my fire and my ignition to stand up to all the violence around the world. These women were the strength of the video.
How did you work with the videographer to make your music come to life?
Alvin Alex was the videographer of the project and we meshed really well together. We both had similar and super creative personalities. He was very open and encouraging of me directing some of the scenes of the video, and that was exciting. I wanted my vision to come to life and Alvin made that happen.
Are you planning on addressing other social issues in future pieces? If so, which ones?
Right now, I am writing to discover my artistic self as gurl. I tend to write very personal pieces and they are not all related to social justice. My newer pieces are chill songs that have a lot of meaning, if dissected. I realized that when I am stressed, I listen to songs that are relatable, but also light-hearted. As a stressed college-student, I am excited to help others "get away" from reality, without the need of alcohol or drugs. However, I really want to address international crises going on in this world, such as the genocide in Syria in the future! I have so many desires and I cannot wait to make them realities. I release a song per month, so keep posted and see all the of the different moods I can hit!
We as humans should always be educated and informed about the dangers going on in the world. We should always stand up for what we believe in, but also be a voice for those unheard.
Fun Facts & Social Media
I am vegan.
I basically live at the gym.
I always overthink things. Maybe that is why I can write?
Photography Credits: Asim Farooki Photography