Tag Archives: Najma

Artist Profiles: Najma

Najma

Vocalist Najma Akhtar, better known as Najma, was born in 1964 Chelmsford, England. Najma has Indian ancestry and holds a degree in chemical engineering.

Najma’s singing career began when she unexpectedly won first prize at an Asian song contest in 1984. She soon came to international attention with a track especially recorded for the first WOMAD/Real World compilation record.

The release of her first album Qareeb on Triple Earth Records in 1987 rapidly gave a cult status upon her with its adoption by Azzedine Alaia for her summer collection, a video directed by Jean Baptiste Mondino and inclusion in the soundtrack of Sammy & Rosie Get Laid, a Hanif Quereishi film. Qareeb attracted a lot of attention with its groundbreaking fusion of sounds of the Indian sub-continent and western pop. Najma quickly became an essential figure on the European world music scene.

A second release “Atish” in 1991 reached No. 4 in the Billboard World Music chart. The third album “Pukar” sold thousands of copies in Japan alone and was released on Miles Copeland’s label Mondo Melodia in the USA and South America. An album of popular Indian film songs titled “Forbidden Kiss” was also released in the USA in 1996 on the Shanachie label.

Najma has crossed musical boundaries and worked with artists that others only dream of. She has performed with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and has recorded for their MTV Unplugged and No Quarter albums. She also contributed to Jah Wobble’s “Take Me To God” album (from which the song ‘Raga’ was featured in Robert Altman’s film “Pret a Porter”) and has collaborated with Andy Summers (The Police), Carol Grimes and Martin Allcock (Fairport Convention).

Najma is also in heavy demand as an actress and composer. In 2002 she wrote composed and recorded 13 songs for a full-length feature film titled Bollywood Queen.

On March 11, 2003 Mondo Melodia/Ark 21 Records released Vivid, Najma’s 7th album. Throughout the album’s ten tracks her mesmerizing voice soars over Arabic rhythms, trance beats, Bollywood strings and synthesizers. Najma wrote the lyrics and melodies for Vivid and collaborated with composer Richard Grassby-Lewis. Richard is better known for his work in film and television however his cinematic roots are brought into play on the album bringing the listener through different scenes as each track plays. Searching for a description to their distinctive sound Najma and Richard chose ‘Indian Gothic.’

 

 

Discography:

Qareeb (Triple Earth Records 1987)
Atish (1991)
Pukar (Calling You) (Mondo Melodia 1998)
Forbidden Kiss (Shanachie 1996)
Vivid (Mondo Melodia/Ark 21 2003)
Fariyaad: A plea to the creator (Choice Music, 2008)
Rishte (World Village, 2009)

website: www.najmaakhtar.com

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Genre Bending Indian Blues

Najma Akhtar & Gary Lucas - Rishte
Najma Akhtar & Gary Lucas – Rishte

Najma Akhtar & Gary Lucas

Rishte (World Village, 2009)

It’s not every day I get to listen to an American blues-Indian Classical music fusion recording. I have heard my share of jazz Indian fusion recordings, but “Rishte” by classical Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar and American guitarist Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley) happens to be a first for my ears. And it has taken a few listens before the music actually sunk in.

First I would like to say that I was impressed with Najma Akhtar’s short biographical notes found in the CD booklet. “In October of 2005, while visiting relatives in India and Pakistan, Najma was caught in the South Asian earthquake. Thankfully, she and her family were safe, but she was surrounded by devastation. Instead of returning home to London, Najma became a caring humanitarian, a role similar to one she took years before in Bosnia…”

Besides her humanitarian efforts, Akhtar also possesses an incredible vocal talent that thankfully does not get overshadowed by Lucas’ guitar on this CD. Although when Lucas brings out the electric guitar on a few tracks, it can be overpowering especially when he plays the high end of his guitar. I prefer the acoustic and slide guitars myself, the old timey blues that appears on a few tracks such as Skip James’ “Special Rider Blues,” probably the best fusion track on the recording. I will admit I never enjoyed the high end of electric guitars especially when the guitarist unleashes a flurry of notes—I feel dizzy.

The titular feels upbeat with tabla beats laced throughout with acoustic guitar framing Akhtar’s stellar vocals. On Aksar her vocals glide and I am reminded of the Canadian Ghazal singer Kiran Ahluwalia. Alicia Svigals loans her violin talent to “Naya Dhin” and “Parda” and Nitin Mitta and Narendra Budhakar perform on the tablas heard throughout the recording. “Daaya” highlights slide guitar and old time blues make its home on this Ghazal. “Parda” bounces along like a true pop gem and “Pensif Khayal” closes out the album with a bang.

Rishte,” despite being a pioneering fusion project, will likely attract mass appeal in the world music circuit. Both Lucas and Akhtar have already made names for themselves working with prestigious and or fringe art musicians (Captain Beefheart). Both blues and Indian Classical music have worldwide audiences and it’s a matter of blues or Indian Classical purists accepting this genre-bender recording.

Buy the CD:

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UK Indian Vocalist Najma Akhtar and NY Guitarist Gary Lucas Will Be Performing Together

Najma and Gary Lucas
Najma and Gary Lucas

For the first time, Najma Akhtar and Gary Lucas will be performing on May 3rd at Joe’s Pub in New York City all new material from their much anticipated and soon to be completed studio recording. Akhtar, who lives in London, will be making her first New York appearance in 10 years having last performed in New York at Central Park’s Summerstage. Lucas is a legendary New York-based performer and recording artist who tours all over the world, performing solo or with his supergroup, Gods and Monsters.

Akhtar and Lucas have been fans of each other’s work for many years, finally meeting in London in May of 2007. Lucas’s enormous admiration of Akhtar’s artistry developed when he first heard her 1989 critically acclaimed album Atish, which reached #4 on the World Music charts. Akhtar became an admirer of Lucas’s after hearing Jeff Buckley’s Grace album. Lucas, who co-wrote “Grace” and “Mojo Pin”, played guitar on the recording which was recently voted the #1 classic album by Mojo.After their meeting in London, Akhtar and Lucas instantly decided they wanted to collaborate on a project. They each enjoy the challenge of collaborating with other musicians, having worked with some of the biggest names in music. Akhtar with Ian Anderson, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (MTV Unplugged and the album, No Quarter and Andy Summers. Lucas with Buckley, Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and most recently Chris Cornell to name a few.

The fusion of influences and musical styles that Akhtar and Lucas have brought to this partnership has made the music they’re creating absolutely brilliant and wonderfully unique. They’re looking forward to this upcoming night in May to perform their exciting new music for a live audience for the very first time. Dibyarka Chatterjee, on tabla, will join Akhtar and Lucas for this performance.

Najma’s most recent CD is Vivid.

When: Saturday, May 3rd
Where: Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St, New York, NY
Time: 9:30 pm
Cost: $20.00
Joe’s Pub Phone: 212-967-7555
Table Reservations: 212-539-8778
Website: www.joespub.com

To listen to “Rishte”, a track Akhtar and Lucas recorded in October of 2007,  visit this link at the Joe’s Pub website. www.joespub.com/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,3754

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Vivid by Najma

Najma - Vivid
Najma – Vivid

Najma

Vivid (Mondo Melodia 1868500752, 2003)

It’s been a while since I heard anything by Najma and I have to say that it was worth the wait. Her new album, Vivid, is one of the finest I’ve heard recently in the South Asian hybrid genre. Najma continues in the direction of fusing music from the Indian subcontinent with Western music. In this case, her dreamlike voice is accompanied by Indian percussion and stringed instruments as well as electronica.

Najma’s vocal stylings are surrounded by ambient electronic sounds and trip-hop electronic beats. It’s a truly captivating hypnotic album where acoustic music and electronics are brilliantly combined. Najma has crossed boundaries and worked with artists that others only dream of. She has performed with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and has recorded for their MTV Unplugged and No Quarter albums. She also contributed to Jah Wobble’s “Take Me To God” album (from which the song ‘Raga’ was featured in Robert Altman’s film “Pret a Porter”), and has collaborated with Andy Summers (The Police), Carol Grimes and Martin Allcock (Fairport Convention).

Najma is also in heavy demand as an actress and composer. In 2002, she wrote, composed and recorded 13 songs for a new full-length feature film entitled Bollywood Queen.

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Najma’s Spectacular Return

Najma - Vivid
Najma – Vivid

Los Angeles, USA – Indian singer Najma has returned after a long silence with a sensational album. Titled “Vivid,” it combines Najma’s unique vocals with rich harmonies, electronic beats and trance-like atmospheres. The album is available from Mondo Melodia/Ark 21.

This is her 5th album.

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