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.’
Qareeb (Triple Earth Records 1987)
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)