Singer | Songwriter | Composer | Actor
A musical journey, ‘Five Rivers’ begins in India at the River Ganges and continues on to Africa and the River Niger, to Great Britain and Ireland, with the River Thames and the River Shannon and across the Atlantic to the majesty of the great Mississippi River. Throughout this album, Najma explores the synergies that exist between the ancient poetic art form of the Indian Ghazal and the Western traditions of song.
Najma uses these historic waterways as an inspiration to explore and draw upon the synergies that exist and resonate with her Asian - British roots.
‘Five Rivers’ is the first project in which Najma’s focus has been on the Western canon of song. She says, “Using selected covers, my interpretation of songs written by Donovan, Tim Hardin, Bryan MacLean, Rev Gary Davis and the mystical love poetry of W. B. Yeats has allowed me to compare the many shared reference points between the ancient tradition of Ghazal (romantic Urdu poetry) and the Western tradition of lyric poetry, both beautifully address the issues of unrequited loss, tragedy & disillusionment” which are central to the Indian tradition of Ghazal.
Jac Holzman, who signed the band ‘Love’ in the sixties and former owner of Elektra Records, upon hearing Najma’s interpretation on the song ‘Old Man’ wrote, ‘Najma, I so enjoyed what you did with Bryan's song, one of the unsung gems on Forever Changes. Your take is original, understated and true to the spirit of the original. Most important -- it works!’
FIVE RIVERS - ALBUM REVIEW QUOTES
“This is no crossover; it is a bold metaphorical journey in which she sails down the five rivers of the title – the Ganges, Niger, Thames, Shannon and Mississippi.”
- Nigel Williamson - Songlines / March 2020
“To sum up, this is coherent, Intelligent, listenable and very successful.”
- Norman Darwen - Rock n Reel Magazine / Issue 80 March / April 2020
Highlights are frequent, and include a breathtaking, Black Is The Colour Of My True Loves Hair featuring a flowing, nuanced vocal performance reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, and Akhtar’s own entrancing composition Dancing Waltz.
- Rich Davenport, Record collector / May issue 2020
“Mysticism to spare on a sonic expedition from the Ganges to the Thames… deftly combines ancient Indian poetic artistry with Western folk and rock forms.”
- Paul Sexton, Prog Magazine / April 2020
Najma Akhtar, a British born, singer, songwriter, composer and actor has achieved a place in world music history as one of the true pioneers of uniquely fusing Western and Eastern musical styles. She has recorded many solo albums and is credited in crafting a new musical genre, in which Jazz nuances are blended with the Ghazal (Urdu ballad) and Sufi (Devotional poetry) repertoires.
Her ground-breaking and innovative debut album, ‘Qareeb' (Closeness), remains one of the most important world music albums ever recorded catapulting Najma into the World Music arena.
Even though her music has remained rooted in the Ghazal and other traditional music of her ancestral home, her versatility as a writer and composer can be seen through a vast diverse body of work & artistic collaborations with some of the world’s most influential and credible musicians.
Her music encompasses, Ghazal, Sufi, World, Jazz, Asian Underground, Delta Blues, Psychedelia, Rock, Western Folk, Celtic, Sufi, North African Blues, Irish Celtic nuances and more. Her bi-lingual Indian vocals create a beautiful marriage between the East and the West that is utterly compelling. She has received universal critical acclaim including, David Fricke (Rolling Stone) who praised her ‘effortless artistry and emotional daring‘ and The Observer which described how ‘The pure soaring arc of Najma’s voice remains above emulation’.
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