Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Beautiful Indian / American fusion from Najma Akhtar

The week before last, on my Friday mix, I put on a song from Najma Akhtar, an English born Indian music star. She pops up doing interesting projects all the time. There is a great album by DJ Cheb I Sabbah called “As Far as a DJ Mix” that I may write up some time. She has a few tracks on that hip hop / turntablism project. I recommended a project Najma did called “Forbidden Kiss: The Music of S.D. Berman,” a collection of traditional musical numbers from Indian cinema. She has worked with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Nina Simone, Andy Summers, Jah Wobble, and more. She has a splendid voice and is incredibly versatile.

I love the Eastern / Wester music fusion and this is a winner.

Today, I want to recommend her latest release, “Rishte.” This is a fantastic disc with deep roots in traditional Indian music, but Western influences as well. I’ve always been a big fan of East meets West projects, and this is a good one. As I went through this disc, I was strongly reminded of the Toumani Diabate / Taj Mahal collaboration, “Kulanjan.”  Not that the sounds or songs are similar. It just had a similar feel and energy with traditional Eastern songs featuring very Western sounding guitar and even an American blues tune done from a completely Eastern point of view.

I liked the entire release, but if you want to cherry pick, check out these 6:

  • Rishte – Straight up 6-string acoustic guitar and tabla back Najma’s ringing voice as she bends and wails notes.
  • Fragrance – Acoustic guitar is joined by a little dreamy steel guitar as Najma does her thing in Hindi (probably).
  • Behaal – This energetic song has some wailing electric guitar accompanying the ubiquitous acoustic guitar, complete with rock ‘n roll solo.
  • Woh Dhin – This is a beautiful 8-minute composition is deliberate, atmospheric, and really beautiful. There is a lot going on in the margins. It may be my favorite on the album.
  • Special Rider Blues – So here is the blues tune I mentioned. It took me a minute or two to recognize it as the blues, but it absolutely is, just a completely Eastern interpretation.
  • Naya Dhin – Another beautiful song, this time with solo violin accompanying the guitar and tabla.

Najma’s voice is lovely and she improvises and bends notes in the Eastern scales, but on this album in particular, most of the instrumentation is Western. It’s a potent combination that is pleasing to the ear and engaging to the mind.

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January 25, 2010 - Posted by | World Music

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