Najma Akhtar will release the ‘Five Rivers’ album through Last Minute Productions [Cat No Jaan1103] on 20th March 2020. This is ninth solo album in a career that has seen her collaborate with many world-class artists, as diverse as Jah Wobble, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Andy Summers, Basement Jaxx, Jethro Tull, Philip Glass, Gary Lucas (of Captain Beefheart) and many more. Embracing the diverse music of the World, both geographic and historic, Najma has consistently created a music that is both universally coherent and singularly personal to her own artistic vision. Her unfailing integrity has attracted critical acclaim from Rolling Stone magazine which praised her “effortless artistry and emotional daring” and The Observer which declared “The pure soaring arc of Najma’s voice remains above emulation”.
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.
‘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”.
‘Five Rivers’ can be best described as a confluence of the musical, poetic and linguistic traditions of the East and the West, brought together through the purity and beauty of voice. In researching this project, Najma has absorbed the distinct musical traditions of West Africa, the Mississippi Delta, the Western Folk tradition, Ghazal, Rock music, Jazz and Psychedelia, taking only that which would serve to demonstrate their interconnectivity.
The perfect follow up to ‘Rishte’, her acclaimed collaboration with Gary Lucas, Najma is very excited about the album: “It is the first time that the poetic emphasis between the Urdu Ghazal and Western poetry has been explored and developed using western musical genres. The synergies that connect them are multifarious. It is the voice that tells the story, and these ballads of unrequited love are universal”.
In a note to Najma, responding to her recording of the Bryan MacLean song, ‘Old Man’ from Love’s classic ‘Forever Changes’ album, former Elektra label boss Jac Holzman had this to say: “Your take is original, understated and true to the spirit of the original. Most important – it works!”
Najma’s voice has been used in films, documentaries and theatre. Her work has been widely acknowledged not only as a leading light in the development of East/West fusion in the West, but also as an independent Asian woman and feminist role model. The musical arrangements of ‘Five Rivers’ reflect Najma’s premise of interconnectivity, employing the Indian Harmonium, Violin, Tabla, Electric Guitar & Bass, the African Udo & N’goni, all of which serve to support, enhance and truly showcase the profound soulfulness of Najma Akhtar’s voice.