Don't miss Najma Akhtar
When Jimmy Page and Robert Plant picked Najma Akhtar to sing their Unledded 1994 re-recording of The Battle of Evermore it reflected the rise of one of the UK's most distinctive vocal talents.
The original 1971 Led Zeppelin recording had featured the late Sandy Denny, a singer whose remarkable voice brought folk and jazz together into a highly soulful combination. While Najma Akhtar's unique vocal style is strongly rooted in her family's South Asian culture, it's equally schooled by the Western rock and jazz of her UK upbringing, an individual fusion that stands out in whatever she sings.
Style apart, however, she's blessed with a fabulous voice – powerful and sweet at the same time – that first turned heads with her Eighties recordings. Her nicely-paced career has included subtly jazzy adaptations of traditional Pakistani ghazal ballads, a tribute to Bollywood film composer SD Burman and collaborations with Basement Jaxx, Jah Wobble and Nina Simone, as well as the aforementioned rock gods.
Her latest recording Rishti reflects her duo project with US rock/blues guitarist Gary Lucas. The album's slinky pairing of table beats and swirling acoustic blues guitar finds a common groove that lifts the vocals into a trance-like Indo-boogie.
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It's just the latest step Najma Akhtar has taken on her very personal musical journey and, once again, proves she knows exactly where she's going.
Najma Akhtar Colston Hall, Bristol, Tuesday, November 13. See listings for details.