In a Career which spans over fifteen years and include thirteen collaborative and solo albums as well as two prestigious Canadian JUNO Award nominations, Azam Ali has confirmed her place as being one of the most prolific, versatile, and gifted singers and composers on the international stage today. Her dedication to defy cultural specificity in music and her unwillingness to settle into one form of musical expression have earned her the respect of both her piers as well as critics worldwide. When one looks at her entire body of work, it is hard to deny Azam her rightful place among the best singers and composers in music today.
Based in Los Angeles, USA, Azam first became internationally recognized for her work with Vas, the best selling world music duo she co-founded in 1996. From 1997- 2004 Azam released four albums with Vas on the Narada music label. Today, her most notable work is with the electronic/ acoustic group Niyaz which she co-founded in 2004. Described by the Huffington Post as “an evolutionary force in contemporary Middle Eastern music, Niyaz (which means “yearning”), pioneered a global trance tradition by seamlessly blending medieval Sufi poetry and folk songs from their native Iran and its surrounding countries in the Persian Gulf, with rich acoustic instrumentation and modern electronics. Today with four best selling and critically acclaimed albums released on Six Degrees Records, all of which have debuted at #1 on iTunes and garnered the band an incredible amount of media attention including features on NPR, BBC and PRI, Niyaz continues to tour internationally and build on its impressive and loyal fan base worldwide. Since 2005 Niyaz has performed in the United States, Canada, France, England, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, India, Dubai, Mexico, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Austria. Their music has also been featured in several major film and television scores, which include, True Blood, Missing, Nip Tuck, Bones and Crossing Over.
With her soon to be released, brand new solo effort entitled Phantoms, Azam Ali presents her first self-produced entirely English language album, adding a whole new dimension to an unconventional artist who has always eluded categorization. With Phantoms, Azam Ali pushes through the glass ceiling and enters the largely male dominated tech world to join in the ranks of other visionary female producers who are shifting and shaping the landscape of electronic music. Phantoms draws inspiration from electronic and shoegazing music of the 80’s and 90’s of such groups as Massive Attack, Portishead and Cocteau Twins, combined with influences of moody film soundtracks that combine classical and electronic music.
The result is a lush electronic album infused with dark layers of beats, synths and strings augmented with Azam’s distinct emotive voice. It is an album that is at once melancholic and rapturous, introverted and danceable, dramatic and subtle. Though Phantoms is punctuated with tones of ambient, trip hop and techno, the album withstands any one category of electronic music. This being for the simple reason that Azam Ali continues to stand at the forefront of pushing the sonic envelope and defying genre boundaries.
Aside from her ensemble work, Azam has released three acclaimed solo albums, Portals of Grace (2002), Elysium for the Brave (2006) and From Night to the Edge of Day (2011) that earned her a prestigious JUNO Award nomination in Canada.
Azam’s immense talent and ability to adapt her voice to any musical style have drawn the attention of many diverse artists. Azam has collaborated in studio and on stage with Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, The Crystal Method, Pat Mastellato and Trey Gunn of King Crimson, Dredg, Chris Vrenna formerly of Nine Inch Nails, Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor, Buckethead, Steve Stevens, Mercan Dede, the world renowned Japanese group Kodo, Zakir Hussain, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and Mickey Hart with whom she also toured for two years as a lead singer in his group Bembe Orisha.
Aside from Azam’s work as a recording and touring artist, she has contributed to major film and Television soundtracks in Hollywood. She has worked with renowned film composers such as Harry Gregson- Williams, Mychael Danna, Graeme Revell, Ramin Djawadi, Brian Tyler, Michael Giachinno, Christopher Young, Tyler Bates, Jeff Rona etc. Azam’s distinctive voice can be heard on myriad film and television scores among which include “Thor- The Dark World”, “Matrix- Revolutions”, “Prince of Persia- The Sands of Time”, “300”, “Godsend”, “The Priest”, “John Carter”, “Papparazi”, “The Nativity Story”, “Speed Racer”, “Lara Croft- Tomb raider”, “The Fight Club”, “Season of the witch”, “Children of Dune”, “Earthsea”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “True Blood”, “Alias”, “The Agency, and “Prison Break”.
Azam has also made major vocal and musical contributions to several big video games which include “Uncharted 3”, “Call of Duty”, “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands” and “Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow”, for which she won “best original song” at the Hollywood Music Awards in 2007.
Azam Ali was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up in India from the age of four in the small hill station town of Panchgani in the state of Maharashtra. There she attended an international co- educational boarding school for eleven years, all the while absorbing India’s rich music and culture throughout her formative years. The course Azam would eventually choose in her life would be very much influenced by her fortuitous upbringing in a school that emphasized the importance of the arts and spirituality, and aimed through moral and academic excellence to produce promoters of social transformation imbued with the spirit of service to mankind. It is this objective that would take shape in Azam’s music in the coming years.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 changed the course of Azam’s life as it did for many Iranian’s. Unwilling to bring her daughter back to a country filled with uncertainty, like many other Iranians, her mother decided to give up her home and life, and together they moved to America in 1985 when Azam was just a teenager.
Shortly after moving to the United States Azam began studying the Santour (Persian Hammered Dulcimer), under the guidance of Persian master Manoocher Sadeghi. During the eight years of her extensive studies with Ustad Sadeghi in which she became an accomplished Santour player, Azam began to realize that she was unable to express the full range of emotions she experienced through her instrument. It was during one of these lessons that her teacher heard her sing for the first time. It was through his encouragement that Azam began to explore her voice as the vehicle through which she would finally be able to fully express herself, a voice which Billboard magazine would later describe as, “a glorious unforgettable instrument.”
After receiving formal training in the Western classical vocal repertoire as well as early music, Azam extended her education into Indian, Persian and Eastern European singing techniques. But what would always remain at the center of Azam’s unique vocal style and compositions are the melodies which she grew up with in Iran and India. Through singing and music, Azam’s main objective is to explore the immense potentiality of the human voice, specifically its capability to transcend language, cultural, and spiritual barriers when expressing pure emotion. Although her natural inclination is towards the music in her heritage, Azam believes that honesty in one’s expression has the capability to communicate something universal about the human experience, regardless of the listener’s cultural origin.