Azam Ali

Montreal, Quebec, CA
Artist / Band / Musician
Electronica / Acoustic / Other
Six Degrees Records
In a Career which spans over a decade and includes ten collaborative and solo albums, Azam Ali has confirmed her place as being one of the most prolific, versatile, and gifted singers on the world music 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.Azam Ali was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up in India from the age of four in the small town of Panchgani, a beautiful hill station 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 which 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 uncertainity, 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, it became clear for Azam that she wanted to pursue a career in music after falling in love with the Persian Santour (Hammered Dulcimer). Though Azam had an innate gift for singing since she was a child and sang often at home and school functions, she had no particular interest in becoming a vocalist. She had her heart set on becoming an instrumentalist and so began studying the Santour 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 Hammered Dulcimer 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. Completely taken, he told her that her voice had a rare emotional quality about it which should be cultivated and nurtured. 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." While pursuing formal training in various vocal traditions like Western classical, Indian, Persian, and Eastern European, Azam's true passion has been to explore the immense potentiality of the human voice, specifically its capability to transcend language, cultural, and spiritual barriers when expressing pure emotion. When asked about her approach to singing Azam explains, "What intrigues me most about the human voice, is its ability to make all things transparent through its power of transformation. The voice is not just a conduit for words. For me it is like an abstract dream in which everything makes perfect sense."Currently living in Los Angeles, Azam became internationally recognized for her work with Vas, the critically acclaimed, best selling, world music duo she co-founded in 1996. From 1997- 2004 Vas has released four albums on the Narada music label. Their music which they described as "alternative world" focused mainly on the ancient relationship between the drum and voice. Their distinct cinematic sound blended influences of Indian, Persian, Western and other musical styles into a unique conundrum that undoubtedly transcended categorization and cultural specificity. Though in their early days Vas drew many comparisons to Dead Can Dance , they patiently surpassed that comparison with each album they released, earning them their place in the musical hierarchy of bands whose innovation set a standard for others to aspire to.In 2002 Azam released her first self produced highly successful solo album, Portals of Grace, which featured Azam singing renditions of ancient Western European Medieval songs. Billboard described this album by saying that " It's unlikely that this year will bring a more spellbinding vocal album than Portals of Grace". Her exceptional voice and emotive performances on this album earned her much critical acclaim and once and for all solidified her place as a highly respected singer in the World music scene.In 2006 Azam released her second solo album entitled Elysium for the Brave. The album signaled yet another turn in her musical evolution and was considered her most ambitious work to date, bringing together musicians from varied musical backgrounds performing in various permutations. Singing predominantly in English for the first time, the songs are based on lyrics written by Azam herself and reveal a poetic lyricism heard only in glimpses in her previous works. Helping to seamlessly bring all of these diverse sounds together, a talented cast of musicians are featured on the album including King Crimson's rhythm section of Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, Persian classical violinist Kiavash Nourai, Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo, Azam's collaborators in Niyaz, and noted film composers Tyler Bates and Jeff Rona, the latter of whom is known for his collaborations with Dead Can Dance. The result is a highly cohesive body of work that seamlessly weaves together all of Azam's cultural and musical influences into a haunting tapestry of atmospheric rock, electronic, and global sounds.Her current collaborative project Niyaz with her husband Loga Ramin Torkian of Axiom of choice, and two time Grammy nominee producer/ re-mixer Carmen Rizzo, released on Six Degrees Records blends ancient Persian and Urdu Sufi poetry, rich acoustic instrumentation, with modern electronics. Their debut album released in 2005 was hailed by critics worldwide as being one of the most groundbreaking of its time. The album debuted at 1 on itunes World music chart and remained there for numerous weeks, and charted on Billboard's World music chart for four consecutive weeks, peaking at 12. Niyaz also entered in at 76 as the only Iranian group to make it into the top 150 of the best albums of 2005 on WMCE (World music charts Europe). Since 2005 Niyaz have toured worldwide. With a debut concert in Delhi, India in March of 2005, Niyaz have since performed in the United States, France, Japan, Spain, Turkey, Dubai and Canada. In 2006 the Canadian Council for the Arts provided Niyaz with one of the largest grants ever given to a non-Canadian group in order to make a full tour of Canada possible. Niyaz has performed in many prominent festivals such as, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Calgary Folk Festival and two prestigious showcases in 2006: Globalfest in New York City, and WOMEX in Sevilla, Spain.Niyaz' sophmore album Nine Heavens released in June of 2009 has enjoyed similar success. The album breaks new ground in a two-disc format: the first is an adventurous, spiritual exploration of the ties that bind Persian, Indian, Turkish, and Western dance music.  The second disc showcases 8 out of the 9 songs in a purely acoustic setting. Nine Heavens debuted at 1 on the iTunes world chart, 4 on the Billboard world chart and 1 on the European World Radio charts. Azam is currently touring extensively all over the world with Niyaz."I am pertinacious in my need to expand. By nature, I am not one who can physically remain in one place for too long. I imagine that is the case because I have been transplanted enough times in my life that I am well aware of the influence the external environment has on the inner one, and how that can affect perception. So naturally, my music is going to reflect this inability to remain static, and this inability to identify myself with just one specific culture. I think of all the different music that I have done and will continue to do almost as photographs of my evolution, and just like photographs, in some I may look great and in some I may not. What matters to me is that I risk, I, trust, I strive, and let things unfold as they may."Azam's immense talent and ability to adapt her voice to any musical style have drawn the attention of many diverse artists and film composers. Azam has collaborated in studio and on stage with numerous artists like Serj Tankian of System of a Down, 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.

Azam has also worked with many world renowned film composers such as Mychael Danna, Graeme Revell, Brian Tyler, Michael Giachinno, Tyler Bates, Jeff Rona etc. Azam's distinctive voice can also be heard on myriad film and television scores among which include "Matrix Revolutions", "Godsend", "Papparazi", "The Nativity Story", "Speed Racer", "Children of Dune", "Earthsea", "Dawn of the Dead", "Alias", "The Agency and "Prison Break".

Allahi Allah_live at the Knitting Factory, Los Angeles

The Hunt_live at the Knitting Factory, Los Angeles
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