Najma Akhtar & Gary Lucas
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Najma Akhtar & Gary Lucas


Band World Blues


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Rishte (2009, World Village) - Due for release 15th June TBC (UK)



The origins of Rishte

Blues promoter Gary Nesbitt first came across the ‘beautiful, angelic’ voice of Najma Akhtar while touring a review of legendary blues performers from San Francisco, so it might be said that the blues were in on this project right from the beginning. This was in 1989 but it wasn’t until 2006 that Gary Nesbitt and Najma finally met. They discussed his idea for a project linking Indian music and the blues, and after Najma’s return to the UK he began to cast around for a suitable collaborator. He’d been listening to Gary Lucas’s work with Jeff Buckley and in particular their album Songs to No One. “I listened again to Gary’s and Jeff Buckley’s…very hip interpretation of Edith Piaf’s Hymne à l'Amour. The track features Gary’s amazing guitar wizardry, using his electronics, while Jeff improvised Piaf’s lyrics. It was at that moment I heard Najma’s voice with Gary’s guitar coming together.”
Najma was familiar with and loved Gary Lucas’s work with Buckley. Gary L turned out to be a big fan of Najma’s and expressed a keen interest in working with her. About two months after the initial hookup, in the spring of 2006, Gary L had a gig in London at the Luminaire Club on Kilburn High Road. He invited Najma to the club, where she joined him on stage for an impromptu jam. A few months later she went to New York and they recorded a four song demo together. Everything clicked, the tracks were amazing. It was then that everyone involved knew something very magical was happening. The project absolutely had to continue, and over the next several months Najma returned twice to the States to record the remaining seven songs of what would become Rishte.

The music of Rishte

When Najma met Gary there was no plan. Gary produced the music (including some songs originally written for Jeff Buckley) and Najma contributed the words (mostly in Urdu) and the melodies, and in the process a beautiful and curious transformation has occurred. There is blues in the mix - in particular the eerie revival of the Skip James classic Special Rider Blues - and there’s Indian music too, as expected (both Daaya and Parda are based on Ghazal styles). Out of this chrysalis of expectation has burst a butterfly whose wings drip psychedelic jewels; a dark and heady funk and fey folk evocations jostle in the powerful title track and a powerful pop sensibility underpins everything. It would be easy to apply simplistic marketing jargon to the music of Rishte: Indo-Blues fusion, east-meets-west and the like. But this is to misunderstand the alchemy that occurred when Najma met Gary - a rare confluence of interests, talents and cosmic synchronicities that have produced an album which is truly more than the sum of its parts: a unique and pungent symbiosis.

Gary Lucas biography:

A world class guitar hero, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer, an international recording artist with over 20 acclaimed solo albums to date, and a soundtrack composer for film and television, GARY LUCAS is an artist always on the move. Gary has been dubbed “The thinking man’s guitar hero” by The New Yorker, “The world’s most popular avant-rock guitarist” by The Independent, “Legendary leftfield guitarist” by The Guardian, “Guitarist of 1000 ideas” by The New York Times, and “a true axe God” by Melody Maker. fROOTS described him as “without question, the most innovative and challenging guitarist playing today.” Rolling Stone’s David Fricke wrote: “Gary Lucas is one of the best and most original guitarists in America” in a review of Gary’s avant-rock album “Coming Clean”, which received 4 star reviews internationally. Gary was also selected by the editors of DownBeat magazine as one of their “Hot 66 6-Stringers”, alongside John McLaughlin, Richard Thompson, B.B King, and other guitar legends.

Gary Lucas tours the world relentlessly both solo and with several different ensembles, including his long-time band Gods and Monsters, with Billy Ficca (Television) and Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers) and whose ranks once included the late great singer Jeff Buckley. Gary co- wrote two of Jeff Buckley’s most famous hits, “Grace” and “Mojo Pin”, which later became the title track and the opening track on Jeff’s double platinum Sony album Grace – which MOJO magazine recently named the #1 Modern Classic Rock Album. Gary and Jeff’s early collaborations can also be heard on the recent Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas album Songs to No One, which charted internationally with worldwide sales approaching 100,000. Other notable Lucas releases include The Edge of Heaven, an album of Gary Lucas’ lush arrangements of classic Chinese pop songs from the 1930s, and Operators are Standing By, Gary’s compilation of the best of his early band and solo work which garnered a 4-star MOJO review: “This album confirms Gary Lucas as THE psychedelic guitarist for the post-modern set.”

In addition to Gods and Monsters, Gary is also involved in an electronica project known as Wild R