“Inspired by the life and poetry of Rabia Al Basri, the first female Sufi mystic, [Niyaz] scores with a mesmerizing mix of rapturous vocals and electro-acoustic beats.” – NPR
“…an evolutionary force in contemporary Middle Eastern music.” – Huffington Post
Niyaz has created a 21st century global trance tradition, seamlessly blending poetry and folk songs from their native Iran and surrounding countries, with rich, acoustic instrumentation and state-of-the-art, modern electronics.
Niyaz is led by front woman, Azam Ali, whose Iranian heritage and Indian upbringing have formed a bewitching singer of richly textured proportions. Their far-reaching repertoire defies most standards of “world music”, making a bold statement, tearing down cultural boundaries, and offering listeners a bridge between the East and the West- a sanctuary in our modern world of polarized ideologies. It restores a severed bond between the past and the present.
By masterfully blending acoustic and electronic music, Niyaz appeals to fans of fantasy, global electronica, Middle Eastern music, sacred music and alternative world music. The artists’ four best selling, critically-acclaimed albums (released on Six Degrees Records), all debuted at #1 on iTunes and garnered the band media attention, including features on NPR, PRI, BBC World and The Huffington Post. Their music has been featured in several major Hollywood film and television scores, which include, “The Matrix,” “Prince of Persia,”“Thor-The Dark World,” Body of Lies,”True Blood, ”Nip Tuck,” “Bones” , “Alias,” “Prison Break,” and “Crossing Over”. Niyaz reaches an impressive and loyal fan base worldwide.
In a career which spans over fifteen years and include twelve 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 peers 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 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.
Currently living 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 and Arabian 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, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, India, Dubai, Mexico, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, Tunisia, 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.
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.
“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 to be 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. What matters to me in making music is that I let my heart lead me where it may.”- Azam Ali
“Through art, we have the ability to communicate with one another on a much higher level, but this level of communication can only take place when an artist has a very honest and clear intent. Anything less than this complete surrender on the part of an artist will not make this connection possible. And music because of its intangible nature is the most esoteric of the arts, so it has the capability to tear down all mental and emotional barriers. Especially the human voice which I always believed to be much more than just a conduit for words. It has the ability to make all things transparent through its power of transformation. For me it is like an abstract dream in which everything makes perfect sense, where profound transformation and transcendence is possible”- Azam Ali