Najma Vivid

Since 1988, Najma Akhtar has been one of the big names in Indipop — a minor genre of modern Indian music that’s much like Bollywood, though less frivolous and arguably pretentious in its claims to delivering "real” artists. Najma is a great example of this. Her lyrics reflect a much more refined sense of Hindi and her voice is incredibly sensuous and penetrating. The music, on the other hand, is surreal and overblown — more so than the average Bollywood production. This may have something to do with the fact that her main collaborator for Vivid is film/TV composer, Richard Grassby-Lewis (who at one time also worked with Massive Attack in their Wild Bunch days). He uses lots of ’80s-sounding synths, incorporates Hindustani instrumentation and even takes some excursions into drum & bass, but he’s never as sophisticated or subtle as Talvin Singh or Karsh Kale. In fact, the tracks here might sound closer to Madonna than the names above. The main difference is that there’s nothing new age about Najma’s lyrics. The only things she romanticises on Vivid are those of romance itself. It’s hard not to be taken in by her heartfelt, intoxicated musings on the nature of love — so long as they’re sung in Hindi. There are a few tracks in English and they just don’t work. Najma’s Urdu accent is too strong and her vocals are too high-pitched for the groove. In the case of "New Light,” the problem lies in her borrowing of an Abba hook. Some things are best left alone. (Last Minute)