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 (Azam Aliafgerad) was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up in India from the age of four in the small town of Panchgani, a 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 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 Iranians. Unwilling to bring her daughter back to a country filled with uncertainty, her mother decided to give up her home and life and joined her daughter in India. 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 sang often at home and school functions, she had no particular interest in becoming a vocalist. She began studying the santour under the guidance of Persian master Manoocher Sadeghi. During the eight years of her studies with Ustad Sadeghi 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. 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.”