Azam Ali was born in Tehran, Iran in 1970. She spent most of her childhood with her mother in Panchgani, India. They moved to Los Angeles, California in 1985. After moving to L.A., Azam became interested in playing the santour or hammered dulcimer. She studied the santour under Persian master Manoochehr Sadeghi. As she progressed with her musical training, she gained confidence in her vocal abilities. She became a master of both santour & voice.
In 1996, Ali formed the alternative/world group VAS (frequently compared to the Australian band Dead Can Dance) with percussionist Greg Ellis, whom she had met the previous year at a concert at UCLA. Ellis was born & raised in Los Gatos, California where he first learned to play drums at age twelve. Ellis moved to Los Angeles in 1984 & began working as a percussionist. He has recorded & performed with Indian tabla masters Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shankar Ghosh & Bikram Ghosh, nagara master Nathu Lal Solinkey, Japanese taiko drummers KODO, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, percussion master Airto Moriera, as well as master musicians from Iran, Africa, Morocco, & Turkey. He has been a member of world/psytrance/tribal band Juno Reactor & the ambient group Biomusique.
VAS released four full-length albums. After the group's last album, 2004s Feast of Silence, Ali & Ellis went on to other projects.
Ellis has done extensive film & television soundtrack work.
Vas – In the Garden of Souls, Narada World, 2000.
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In the Garden of Souls
Prayer for Soheil
Ceremony of Passage
The Inward Coil
Éphémère (Upon the Faded)
Vas is: Azam Ali - voice, dulcimer (hammered), tambura, frame drum, & tambourine; Greg Ellis - udu, tabla, dumbek, nagara, cymbal, bells, frame drum, tom-toms, gong, keyboards, voice, & lap dulcimer.
Azam then co-founded Niyaz (Niyaz means yearning in Persian, Urdu, & Turkish) with her husband, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian (of the Iranian crossover group Axiom of Choice) & DJ, programmer/producer & remixer Carmen Rizzo in 2004. Niyaz combines Iranian, Indian, & Mediterranean folk songs & sounds with Western electronic instrumentation & programming, but Niyaz's music is primarily a blend of Sufi mysticism & trance electronica. Niyaz adapts the poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi into 21st Century trance. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2005, combined 13th century Sufi & Urdu poetry with modern swirling, hypnotic beats.
Niyaz – Niyaz, Six Degrees Records, 2005.
Nahan (The Hidden)
In the Shadow of Life
Azam Ali – voice, cimbalom, daf & frame drums, chan chan, Chinese cymbals, & tambourine; Loga Ramin Torkian – electric guitar, strings, lute, & baglama with Carmen Rizzo programming, producing, & mixing.
Azam Ali – Elysium for the Brave, Six Degrees Records, 2006.
In Other Worlds
Forty One Ways
From Heaven to Dust
I am a Stranger in This World
In This Divide
Azam Ali – voice, hammered dulcimer, daf & frame drums, chan chan & zils; Loga Ramin Torkian – guitarviol, lute, electric guitar, & baglama; Tyler Bates – electric & acoustic guitar, keyboards, & bass; Trey Gunn – guitar; Andre Harutounyan – darbuka, nagaras, dhol, & shaker; & Satnam Ramgotra – tabla.
In 2007 Azam released the album Roseland. Roseland was a musical partnership between Azam & film composer Tyler Bates. It features Azam singing entirely in English against a rock/ambient soundscape that, on several tracks, includes the drumming & percussion of ex-VAS band-mate Greg Ellis.
Azam & Tyler first met in 2000 when Azam performed on the score for the film Night at the Golden Eagle. The duo again worked together on the soundtracks of 300 & Dawn of the Dead. Eventually the two began working on a collaboration (2003) which would lead to Roseland. After almost four years Roseland released the self-titled album. The album featured: Tyler Bates on electric, acoustic, & bass guitars, keyboards, arrangements & programming; Azam Ali on vocals & Persian santour (hammered dulcimer) with Greg Ellis on drum kit & percussions for the tracks "Other Side of Me", "Keep it Coming", "Bitter Days" & "Light the Stars". The album was originally available on CDBaby.net, but six months later it went out of print (reasons remain unknown).
Roseland – Roseland, Tyzami Records 2007.
Other Side of Me
Keep it Moving
Forty One Ways
The Reaper’s Crown
Light the Stars
Azam Ali – Elysium Remixes, Six Degrees Records, 2007.
Endless Reverie (Bently & Smitty mix)
Forty One Ways (David J & DJ K Bass Bomber remix)
Spring Arrives (Transglobal Underground remix)
Endless Reverie (ZAMAN 8 remix)
Adobe (Bombay Dub Orchestra’s Continental Drift remix)
Endless Reverie (Banco de Gaia remix)
I am a Stranger in This World (Luxurious’ A Stranger No More mix)
Endless Reverie (Holmes Ives remix)
Adobe (310 remix)
Endless Reverie (Jef Stott remix)Bonus - In 2005, Azam Ali was featured in "Enter The Chicken", a Buckethead album, singing the song "Coma" with Serj Tankian.
Buckethead & Various – "Enter the Chicken", Serjical Strike Records, 2005.
Track 6 – Coma (co-written & featuring Azam Ali & Serj Tankian)