English singer-songwriter Tanita Tikaram was born in Münster, West Germany, to a Malaysian mother, Fatimah Rohani, and an Indo-Fijian father, Pramod Tikaram. The Sweet Keeper
track "I Owe It All To You
" is a tribute to her mom.
Tikaram's musical career began in West Germany where her Fijian-born father was posted with the British army. She recalled to Q magazine February 1990: "When I was little I was always writing my own songs, singing them and playing guitar. My elder brother and I used to do Elvis Presley songs together. I was The Jordanaires, he was Elvis. He was really into all that '50s stuff which we used to tune into on German forces radio. Punk, which was happening at the same time, just went completely over my head. What was that punk film called? The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle. Yes, well I thought that was really for grown ups."
Tikaram's family moved to England in 1982, where she found herself smitten by early 20th central writer Virginia Woolf's political fiction. She recalled to Q magazine: "While other people in Basingstoke were listening to the Velvet Underground, I was going on long walks hoping to get into a trance-like state so that I could write like Virginia Woolf. But it didn't work."
These literary inspirations would later find their way into her songs.
According to Tikaram, she is now "completely frivolous," however she was a bookish, sober teenager. In our interview with Tanita
, we asked if she was a little overly serious growing up. She replied: "I think if you're a teenager and you're going to be creative or artistic, you are a bit intense at that time. It's natural. And you're kind of a sponge. So you probably need to be a bit intense. Now I'm completely goofy. But at the time I probably was a very different, rather serious teenager."
As a teenager, Tikaram immersed herself in the folk-rock sound of the 1960s and 1970s. She staunchly resisted the most popular musical trends around her and in 1989 she recalled to Melody Maker: "Going into the '80s I remember Visage and all the new romantic stuff—my brother was a member of the Duran fan club and I remember being appalled by that."
Tikaram studied A-level politics, sociology and English at her Basingstoke college achieving two As and a B. She was given a place at Manchester University to study English and American literature but by this time her musical career was beginning to take off so she didn't take it up.
Her debut album, Ancient Heart, was released when Tikaram had just turned 19 and was produced by Rod Argent and Peter Van Hoote. The LP was certified Double Platinum in the UK and was also an international hit, especially in Norway where it was #1 for 17 weeks. At one stage, it was estimated that, 1 in 3 Norwegians owned one of her records.
Her brother is the actor Ramon Tikaram, whose roles include Ferdy in the BBC television drama This Life and Qadim Shah, the father of the character Amira Shah in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.
Tikaram loves travelling and finds hotels a conducive place to write her songs. "Oh I love hotels," she told Q magazine. "I love waking up every morning somewhere new and trying to work out what I'm going to have for breakfast. It's like being on a big trip. And being in hotel rooms is a very creative time for me. I wrote all of The Sweet Keeper in hotel rooms. I need that feeling they give you of being physically unsettled somewhere where there aren't any distractions. I like the discipline that comes from having to spend all day gearing up for two hours on stage in the evening."
She has continued to release albums on which she has collaborated with other singers including Jennifer Warnes, Nick Lowe and Grant Lee Phillips.