SATURDAY

No one here would classify the Backstreet Boys with Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms, but in India and Pakistan the situation is different. The melodic conventions of the subcontinent’s classical music are closely linked to Indo-Pakistani pop, which is dominated by the soundtracks of musicals produced by Bombay’s Bollywood, the world’s most prolific film factory. The music of British-born Najma (surname Akhtar) boosts the jazz and rock ingredients of Indopop, but retains traditional structures and instruments. Overcoming the resistance of her strict Islamic parents, she’s experimented with music that’s decidedly secular: One of her more high-profile gigs was singing with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded, the 1994 MTV show that reinvigorated the latter’s partnership. Still, Najma’s music hasn’t ventured as widely as that of fellow Indo-Brit singer Sheila Chandra. Even when incorporating saxophone, guitar, and electronic keyboards, the singer-songwriter-producer’s albums—the latest is Pukar (Calling You)—retain such Indian trademarks as sinuous tunes, courtly love lyrics, and a call-and-response relationship between vocal melody and tabla rhythm. For this show, Najma will be backed by the New York band Church of Betty and will reportedly perform a set that’s heavy on Bollywood tunes. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 17, at the Freer Gallery of Art’s steps, 12th & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)