Tikaram was born in Münster, Germany, the daughter of an Indian-Fijian British Army officer, Pramod Tikaram, and a Sarawakian mother, Fatimah Rohani. Her father's military career meant that she spent her early life in Germany before moving to Basingstoke, Hampshire, England when she was in her early teens. She is the younger sister of the actor Ramon Tikaram and the great-niece of Sir Moti Tikaram, who was the first Lord Chief Justice of an independent Fiji and the world's longest-serving national ombudsman.
Tikaram started singing in nightclubs while she was still a teenager and came to the attention of WEA Records. Her debut album, Ancient Heart, produced by Rod Argent and Peter Van Hooke, was released in September 1988 when she was 19 years old. The album's first two singles, "Good Tradition" and "Twist In My Sobriety", became top 10 hits around Europe and the album sold around four million copies worldwide. Both the single "Twist In My Sobriety" and Tikaram were nominated at the 1989 Brit Awards for Best British Single and Female Artist categories respectively.
A quick succession of albums for WEA – The Sweet Keeper (1990), Everybody's Angel (1991), and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1992) – did not achieve the same commercial success, with each album selling fewer than the previous one. Her 1992 album Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, which was the first Tikaram fully produced herself, did not chart at all.
Taking a break from the music industry and moving to San Francisco, Tikaram returned in 1995 with the album Lovers in the City, which received better reviews than her previous albums and achieved better sales. Still, it was her last studio album for WEA and her contract was finished in 1996 with the release of the compilation album The Best of Tanita Tikaram.
Signed to Mother Records, Tikaram released The Cappuccino Songs in 1998, and then retired for several years from the music industry, reappearing in 2005 with the album Sentimental, which was released on a French label. In 2012, she released Can't Go Back, her first album in seven years. Since 2013, she has been touring the UK and Europe.
Closer to the People was released on 11 March 2016. In December 2015, Tikaram released a videoclip for the song "Food On My Table", although she stated this was not the first single of the album. The first single, "Glass Love Train", was released on 22 January 2016.
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