Tikaram was born in Münster, Germany, the daughter of a Malaysian mother, Fatimah Rohani, and an Indo-Fijian father, Pramod Tikaram. 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.
1992 saw the release of Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness. On this album she ceased collaborating with Argent and Van Hooke and produced the album entirely by herself. It was her worst seller yet, not charting at all in the UK.