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World Music Legends Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan World Music at Global Rhythm - The Destination for World Music

World Music Legends Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan World Music at Global Rhythm - The Destination for World Music

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World Music Legends
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
By Chris Nickson
Published March 2005
From: 
Pakistan
Style: 
QawwaliThere are great singers, and then there are those few voices that transcendtime. The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan could not only transcend time, but alsolanguage and religion. There was magic when he opened his mouth, asense of holy ecstasy that was exciting and emotional. It wasn’t uncommoneven for Western listeners, who didn’t understand a word he was singing orfollow his Sufi traditions, to be moved to tears upon hearing him.Ali Khan, who died in 1997 at the age of 48, was a Qawwali, a singerof devotional music of the Sufi sect of Islam. Trained by his father, themaster singer Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, he kept up a 600-year family traditionby taking over leadership of the “party” (the general term for a Qawwaligroup, comprising singer, harmonium and tablas) in 1971, following recurringdreams that he was singing at the Muslim shrine of Hazratja KhawajaMoid-Ud-Din Christie in Ajmer, India (which he would eventually do).In his improvisations, his voice would soar skyward to heaven,carrying his audience with him. While the core of his work and his life wasthe Sufi texts, the mystic holy poetry of the spirit, Ali Khan didn’t limit himselfto that in his career. He was happy to sing the love poems known as
ghazals 
, to perform vocal exercises, and even lend his talents to Bollywoodand Hollywood, to range into ambient and dance music. But none of it was atthe expense of his soul.Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s he released literally hundreds ofcassettes—trying to make order of his entire discography would be anightmare—and his reputation grew, not only in his native Pakistan, but alsointernationally. The year 1985 proved to be the turning point for him, as heappeared not only at the WOMAD festival in England, but also had hisperformances in France recorded for an epic five-CD set that perfectlyillustrated the qualities of his art. The songs stretched out, allowing Ali Khanto show his genius for extemporization, turning a sound, word or phrase overand over, examining it, flying with it, before releasing it and moving toanother, using them all as enlightenment for the soul, a prayer and devotion.At his best, and his best seemed to occur often, he was like a bird, swoopingand rising, his voice as free as the sky.After Paris, the momentum gathered. He signed with Real WorldRecords, which meant that for the first time his records would havehigh-profile international distribution, and released
Shahen Shah 
, whose titlecame from his nickname. It wasn’t hardcore Ali Khan, but lighter and moremelodic, a disc that seduced those who hadn’t heard him before.From there he released the groundbreaking
Mustt Mustt 
, workingwith producer Michael Brook, and having th
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