Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Greatest Hits of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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The idea of a religious singer whose ecstasy-inducing opuses commonly run over 20 minutes having "greatest hits" borders on the hilarious. But when you consider the fanatical following the Pakistani qawwali star has gained around the world, the top-of-the-charts concept becomes less far-fetched. Upon hearing the great qawwal in person, Pakistanis in foreign cities were known to bang their heads against the stage until they bled. This set of four pieces was released in 1997, the year Nusrat died. By the time the world discovered Nusrat in the late '80s, he had produced literally hundreds of recordings, so whether you consider these archival selections "hits" or not, they are significant and worthwhile additions to his catalog. "Haq Ali Ali" is the only one of these to appear on any of Nusrat's nine Real World releases, but the short version on Devotional Songs is only a warm-up for this expansive, 25-minute rendition. Nusrat's sound remained fairly constant throughout his career. He changed his instrumental backing some before settling on harmonium as his backing instrument of choice, and his voice gathered some ragged edges in the '90s, but other than that, there was no overarching progression in his music, only side trips. None of those side trips are represented here (although 1990's Mustt Mustt really was a hit, electrifying Pakistani youth with its crossover sound). Still, there are some unusual sonic textures among the older tracks here. "Data Ke Ghulamon Ko" begins like a processional hymn, the harmonium hanging on long, organ-like chords. And "Mangte Hail Karim" uses the qanun (a hammer dulcimer) and a clarinet-like reed instrument to set up its 3/4 feel.

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