Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Body and Soul

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The art of the qawwali isn't just to transport himself to ecstasy with his music, but also those around him, and listeners. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did it better than most, and there's no denying he was one of the great voices of the 20th century. Since his death, recordings have come out of the woodwork, many of them made just before his death. Body and Soul is another of them, taped in his native Lahore, and carefully restored at Real World studios. What's interesting about these tracks is while Khan himself is front and center, he acts more as director and inspiration than the one taking all the vocal solos -- when he does improvise, it tends to be in short bursts. There's a strong reliance on his "party," as his group is known, especially the backing vocalists, who carry much of the weight. And Khan's obviously been listening to the Asian Underground and bhangra music coming out of Britain -- "My Love Has Become a Stranger" bursts out of the gate with a strong groove, its introduction almost like a pop song, with the harmonium taking a strong role throughout, rather than the background it's often assigned in this music; it's music just begging for a remix (although it's debatable whether it truly needs one). "Waiting for Years" offers a shimmering beauty, like a lotus flower coming into blossom, and "Each and Every Rosary Bead" moves back into Western modes with another thick groove -- quite remarkable for handclaps and tabla. On the occasions when Khan really lets fly, it's easy to understand why he was revered as a master. But even when he's letting others take the spotlight, his presence is felt, and it's apparent that he molded his party into a formidable backup and very adventurous group.

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