Though qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan released more than 100 albums in his native Pakistan, where he was revered as a mythical figure among worshippers of the sacred Sufi sect of Islam, less than a dozen are available in the West, most of them released on Peter Gabriel's Real World label. Recorded shortly before his untimely death in 1998, The Final Recordings is a fitting testament to the qawwali master's awe-inspiring voice, which soars and glides with an almost unearthly passion that cuts straight to the soul. For those familiar with classic albums like Mustt Mustt, this two-CD set doesn't stray too far from Nusrat's more traditional roots, eschewing the more fusionary approach of his work with Canadian guitarist Michael Brook and Indian bhangra producer Billy Sagoo. With heavenly songs of spirituality like "Too Kareemi Man Kamina Bar Daram (You Are the Gracious, I Am the Ignoble)" offset by songs of more earthly love like "Manam Mah Way Khiyal-I-Oo (I Am Absorbed in My Thoughts of You)," these tunes expand on the usual qawwali themes. But Nusrat's performance is anything but standard, driving the songs to dazzling melodic crescendos that send chills up the spine. Hopefully some enterprising label will eventually come forward to make the best of Nusrat's Pakistani releases available in the States. But until then, the torch has been passed to his nephew, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who provides backing vocals here and whose debut American release proves him to be a deserving heir. He may be gone, but The Final Recordings ensures that Nusrat's legacy will live on.
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