Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

The Rough Guide to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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The Rough Guide to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Review

by Chris Nickson

There's no doubt that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was probably the greatest singer of qawwal, the devotional songs of the Sufi. He was, arguably, one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, up there with names like Pavarotti for the power and emotion of his vocalizing, much of which came in his ecstatic improvising, which could stretch out -- all too often the pieces would last more than ten minutes each, like "Hazrat Khwaja Kheliye Dhamar," a song from the original qawwali repertoire that Khan makes entirely his in this stunning performance, backed by his group, or party as they're known. This collection carefully balances the spiritual side of Khan's repertoire with the more secular ghazals and romantic poetry. His art was in his voice and the flights of extemporization that were specifically his. But while much of his career, and indeed his reputation, came from his work in the traditional manner, Khan was also a relentless experimenter, as shown by the final track here, "Dam Mast Qalandar," which brings in a female chorus, beats, and samples for a dance track that's actually messy and far from his finest work. The biggest problem with Khan, really, is picking the best of his work -- there's simply so much of it available. This does a very fair job of representing the man, and showing his facets and talents, more so than some other best of collections available, at least. Inevitably, with so much great work of Khan's on disc, the choices are subjective. But to hear him at his best, within the tradition, the 1985 Paris Concerts are a high point, and for his more experimental side, Mustt Mustt is little short of brilliant. This disc gives you a picture of the man; those two are a more direct route to his essence.

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