Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party ‘Love and Devotion’ 2CD (Real World) 5/5

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
As part of a terrific series of re-issues to celebrate almost twenty-five years of the pioneering world roots label under the tutelage of Peter Gabriel during which time virtually two hundred albums have been recorded, Real World have released this superlative double CD of one of world roots’ greatest and more cherished exponents, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Neatly divided up into love songs and devotional, the music exemplifies perfectly what qawwali music is all about. The impact of the music on the Indian has been immense and its mode of communication is usually Urdu (though Gujurati, Hindi and Punjabi are used on occasion). Above all it is the joyous participatory nature of the music that comes shining through on these superlative sides that cannot fail to move one. This is illustrated on the gentle sounding intro to ‘Who haba rake hain pardah’ which fascinatingly incorporates the use of guitar in a fashion that conjurs up the Arabic oud (guitar and mandolin are used throughout the recordings and add a delightfully light, folk-inflected air to the music) on the first CD devoted to the romantic side of the music, known as ‘ghazals’. However, it would be wrong to conclude that the devotional side is dark and sombre in comparison. Far from it. An omnipresent table on the uplifting piece ‘Yaad-e-habi gulshan mehka’ features call and response vocals and is both enchanting and very accessible even if you cannot appreciate the serious nature of the lyrics. It was a tragedy that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan should die so young at only forty-nine. This is utterly sublime music that has been expertly crafted by the inspirational musicianship of Nusrat’s intimate group and headed by the maestro himself. In qawwali music Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has no equal (in the modern era at least). An equivalent musician of such exalted stature might be Grand Maître Franco from the Congo, or Nigeria’s Ransome Fela Kuti and that is truly some company to be compared with. Tim Stenhouse

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