Thursday, July 14, 2005:

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Nothing Without You (Tery Bina) (from Mustt Mustt)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Longing (from Night Song)
Two tracks today from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani Sufi with a voice that was just short of a force of nature. I've heard these tracks probably four dozen times each in the last few weeks, and I still love them, but it's been much easier listening to them than writing about them. The best I've got is remembering a comment someone made years ago about Freddie Mercury's voice being a weapon. Suppose Mercury had something like a shamshir, elegant and refined. What Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had was more like a claymore: greater heft and weight, and slower to swing, but he had strength in abundance and when he took a mind to he just might swing it broadside and knock you silly.

Mustt Mustt is a fairly westernized CD for Khan; much of his work is more traditional and explicitly devotional, with lyrics in praise of Allah, Mohammad, or various caliphs. Many of the songs on Mustt Mustt were edited heavily: lyrics chopped up and rearranged without regard to what they might mean, or fail to mean, after. "Nothing without You" still has lyrics, and they still make sense; the song is about romance.

Night Song is, like Mustt Mustt, a collaboration with Michael Brook. I think it's a fairly accessible album, though I might not be the best judge since I've liked most of Khan's work immediately. What I like so much about "Longing," in addition to the tabla and the singing (wow--that singing) is the way the song seems a good embodiment of what it's about. It suggests itself, it builds, it circles around, it becomes more insistent; it ends abruptly, dissatisfied. Nice.

I am very tempted to post more about Khan tomorrow; I think he was a fantastic and compelling singer (and, after growing up in the southeastern U.S., I'm perversely delighted to read about a religion that believes that art can lead to revelation rather than fire and brimstone).

In any case, I've also got some good indie tracks on deck. Look for another post tomorrow.
[]: Mustt Mustt ( writeup)
[ Night Song ( writeup)
Wikipedia writeups: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sufism, Qawwali
More Qawwali reading.


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