Nusrat Fateh Qawwali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- The Final Studio Recordings, Shahen-Shah, Sacrifice to Love, Mustt Mustt, and People's Colony No. 1 (Real World)
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., July 27, 2001
Nusrat Fateh Qawwali Khan
Along with Fela Kuti in 1997, the death of Pakistani spiritual singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan leaves a dark, empty shadow. But like Femi Kuti, who carries his father's torch high, Nusrat's family keeps the Qawwali flame alive. A passionate, vocal-driven music from Pakistan that seeks closer communion with the Giver, Qawwali may be simple -- voice, handclaps, a harmonium (pump organ), and tabla (hand drum) -- but its soaring, emotive vocals and supercharged rhythms are an example of doing much, much more with less. On his American label, producer Rick Rubin releases Nusrat's final taped document, the 2-CD Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- The Final Studio Recordings. Unlike much of the unfinished crap that got released shortly after his death, this album is as good as anything the Great Khan ever released, save perhaps 1989's transcendental Shahen-Shah ("Shining Star"). Lead off track on disc two, "Khaja Mueen-Ud-Din," is particularly charged and moving. Since Qawwali goes back over six centuries in Nusrat's family, it's not surprising that his kin are also involved in the Pakistani equivalent to gospel. His name alone, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, tells you he's related to Nusrat, yet this singer is more than just his nephew. Rahat is Nusrat's chosen dauphine, recording and touring as Nusrat's accompanying singer for more than a decade. When he sang with Nusrat, Rahat filled the valleys created by the Master's mountainous phrases. His eponymous debut, also produced by Rubin and released on American, is as good as you expect, full of vitality and searing chops, but not as seasoned as his uncle, perhaps because it was recorded nearly four years ago. The less-than-30-year-old Rahat is best when he finds his own voice, singing in a lower register than he did with his teacher, as in the frenetic and puissant "Ali Dum Dum." While barely in their twenties, Nusrat's grandnephews Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan possess the sheer vocal talent to carry them to new heights. They, too, have new albums out, both on Real World. The traditional Qawwali of Sacrifice to Love, while stretched in places, demonstrates some the youthful power of Nusrat's Oriental Star releases. Styling itself as an update of Nusrat's seminal 1990 fusion, Mustt Mustt, the duo's People's Colony No. 1 finds Rizwan and Muazzam mixing it up with Temple of Sound -- Neil Sparkes & Count Dubulah of Trans-Global Underground. The heady result is a swirling mix of powerful vocals, urban rhythms, ghostly sonicscapes, and dub beats equally suitable for the dance floor or chillin' with open-minded cronies. While the Shining Star -- as Nusrat was known -- has left his mortal coil, the Ali Khan legacy is indeed in safe hands.