February 17, 2005

Test Spin: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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When Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sings, many listeners will tell you that they seemed to be lifted toward the heavens. It’s easy to see why — his recordings are epic journeys that allow access to different worlds, deeper levels of consciousness and total musical ecstasy. In the mystical Islamic practice of Sufi, Khan was the preeminent master of musical inspiration until he died in 1997.

The music puts you in a trance — his tightly-rehearsed band from Pakistan, the Party, slowly increases the tempo over sometimes half an hour as Khan keeps pace with improvised praises. Suddenly, a multitude of voices joins him in the Qawwali, frequently about the greatness Allah. “God is truth, Ali is the Guide. O Lord, light the eternal flame in my heart and make every breath a messenger of mercy!” bellows Khan in Arabic. There are a few beats of tabla, some quasi-synthesizer and a new idea emerges, louder and faster. As Khan’s voice soars through octaves in the same breath, close your eyes and let yourself be taken over. By the time the journey is over, you will regret that life cannot always contain the joy that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music offers.

Archived article by Elliot Singer
Sun Staff Writer