March 17, 2005

Test Spin- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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The two-disc set The Ultimate Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Earlier Years is an essential compendium to your collection of devotional Sufi qawalli songs. That, anyway, is what the product packaging says for this new release of rare songs from 1978 to 1984 by the Pakistani musician and man of a million monikers.

Unfortunately, this album is not for you, unless you enjoy unearthly soaring voices in foreign languages (Urdu) and the drumming of the tabla (and after Missy Elliot borrowed the sound for “Get Ur Freak On,” who doesn’t?).

For those open to something new, comfortable with the stylings of Hindi hip-hop and trance DJ’s, or the older musical traditions of call-and-response devotional chanting, the sound will not feel forbiddingly foreign: you may already be familiar with him. Before he died in 1997, Nusrat was a giant on the world music stage, featured on Peter Gabriel’s first Real World album and with Eddie Vedder on the soundtracks of Dead Man Walking and Natural Born Killers.

The intense yearning in the voice of Nusrat can elevate and inspire, and will do so if given the chance.

Archived article by Pete Norlander
Sun Senior Editor