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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party: The Supreme Collection, Volume 1

It was a sad day when the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan passed away, of heart failure at the far-too-young age of 48 on August 16. The reigning king of the ancient Pakistani tradition of qawwali, had, in just the last several years, attained the sort of global reverence reserved for precious few outside the western world. By the end, he was a superstar on the order of Ravi Shankar, revered in his homeland of Pakistan, and admired by a growing and diverse contingent of listeners, including young rock fans who may have been introduced through his exchanges with Eddie Vedder.

Hearing Khan live, in the throes of passionate musical devotion, may have been one of the most startling “new” pleasures in music for many in the past decade. I remember a transcendent show by Khan and Party at Town Hall in New York two years ago, where the line separating musicians and audience seemed to evaporate, even though it was obvious who was corralling the spiritual energy in the house-it was the large, Buddha-like presence on stage. Khan’s inspired vocal flourishes and ordered sense of improvisational abandon, led the ensemble charge of harmoniums, antiphonal voices and hypnotic clapping patterns. The power of music was hard at work. By concert’s end, the venue seemed more like a conduit towards a higher consciousness, a shared experience.

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