Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Dust to Gold

By the standards of his life in the western public ear, Pakistani qawwali king Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died in his prime in 1997, at a time when his fame had spread far and wide. His fame was fanned by the interest of pop figures, i.e., Peter Gabriel, Eddie Vedder, Michael Brooks, etc. But, in fact, he left a substantial legacy of recordings and a long-standing reputation in his homeland that made him anything but a fleeting presence. Numerous posthumous albums have been uncovered and released since his death; the quality is inevitably uneven: some archival resources are stronger than others. The recently uncovered tapes from his hometown of Lahore, Pakistan, are well worth hearing, as evidenced by the first release from that source, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party, Dust to Gold (RealWorld CDRW86; 64:32).

Toward the end of his life, Khan found himself in westernized settings that capitalized on his limber soulful vocal attributes. But the sternest and most profound stuff remains the music he made in the service of qawwali, the ancient, sacred Sufi music tradition that he performed with his ensemble, Party. Here, on an hour-plus album, four extended tracks illustrate nicely the carefully balanced degrees of improvisational abandon and control in Khan’s vocals, complemented beautifully by his wrap-around ensemble. His sensual singing veered towards the erotic, but his thoughts were elsewhere, as evidenced by titles like “Master It Is Only You” and “The Light of God Is the Embodiment of the Prophet.”

Originally Published