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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Swan Song

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a world music superstar, the man who single-handedly made the sacred Sufi music known as Qawwali virtually a household name amongst an audience that grew exponentially in the west in the last few years of his life. Along the way, Khan found his way into several westernized settings, in film soundtracks and a crossover effort with Michael Brook. But, for many of us, the purer Qawwali music was the magic elixir, the less western the better.

Aficionados of the non-western aspect of Khan’s remarkable music will want to add this new two-CD album, Swan Song (Narada 47857; 44:45, 48:35) to their collections, though probably not for musical reasons. It’s a 90-minute-plus concert performance, the first live recording done in his native Pakistan, in May of 1997, three months before his untimely death. The mix is strange and muddled at times, and the instrumentation is uncomfortably western-leaning, replete with drum kit, synthesizer, guitar, electric bass, distracting from the purity of his voice. Still and all, the recording, as a last remembrance of one of the world’s greatest singers, has a place in the Khan legacy.

Originally Published