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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Final Studio Recordings

Suspend for a moment the fact that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan made spiritual music-just as secular ears would have to in order to appreciate Mahalia Jackson or Rev. Cleophus Robinson or Clarence Fountain of the Five Blind Boys of Alabama strictly on musical terms-and listen to the sheer expressive power of this “voice of heaven.” A formidable presence by any standards, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a master of the mystical devotional singing known as Qawwali, a component of Sufism. The Final Studio Recordings two-CD set documents the legendary vocalist’s last record date before he died in the summer of 1997 at the age of 49.

Produced by Rick Rubin, who has helmed pop recordings for Tom Petty, Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers, it features eight extended incantations involving a dozen musicians and singers seated in a semicircle in two rows on the floor of Ocean Way Recording’s Studio 2, the site of classic recordings by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys. Cut live with the spare instrumental accompaniment of just harmonium and tabla, it highlights the majesty of Nusrat’s remarkable voice as he engages in a series of inspired call-and-response duels with his nephew and disciple, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

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