Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

30/07/2019Real World Records Releases A Remarkable 1985 Live Recording Of The Legendary Qawwal

On July 20th, 1985, sometime 'round midnight, the late and legendary Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his party took to the stage at WOMAD Festival in Mersea Island, Essex and delivered a performance for the ages. Now, 34 years later, Real World Records (a record label founded by WOMAD and Peter Gabriel in 1989) has released the carefully restored and digitised original recordings to celebrate its very own 30th anniversary. And what a release this is: 

"Looking back, it's impossible to over-estimate the significance of this moment of musical history. [...] The group sat cross-legged in two rows and for some minutes there was a silent pause. What unfolded over the following hours stunned the audience. And it impressed upon Nusrat his remarkable skill at communicating with audiences from a different culture and language and with no understanding of the deep and ancient traditions of qawwali music," the liner notes read.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is widely considered a musical phenomenon as well as the greatest qawwal of all time, who transfixed millions with his powerful voice and exuberant nature; up until his untimely death in 1997 at the age of 48. Qawwali is a Sufi Muslim form of devotional music, which is said to have originated in 12-century Persia and spread across India and South Asia and is "characterised by simple melodies, forceful rhythms, and energetic improvisations that encourage a state of euphoria in the listener." 

Although there is no shortage of recordings by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, "Live At WOMAD 1985" is a remarkable one. Or as Anastasia Tsioulcas put it for NPR: "Even now, more than 20 years after his death in 1997, there's no dearth of opportunities to hear his work, through a combination of sheer popularity, an enormous official discography, and literally thousands of pirated versions. All in all, no one has been suffering for lack for recordings of this Pakistani vocal master of qawwali, a staggeringly beautiful and ecstatic musical form."

Real World Records picked four songs from the 1985 concert for this "raw and visceral" live recording, including a 21-minute version of "Allah Ho Allah Ho", a 25-minute version of "Haq Ali Ali" as well as the songs "Shahbaaz Qalandar" and "Biba Sada Dil Mor De", each over 9 minutes long. Whether you are a first-time listener or a longtime fan, this magical release is bound to move you.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom