Songlines, June 09
‘Pakistan’s greatest singer, both unvarnished and remixed’
Claims about the extent of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s discography go beyond 150 releases.
Givenanever - expanding supply of compilations and remixes, it’s hard to say much about what this one overlaps. But it’s certainly a singular sample of his prodigious diversity. The five traditional performances on the first CD are top-quality and nicely varied. When it’s Nusrat there is every
reason to go for the obvious, and the 16-minute ‘Allah Hu’ at the start is concise and powerful. Here, and in other qawwali tracks, he lives as dangerously as ever in his fearless attacks on sustained high notes. The range of tone, colour and emotional force, the extremes of pitch and the flights of invention, are achieved with a rare clarity of diction and precision of delivery. Most astonishing is the
expansive third track, more in a ghazal style at a slowish pulse, in which the level of virtuosity – doubling the speed over the same pulse, then gradually accelerating – runs way beyond normal human powers.
Alongside that, the second disc seems a little diluted, although it’s full of decidedly secular fun. Three tracks from the Magic Touch album, produced and mixed by Bally Sagoo, have Nusrat bouncing around in Latin or African rhythms with a surprising ear for harmonic nuances. Other remixes
loop him into catchy hooks against assorted dance beats. Less sophisticated is a track in which the sarangi maestro Sultan Khan makes heavy weather of playing and singing around Nusrat’s recordings over a gruesome bassline.