Posts Tagged ‘nusrat fateh ali khan’

Songlines Essential 10: Qawwali Albums

Posted on July 17th, 2017 in Features, Recent posts by .

Qawwali is a devotional music in Pakistan and popular around the world. Simon Broughton picks the best recordings of traditional qawwali, plus some interesting fusions


Faiz Ali Faiz

Your Love Makes Me Dance

(Accords Croisés, 2004)

Faiz Ali Faiz is probably the leading figure in Pakistani qawwali music today. The music with solo voices and backing singers driven by tabla drums, breaks over you in waves. This well-produced album, with pictures and translations in English and French, takes its title from Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah. Reviewed in #27.



Faiz Ali Faiz, Duquende, Miguel Poveda & Chicuelo

Qawwali Flamenco

(Accords Croisés, 2006)

This is what it says on the tin with performers at the top of their game. Spiritual qawwali marries surprisingly well with secular flamenco and both forms share a heightened passion and intensity, assisted by a stellar line-up from both sides of the spectrum. The two CDs basically alternate between qawwali and flamenco numbers, but there are three tracks in which the two forms really come thrillingly together. A Top of the World review in #37.



Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

The King of Sufi Qawwali

(Union Square, 2006)

There are countless recordings of the late qawwali legend, who died in 1997 – from superb concert performances on Ocora and Navras to fusion successes like Mustt Mustt (see below). This double-CD – compiled by Iain Scott with the lyrics lovingly translated by Songlines contributor Jameela Siddiqi – includes his most representative repertoire opening with ‘Allah Hoo’ and concluding with ‘Dam Mast Qalander’ as his concerts often did. Reviewed in #40.



Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Mustt Mustt

(Real World, 1990)

While the above choice is of largely traditional material, this was Nusrat’s big cross-over success in collaboration with producer and guitarist Michael Brook. ‘Mustt Mustt’, a version of a song in praise of the Sufi philosopher and poet Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, has become his best-known song. It was used in Pakistan for a Coke advert and appears here as the original and in a Massive Attack remix.



Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

Day of Colours

(Real World, 2004)

This is the most recent of Rizwan-Muazzam’s albums for Real World and it features the brothers in superb form with seven qawwalis by Rumi, Baba Bulleh Shah and Amir Khusrau among others. The 13 musicians create a robust sound with lots of punch. Reviewed in #27.



Amjad Sabri

Ecstasy of the Soul

(CM Records, 2012)

Amjad Sabri was one of the preeminent star performers and the current leader of the Sabri Brothers until he was shot in Karachi in June this year. Ecstasy of the Soul is a live recording from Warsaw in 2012 celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and Pakistan. It clearly shows what a great musical force has been lost.



The Sabri Brothers

Qawwali Masterworks

(Piranha, 1993)

It was actually the Sabri Brothers who first popularised qawwali in the West. They started touring in 1958 and released a record on Nonesuch in 1978. This is a later double-CD that features more unusual and contemporary repertoire.



Shye Ben Tzur & Jonny Greenwood


(Nonesuch, 2015)

Junun is a curious fusion that combines the raw sound of Rajasthani qawwali, Indian brass, Shye Ben Tzur’s Hebrew vocals with Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame) adding bass guitar, electronics and production. It’s strangely compelling, was recorded in the spectacular setting of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, and has become something of a cult hit. A Top of the World in #114.



Various Artists

Flight of the Soul

(Wergo, 2001)

A brilliant recording of two lesser-known qawwali groups in concert in Berlin, organised by German Sufi expert Peter Pannke. It features Bahauddin Qutbuddin Qawwal & Party, who specialise in Khusrau, and Asif Ali Khan, Manzoor Hussain, Santoo Khan & Party. Wild and vibrant.



Various Artists

Sufis at the Cinema

(Saregama, 2011)

This is ecstatic song on the silver screen – and often quite far from its original context. A splendid double-CD of qawwali music recorded for Bollywood between 1958 and 2007. Artists include Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Nusrat and the current star of glitzy film qawwali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Nusrat’s nephew. A Top of the World in #77.

This article originally appeared in Songlines #124. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:

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Songlines Essential 10: Sufi Albums

Posted on October 26th, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .

Sufi music, like that of Turkey’s whirling dervishes, occurs all across the Islamic world. Simon Broughton chooses the standout recordings, going for the more traditional and spiritual examples

Al Kindi EnsembleAl Kindi Ensemble
Aleppian Sufi Trance (Le Chant du Monde, 2003)
With singer Sheikh Habboush, the late Julien Weiss and his Al Kindi Ensemble pay a superb tribute to the amazing Sufi lodges of Aleppo. The Syrian city was a centre of Sufism from the 13th century and this two-CD digipack includes pictures and information about the different brotherhoods and lodges. Sadly they’re probably all gone now. Reviewed in #23.



Kudi Erguner EnsembleKudsi Erguner Ensemble
Ferahfeza Mevleví Ayíní (Imaj Muzik, 2001)
There are a lot of recordings of Mevlevi music, but this is one of the more historically informed. It features ney (reed flute) player Kudsi Erguner and his ensemble playing music for the sema ceremony commissioned by Sultan Mahmud II from composer Ismail Dede in 1839. There are excellent instrumentalists in the group.



Faiz Ali FaizFaiz Ali Faiz
L’Amour de Toi me Fait Danser (Accords Croisés, 2004)
Faiz Ali Faiz is probably the leading figure in qawwali music today, the most famous Sufi style in Pakistan and India. The music with solo voices and backing singers driven by tabla drums, breaks over you in waves. This well-produced album, with pictures and texts, takes its title from Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah. Reviewed in #27.



Nusrat Fateh Ali KhanNusrat Fateh Ali Khan
King of Sufi Qawwali (Manteca/Union Square, 2006)
There are countless recordings of Nusrat, who died in 1997, from superb concert performances on Ocora and Navras to fusion successes like Mustt Mustt on Real World. This double CD, compiled by Songlines contributor Jameela Siddiqi, includes his most representative repertoire opening with ‘Allah Hoo’ and concluding with ‘Dam Mast Qalander’ as his concerts often did. Reviewed in #40.



Ali Akbar MoradiAli Akbar Moradi
Mystical Odes and Secular Music (Inédit, 2001)
Unlike qawwali, the sacred tanbur music of Kurdistan is little known. The tanbur is a long-necked lute and is considered sacred among the devotees. Moradi is the living master of the tradition and accompanied on daf and tombak (drums) he plays and sings exquisite mystical songs. A gem of a disc.





Abida ParveenAbida Parveen
Ishq (Accords Croisés, 2005)
Abida Parveen, from Pakistan, is a living superstar of Sufi music and a rare woman performer in the Sufi world. She sings solo kafi songs, rather than qawwali. She’s always best seen live and untamed, but as that is a rare opportunity this well-produced disc with Bijan Chemirani on daf (drum) and Henri Tournier on bansuri (flute) is the next best thing. Reviewed in #31.



Sheikh Yasin Al-TuhamiSheikh Yasin Al-Tuhami
The Magic of the Sufi Inshad (Long Distance, 1998)
Given how widespread Sufi music is in Egypt – particularly at moulid (saints day) festivals – it’s surprising there are so few internationally available recordings. This features Egypt’s most celebrated inshad (Sufi singer) in two incredibly intense performances on two CDs. Sheikh Yasin AlTuhami is accompanied here by fiddle, ney (flute), oud, qanun and percussion.



Gnawa Home SongsVarious Artists
Gnawa Home Songs (Accords Croisés, 2006)
There are many Sufi brotherhoods in Morocco, each with their own music – the Aissawa with long trumpets and drums are the most spectacular. But the most celebrated are the Gnawa, and these recordings of some of the great masters are superb. A high-quality disc with deep gimbri (three-stringed bass) playing and soulful songs. Reviewed in #45.



SufiSongsVarious Artists
Sufi Soul (Network Medien, 1997)
This is the best available compilation of Sufi music from across the Islamic world. In a two-disc digipack, Sufi Soul includes 21 selections from Senegal to Afghanistan covering all the main genres and more. There are standout tracks from Kurdish singer Ostad Elahi as well as Mevlevi music, the Sabri Brothers and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.



Troubadours of AllahVarious Artists
Troubadours of Allah (Wergo, 1999)
This splendidly titled double album, compiled by Peter Pannke, features the incredible diversity of Sufi music in Pakistan. There are a couple of qawwali tracks, but mostly it’s solo singers and groups of fakirs playing the music you hear at shrines across the country. There’s a superb booklet with information and pictures too.

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – a beginner’s guide

Posted on October 13th, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .


Jameela Siddiqi introduces Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Pakistani Pavarotti, populariser of the qawwali tradition

Everything about Pakistan’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997) was larger than life, not least, his imposing physical stature and his stunning musicality. He was, almost single-handedly, responsible for popularising qawwali – the music of Indian and Pakistani Sufis (Islamic mystics) – which had been going strong since the late 1300s but was virtually unknown outside the Indian sub-continent. The act of performing and listening to qawwali is a specific religious ritual of the Sufis and as such was traditionally only performed at the shrines of Sufi saints and past masters.

It was Nusrat, descended from a long line of distinguished qawwals (performers of qawwali) who had been in the business for over 600 years, who brought it to the concert halls of Europe and the USA with many Western musicians realising its potential for modern collaborations. Nusrat embarked on several of these, from his work with producer Michael Brook (Mustt Mustt), to contributions for film soundtracks, including Dead Man Walking and Bandit Queen, as well as music for a Coca-Cola commercial. Nusrat himself remained adamant that the message of qawwali was the same, whether it was performed in the traditional context or adapted to suit more modern tastes. “If even just one out of a thousand listeners feels spiritually uplifted, then my job, as one who tries to reduce the distance between the Creator and the created, is done,” he said in an interview shortly before his untimely death in 1997. His death coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Partition of India and was mourned both in India and Pakistan.

Qawwali, although categorised as ‘semi-classical North Indian music,’ has a distinct sound of its own based on a chorus of male voices and entrancing rhythms marked by hand-clapping. But percussion is only part of the story. Qawwali’s main spiritual content lies in its classical melodies enhanced by mystical Persian, Hindi and Urdu/Punjabi verses of the great Sufi poets of the past. It is interesting to note that the majority of Nusrat’s fans, although not from within these linguistic traditions, nevertheless admit to being spiritually moved by his songs.

Qawwals are not so much musicians as part of an ancient institution which is strictly a family business, with musical and poetic knowledge handed down from father to son. But Nusrat was probably the first qawwal in the world to stand aside as a musician in his own right, doing everything from classical qawwali to Bollywood soundtracks and works of fusion with Western musicians.

Best Album

nusrat-devotional-songsDevotional Songs

(Real World)

By far the best single disc of Nusrat, featuring most of his classical/traditional qawwali repertoire as well as a more modern ghazal in the Urdu language. Nusrat performs with a kind of care free abandonment that was seldom heard after the late 80s. Not only is he at his energetic best, but this was also, technically speaking, one of Nusrat’s finest studio recordings of the time, and includes what later became Nusrat’s anthem – ‘Allah Hoo Allah Hoo’ as well as ‘Haq Ali, Ali, Haq’. There is also a song in Punjabi – a Nusrat speciality – featuring an important qawwali tradition in its own right based on the poetry of Punjabi Sufi saints like Baba Bullhe Shah (1680-1753).

Best Fusion Album

mustt-musttMustt Mustt


One of the most exciting collaborations of all time, with Michael Brook’s musical vision enhancing Nusrat’s musical prowess in a way that was never to be repeated, using instruments from different continents like the Brazilian surdu drum and the Senegalese djembe, alongside the North Indian tabla and keyboards. The overall sound works very well with the tarana-style of singing – a style that is part of classical qawwali and one in which the words are deliberately uttered in staccato fashion, to obscure their meaning. The ancient Sufis did this to avoid persecution at the hands of the religious establishment.


Sufi music: a beginner’s guide

A to Z of world music

This article originally appeared in Songlines #14. Subscribe to Songlines

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