Oxford University announces immersive broadcast of iconic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performance

On Friday 30th April, Oxford University's Faculty of Music will present a remastered and immersive live performance of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party at the 1985 WOMAD Festival, in partnership with Real World Records. The online broadcast will be a part of the faculty's Sounds of South Asia series.

In 1985, renowned Qawwali singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his party performed at the WOMAD festival on Mersea Island in Essex. The performance is widely regarded as one of the most important concerts of all time. In 2020, The Guardian featured the performance in their 20 iconic festival sets. Following the release of this famous concert as a live album in July 2019, we are happy to share this wonderful opportunity for fans to experience the concert in a special immersive mix designed especially for headphones.

Engineers at Real World Studios have carefully transferred Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s live show from 8-track analogue tape, painstakingly digitally restored the recording and then replayed it in the famous Wood Room at Real World Studios around a binaural head. They used the highest fidelity soundscape technology from d&b audiotechnik and a Neumann KU 100 Binaural head microphone, alongside next-generation reverbs and binaural panning.

A short documentary produced by Real World Records telling the story of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's historic performance at WOMAD 1985.

The livestream will also feature a special visual accompaniment, showing footage and images of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan from throughout his career. Following the performance, Oxford University will host a panel discussion with Dr. Thomas Hodgson (Oxford University), Wajiha Naqvi (singer/researcher/songwriter), Dhruv Sangari (singer), and Dr Katherine Schofield (King’s College London).

Tickets for this online event are free, and can be booked via Oxford University’s event page:

Book tickets

Riding a wave of emotion: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at WOMAD 1985

David Hutcheon explores the significance of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's iconic show at WOMAD in 1985.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party, WOMAD Mersea Island 1985. Photo credit: Jak Kilby

Sounds of South Asia

The Sounds of South Asia series began with a performance given by Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Party at the Sheldonian in 2017. The sell-out event, together with generous donations from donors, allowed the Faculty to programme a series of concerts, talks and workshops centred on the music of South Asia. Scholars and practitioners Shruti Jauhuri and Moushumi Bhowmik, South Indian violinists the Mysore Brothers, and Afghanistan’s only female-orchestra Ensemble Zohra have presented and performed in Oxford. Most recently, we were honoured to have Rahat Fateh Ali Khan back to perform in the Oxford Town Hall in June 2019.

Electronic musician Hinako Omori uses the Neumann binaural head microphone at Real World Studios, August 2020.

More about the immersive audio mix

What makes the upcoming stream uniquely different to the album release is that it has been remixed using immersive, or ‘binaural’ sound. The word binaural describes how humans hear — ‘bi’ meaning two and ‘aural’ referring to your ears. As we go about our lives, sound waves hit each ear at different times (time differences) and at different volumes (level differences). Using that information (combined with your eyes), the brain works out where the sound is coming from relative to your head.

When you listen to ‘normal’ mixes on headphones, the music often sounds like it’s coming from inside your head as traditional mixing uses only level differences to move objects between left and right. Binaural mixing add in the time difference element and it can be created using several methods. There is a lot of research ongoing in this area, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people hope to recreate the concert experience while at home. For this performance, the engineers at Real World used a technique with which they’ve been experimenting. This involves multiple speakers from d&b audiotechnik placed around a ‘dummy’ Neumann binaural head to recreate the experience of being at the concert with the musicians actually performing. Although this recording was made on 8 track tape (and therefore uses only 8 microphones) – using restoration methods combined with this mix technique, we think we’ve created an impressive immersive concert experience. So, you can listen to our stream using speakers, but the binaural effect will only work with headphones.

Featured release

  • Live at WOMAD 1985

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    Released 23 July 2019

    A remarkable record of a magical event that changed the perception of Sufi music to a wider audience and set Nusrat on a path to international recognition of his genius. The power and beauty of Nusrat’s voice comes rushing back through the years and lifts us up to the ecstatic heights of Sufi expression.

By Online Editor

Main image: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party at WOMAD Festival on Mersea Island, July 1985. Photo credit: Jak Kilby.

Published on Tue, 27 April 21

Further reading

Riding a wave of emotion: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at WOMAD 1985

David Hutcheon explores the significance of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's iconic show at WOMAD in 1985.

Historic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan live recording set for July release

Real World Records marks 30th anniversary with two Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan albums and new compilation.