Love and Devotion
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, 2013
The qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has always be something of a totem figure both to Real World Records and its sister organisation WOMAD, gracing their respective recording studios and stages on many occasions. Appreciation of that mesmerising, undulating voice has been declared far and wide, probably most famously by Jeff Buckley who once described Nusrat as 'my Elvis'. Until his premature death in 1997, Nusrat was a phenomenally prolific performer, a man saluted by the Guinness Book Of Records for the staggering number of albums he recorded, an amount well into three figures.
Love & Devotion brings together two of the truly finest recordings from that teetering pile - the two 1992 records for Real World, Love Songs and Devotional Songs. They are perfect companion pieces, snapshots of a musical giant at the very height of his considerable powers. The artistry of his accompanying Party is faultless, a perfect balance of bubbling tabla drums, weaving harmonium melodies, handclaps and ensemble singing. But this is merely the frame for the masterpiece itself - the great man's unearthly voice, whether ascending with power and commitment or cascading like a shower of glorious musical pearls.
Love Songs focuses upon the ghazal. The word ghazal is from the Arabic 'to converse with women', a dialogue between 'beauty and love' - filled with a great range of moods and feelings, both overt and esoteric. It originated in the land of Hafiz and Sadi (present-day Iran) - the home of the Persian language, Urdu, in which it is generally sung.
The popularity of the form, however, has led to the migration of the ghazal to wherever Asian people live in the world and into languages other than Urdu - such as Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati.
The Sufis have added many elements to the evolution of the ghazal - potent symbols like 'the wine', 'the rose', 'the nightingale'. 'Love', however, has remained the perennial theme.
The ghazal calls for acute interpretation and sensitivity from the performer. The lyrics, with their fleeting emotions, their symbolism and nuances, are perfectly expressed by the ecstatic voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Devotional Songs concentrates mainly on traditional religious songs. Sufi belief is the mystical branch of Islam and advocates the use of many paths to attain a state of grace or enlightenment - a 'stateless state.' Sufism is, fundamentally, a devotional form based upon the love of Allah, Mohammed and Ali. The heart of it is the heart itself.
In the lyric of one of the Qawwali songs we are warned: 'Do not accept the heart that is the slave to reason' which points towards the embrace of ecstasy and uninhibited release of energy which is advocated by some Sufi sects, although shunned by Orthodox Islam.
Qawwali means literally 'utterance' and, like the Christian Logos or Word of God, the Qawwali is a mouthpiece of Divine Power 'We do not sing - we are made to sing.'
- This is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in his full glory... ...with his regular accompanists of family members and friends, giving free rein to his truly exceptional vocal expression on the ghazal and qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufi. 4/5 R2 (Rock n Reel) Magazine (UK)
- The music exemplifies perfectly what qawwali music is all about. This is utterly sublime music that has been expertly crafted by the inspirational musicianship of Nusrat's intimate group and headed by the maestro himself. In qawwali music Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has no equal (in the modern era at least). An equivalent musician of such exalted stature might be Grand Maître Franco from the Congo, or Nigeria's Ransome Fela Kuti and that is truly some company to be compared with. UK Vibe
- ...after a decade or more of imitators, it is absolutely delightful... ...to hear the real thing again - the maestro at the height of his powers...4/5 Songlines Magazine (UK)
- ...the elevation in spirit intended by this mystical and inspirational music needs no translating. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was the man who brought the Sufi devotional music Qawwali to the masses thanks to extraordinary voice that transcended cultural barriers with its beauty and power. 5/5 recordcollectormag.com (UK)
- The artistry of his accompanying Party is faultless... ...a perfect balance of tabla drums, harmonium melodies, handclaps and ensemble singing. But this is simply the frame for the masterpiece itself - the great man's outstanding voice. World Music Central Online (UK)