The Last Prophet

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, 1994

As well as his extraordinary skills and the depth of his understanding of classical music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also has the incredible ability of moving audiences, regardless of their backgrounds. His stature amongst Islamic people worldwide is unsurpassed and he has even succeeded in introducing qawwali to a new non-Muslim audience. In 1985 he performed at the 1985 WOMAD festival in the UK before a mainly white audience and received an ecstatic reception. His appearances around the world and the success of album releases to a non-Asain public have won him fans in the most unexpected corners of the world. Even without an understanding of Persian poetry or the Urdu or Punjabi language Nusrat’s powers of communication break through to this wider audience. The driving, synchronised handclaps drive the rhythm forward, and the music builds. The singer’s hand and arm movements become expansive, dramatic gestures and the voices become more intense and complex. The dialogue between audience and musicians is central to qawwali and, without the connection of language, musical forms and rhythm are used to convey the concepts to achieve a trance and to induce ecstasy. The sheer power and beauty of the performance, the breathtaking virtuosity of the voices make it an experience that can overwhelm an audience.

MAKI MADNI
This song concerns our prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The writer is admiring him for his great stature: You are the Last Prophet, there is no one comparable to you in the whole universe. There is none so close to God. Everyone is proud of you. There have been many nations and prophets but there is no better nation than your nation, no greater prophet than your prophet. Other prophets had good things about them – but none has surpassed you in beauty. You are a shining light from head to toe. From Adam to Jesus no one is like you. As God has said in the Holy Qur’an: “I have made this universe for Muhammad. If Muhammad had not been born there would not have been anything on this earth”. Finally your greatest gift is the fact that God admires you so much that you will be the way to our forgiveness on the Day of Judgement’.

SAHIB TERI BANDI
‘Marifat’ can be interpreted as an inner knowledge not attainable by normal means. The Islamic mystical tradition shows a number of different paths to marifat. One example of a practise which brings one closer to the experience of ‘inner truth’ is that of presenting words within the mode of music. Interpreting and reinterpreting words gives them a wider context, creating a greater depth of meaning in what seems to be simple language in some Sufic texts. We call this ‘open’ poetry which is not related to a specific person but can be linked to anybody. Usually a person will relate it to their spiritual leader or the Sufi-Saint he or she follows.
The woman at the centre of this poem declares ‘I am your follower and I have dedicated my life to you. Whether I am good or bad you must accept me. Silly people tease me and say I have gone mad, but I have adapted my life as my leader has done. This is not just today’s decision- I have been engaged to you well before our birth. My beloved one is before my eyes continually – I walk from street to street in a state of excitement’.
This is a love song describing the feelings that surround the relationship of a person with their spiritual leader. Today the song may be expressed as a conventional love song between a boy and a girl. The interpretation of the theme can be flexible.

GUNJI-E-SHAKAR
This is written for our Sufi-Saint, Baba Farid Shakar Gunj. Here everything is written in admiration for him. Deep feelings are expressed about him: ‘Gunj-E-Shakar is mine, there is no other saint as generous as him. His name and his love are in every single part of my soul. He is my everything. Whenever I have a problem I call to him and it is solved. Why should I look to other saints when here is the place my problems are resolved? Other saints bow down to him- this is a special reward to him from God. Whoever comes to his tomb to pay homage will be blessed and their wishes will come true. No one will come away empty-handed’.

SOCHAN DONGIAN
A Girl is lamenting the fact that her boyfriend has sent her into a deep depression by refusing to tell her what she has done wrong: ‘He has left me and gone away- without letting me know my mistake. Please come back at once and tell me why you have left me alone. I am walking the streets like a mad woman. You have left me in such a state that everyone laughs at me’.

Reviews

  • 'Quite simply, when his voice gabbles and soars, you feel it might electrify a large city...Sublime.' Vox (UK)
  • '...finds him at his most innovative, exploring new ideas and untraditional directions, with subtle elements of polyphony and harmony enriching his composing.' The Wire (UK)
  • 'If this moves his music more easily towards the Western ear, his real genius is that he achieves this without compromising the visceral Pakistani traditions that provide the basis for his music.' The Wire (UK)
  • Four awesome, danceable religious tracks... ...with enough epiphanic power to whisk the grumpiest non-believer on a journey. Time Out (UK)
  • ...ravishing with a sustained intensity. Mojo (UK)
  • '...one of his best, going hand in hand with the eponymously titled Shahen Shah and later Shahbazz which are the more traditional albums he has made for Western listeners...I cherish every minute of this album.' World Music (UK)
  • 'If you MUST listen to mood-inducing music while you space out, why not try something really interesting, like this modern incarnation of Sufi devotional music? Truly hypnotic, with crescendos to boot.' Sky (UK)
  • '...there is no denying the sensual beauty pouring out of this recording. Its hypnotic, circular rhythms are spellbinding and the vocals come at you like heat-blasted dreams from another world.' The Drum Media (UK)