Live at WOMAD 1985

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Released 23 July 2019

  1. Allah Ho Allah Ho
  2. Haq Ali Ali [CD/Digital only]
  3. Shahbaaz Qalandar
  4. Biba Sada Dil Mor De

Liner notes

Looking back, it’s impossible to over-estimate the significance of this moment of musical history. On the remote flat lands of Mersea Island in Essex in July 1985 an eclectic programme of music was unfolding at the WOMAD Festival. New Order appeared on the same bill as Tabu Ley Le Rochereau, The Fall and Penguin Café Orchestra— it was a remarkable line up.

At midnight on Saturday night July 20 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party took to the stage. The group sit cross-legged in two rows and for some minutes there is a silent pause. What unfolded over the following hours stunned the audience. And it impressed upon Nusrat his remarkable skill at communicating with audiences from a different culture and language and with no understanding of the deep and ancient traditions of qawwali music. Singing to a non-Asian audience for the first time this music transcended barriers and lead to long and successful relationship with WOMAD and Real Word Records and Peter Gabriel, until Nusrat’s death in 1997.

Until now this remarkable concert has been locked in archives, unheard for 34 years. The original analogue tapes have now been carefully restored and digitised. Much work has taken place at Real World Studios to regenerate the live experience, which will now be released on this, the 30th anniversary of Real World Records.

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. From the backing of rolling harmonium and chattering tabla the melody gradually evolves— slowly at first and then with building intensity. The hypnotic, improvised cycles of call and response between the singers reach fever pitch. Nusrat’s rich and soulful voice has never been surpassed in the world of qawwali music.

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

Four of the finest songs from this concert have been selected for this release. This is a live recording— raw and visceral. The songs extend and grow in a way that rarely happens in studio recordings. It includes a full-length 21-minute version of the iconic song ‘Allah Ho Allah Ho’.

Original photographs taken of the concert that night at WOMAD have been sourced and seen for the first time.

This a remarkable record of a magical event that changed the perception of Sufi music to a wider audience and set Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on a path to the international recognition of his genius.

Looking back on the legendary concert, and the impact it had on Nusrat's career, and the popularisation of Qawwali music.


  • The atmospheric recordings of the qawwali star have rightfully earned legendary status... Envy those people in 1985, hearing him for the first time. ★★★★★ Financial Times
  • By rights, the Pakistani singer's Mersea Island date of July 1985 should figure in any list of greatest gigs ever ★★★★ MOJO
  • Whether for longtime fans or new initiates, Live at WOMAD 1985 is an album to be treasured... It offers pure soul — each run up and down the scale a jolt of adrenaline, each beat of the tabla drum and each handclap making the heart pound faster and louder. NPR Music
  • The power of Ali Khan's voice stirs something in the inexplicable part of your being Hot Press



This recording was made on 8 track analogue tape on July 20th 1985 at the WOMAD Festival.

Tape digitisation by FX
Restored and mixed by Oli Jacobs at Real World Studios
Mastered by Nick Bennett at Revolution Mastering

Published by WOMAD Music Ltd/EMI Music Publishing Ltd
A Real World Design by Marc Bessant
Photography by Jak Kilby

Special thanks to Nida Nusrat Khan (The Estate of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) 
Usha Rajan (Custodian and sole representative of the Estate of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)

In memory of Alan James

Further Listening

  • Shahen Shah

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    Released 05 June 1989

    The emotional intensity and soaring power of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice transcends all boundaries of language and religion, and has popularised Sufi music beyond Muslim peoples to audiences worldwide. Amongst Real World Records’ most emblematic artists, Nusrat was known as Shahen-Shah-e-Qawwali: The Brightest Shining Star in Qawwali.
  • Night Song

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

    Released 01 March 1996

    The potent relationship between Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Canadian rock musician Michael Brook reached compelling emotional heights on this Grammy nominated sequel to Mustt Mustt. Once again the partnership tests the emotional boundaries of the human voice. It wasn't made in Detroit or Memphis, but this truly is soul music.

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.