Mustt Mustt

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

Released 12 November 1990

  1. Mustt Mustt (Lost In His Works)
  2. Nothing Without You (Tery Bina)
  3. Tracery
  4. The Game
  5. Taa Deem
  6. Sea Of Vapours
  7. Fault Lines
  8. Tana Dery Na
  9. Shadow
  10. Avenue
  11. Mustt Mustt (Massive Attack Remix)

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

Liner notes

The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is today acknowledged as the great master of Qawwali —the devotional music of the Sufis— who popularised this beautiful and inspirational music beyond Muslim peoples to a worldwide audience and into a whole new musical territory. This album shows Nusrat’s willingness to experiment with his music —to strive for new ideas and to listen to new styles —and to create more contemporary albums that could sit alongside the traditional collection.

In their Qawwali performances, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party already modify their style to suit the audience. The Asian younger generation never used to bother with Qawwali —it bored them and was too slow. They wanted faster beats. “I made my own style,” says Nusrat, “We update Qawwali with the times.”

The opening song, ‘Mustt Mustt’, draws upon various devotional lyrics about a particular Sufi saint, upon which Nusrat has then improvised. ‘Tery Bina’ is a romantic song based upon the Qawwali style, in which a lover claims: “I cannot live peacefully without you for even a moment. I miss you terribly when you are away.”

Nusrat records in The Work Room with Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan.

These are the only two songs with actual lyrics; the rest are classical vocal exercises in which the words have no meaning but are used for the quality of their sound. These notations are selected to fit particular ragas. The generic term for them is Tarana, of which there are many different kinds.

“Music is an international language,” says Nusrat, pointing out that words are unnecessary to appreciate his music.

Producer Michael Brook emphasises that they had no real communication difficulties. “You have language problems, but in fact you need a very simple vocabulary to talk about music if you’re playing it.” He was surprised by “the mutual enthusiasm of Nusrat and all the musicians.  Everyone was excited— there really was a collaboration and that’s all we could have hoped for…”

Instruments from different continents were used, like the big Brazilian drum —the surdu, and the Senegalese djembe, alongside Indian tabla and harmonium, plus bass, keyboards and Michael’s invention, the ‘infinite guitar’. The project also mixed musicians from different cultures. Michael is Canadian, Nusrat, Farrukh and Dildar from Pakistan, Robert Ahwai is culturally West Indian, Darryl Johnson is from New Orleans, James Pinker from New Zealand.  As Michael points out, “Although it wasn’t painless —it worked.”

“I’d ideally hoped we could show a more delicate side of Nusrat’s singing. I love all the fireworks and the heavy metal solos that he does, but I thought it would be nice to bring out a slower, more introspective component.” Michael Brook, Producer

Different tracks came about in different ways. ‘Fault Lines’ was changed a lot after it was recorded, with the basic pattern becoming a small part of the track. ‘Sea of Vapours’, like other tracks, had the ‘infinite guitar’ added afterwards because of time constraints. By contrast ‘Avenue’ has everyone playing live. ‘The Game’ started from a drum pattern donated by Peter Gabriel. ‘Tracery’ has nine beats in one cycle and eleven in another cycle. Michael comments, “Nusrat liked the challenge of that. He is an amazing musician. The whole chorus line fits perfectly and feels very natural. The palette he has to choose from is mind-bogglingly large.”

When the melodic phrase of a Qawwali, or devotional song, is repeated, it conveys the meaning of the accompanying lyrics even when the words are not sung. “A lot of the tracks were much longer so we shortened things, cut phrases out, moved the voice around, repeated sections and joined sections together.” This is where the only problem arose.

‘We made some edits that were not acceptable to Nusrat, because we’d cut a phrase in half —sometimes there were actual lyrics that we made nonsense of,’ says Michael. ‘Sometimes even though they were just singing Sa Re Ga we had interfered with the meaning of the phrase.’ A compromise was achieved —important lyrics phrases were restored without losing the musical structure Michael had developed.

So a halfway point was reached between east and west in songwriting, in performance and in attitude.

Drawn from interviews by Helen M. Jerome

The traditional iteration of 'Mustt Mustt', performed live by Nusrat and the Party at WOMAD Yokohama 1992

Reviews

  • Transcendant moments are abundant as the singer lives out the famous Qawwali motto: 'We do not sing, we are made to sing' ★★★★★ MOJO (UK)
  • You don't have to understand the foreign tongues to appreciate the ecstatic quality of Nusrat's voice, as he chops up words and phrases in long, flowing linest. As a bonus, the reissue includes Massive Attack's famous trip-hop remix of the title track, which became the first record sung in Urdu to make the British charts. Hi-Fi Choice (UK)

Listen

Credits

All songs by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (published by WOMAD Music Ltd) except A3, B2, B5 by Michael Brook (published by Opal Music); B3 by Michael Brook and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; A4 by Robert Ahwai, Michael Brook, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Darryl Johnson and James Pinker (published by Opal Music /WOMAD Music Ltd).

Recorded and mixed at Real World Studios
Produced by Michael Brook. Engineered by David Bottrill. Assistant engineer Richard Blair. Mixed by Michael Brook and David Bottrill except track 11 mixed by Massive Attack.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: vocals
Robert Ahwai: guitar A1, A2, A3, A4, B5
David Bottrill: djembe A1; synthesizer B1; surdu B3; digital edit on the Real World tablet B4
Michael Brook: guitar A1, A2, A3, B2, B3; bass A2; djembe A4; infinite guitar A4, A5, B1, B5; surdu A5; synthesizer B1, A3; percussion A3
Darryl Johnson: bass A1; synthesizer A2; moog bass pedals A4, A5, B2; piano A4; djembe A5; buzz bass B1; clay drums B5
Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan: harmonium, vocals
James Pinker: djembe A1; hairy drum A2; gong bass A3; bongos A4; djembe A5, B5; percussion B2
Dildar Hussein: tablas A2, A3, B2, B3, B5

With thanks to Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Rashid Ahmed-Din, Tabs, Mohammed Ayyub
A Real World Design
Front cover detail from ‘Chant’ by Russell Mills © 1990
Photography (front cover) David Buckland
(back cover) Dave Peabody

Further Listening

  • 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.
  • Star Rise

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

    Released 06 October 1997

    From the Asian Underground, the new stars emerge to interpret the greatest singer of Qawwali music. This album features a series of remixes of songs which originally appeared on Nusrat and Michael Brook’s albums Mustt Mustt and Night Song.

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