Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Released 27 May 1991

  1. Beh Haadh Ramza Dhasdha
  2. Shahbaaz Qalandar
  3. Dhyahar-Eh-Ishq Meh
  4. Jewleh Lal

Liner notes

In less than a decade, Nusrat Feteh Ali Khan has achieved outstanding and unique success. His name is known throughout the whole Indian sub-continent. From the bustling modern city of Bombay to quiet and isolated villages in Northern Pakistan, new releases are eagerly anticipated and his concerts are packed out with rapturous audiences taping the performances or even making notes. Remarkable is the fact that Nusrat owes nothing to the Indian film industry— unlike most popular singers in India and Pakistan.

The foremost reason for his popularity is inventiveness— an ability to bring together separate traditions. To the popular Qawwali (devotional Sufi) form he has blended elements of the highly classical vocal tradition known as Khal (Persian for imagination)— a style once enjoyed only by the elite. In this way he has created a wholly original fusion. More importantly perhaps he also draws on a range of lyrical material, appealing to Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and even atheists.

For this, for the quality of the musicians in his Party and of course for his own virtuosity, he has gathered an enormous following— both of listeners and imitators. When asked about the latter, Nusrat reminds one that imitation is merely the sincerest form of flattery, especially in a culture where music is considered to be the property of everyone.

In the West, Nusrat is also building a reputation. This is his third release on Real World Records, following Shahen Shah and Mustt Mustt— a modern record which demonstrates his range and adaptability in a western environment.

Most Qawwali musicians seem to have been content with repeating a successful formula. But with Nusrat, it is as though he is continually both forgetting and reliving the six centuries of his family’s musical experience in a quest to find new and ever more daring paths to the sublime, carrying both eastern and western audiences to that realm known to the Sufis as Isshq— the state where earthly passion and divine love are reconciled.


About the Songs

1. Beh Haadh Ramza Dhasdha (He Manifests Himself In Many Forms)

This tells of the controversial tenth century Persian Sufi martyr Mansoor Al-Hallaj who was crucified for declaring ‘I am the truth’. A translation of these words is not given here. To most people they would mean little without a great deal of academic explanation. Many of the lyrics Nusrat sings are challenging in this way. They are like verbal puzzles full of puns and references and mean more each time they are heard. Only listeners thoroughly versed in the history, literature and languages of Islam fully understand them.


2. Shahbaaz Qalandar

Shabhaaz Qalander and Jewleh Lal are both immensely popular traditional lyrics about the thirteenth century Sufi master Lal Shahbaaz Qalander (the Red Falcon).


3. Dhyahar-Eh-Ishq Meh (The Realm of Love)

A modern song drawing on the poetry of Indian philosopher Mohammed Iqbal— the most important Urdu poet of the twentieth century and the last major Persian of India.

‘Behind Iqbal’s back the angels said to God “Iqbal is insolent, embellishing nature— what impertinence! He belongs to the earth yet his manner is of Heaven. He gives to angels the restlessness of man: yet to man he teaches the ways of God.

‘Build your home within the realm of love, Establish a new age. Make a new dawn, make a new sunset.

‘If God has given you an understanding of nature, then from the silence of flowers create speech.

‘I am no seeker of wealth— my search is of the soul. Do not betray yourself— make your name out of poverty.’


4. Jewleh Lal

‘Shahbaaz Qalandar, Jewleh Lal, your joyous disciples dance at your door.

‘Friends of Ali, you are spoken of in every street and there is no other like you in the world.

‘Through your prayers childless mothers are blessed with children. You comfort those who grieve. You unite the separated.

‘Enraptured are the rivers as are the oceans! Enraptured are the visible and the invisible! Each moment is rapture!

‘Your name is a torch— let it set my heart on fire!’


Traditional songs, arranged by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan vocals and harmonium, Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan vocals and harmonium, Dildar Hussain tabla, Mujahid Ali senior chorus, Rehment Ali chorus, Rahat Ali chorus, Asad Ali chorus, Ghulam Farid chorus, Khalid Mahmood chorus.

Recorded and mixed at Real World Studios, England. Produced by Micheal Brook. Engineered by David Bottrill. Assistant engineer Richard Blair.

With thanks to Rashid Ahmed-Din, Tabs, Mohammed Ayyub. Translation by Mahmood Hashmi. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan appears courtesy of Oriental Star Agencies. Design and Art Direction by Malcolm Garrett @ Assorted Images. Series identity by Garry Mouat. Photography Sue Belk.

Further Listening

  • Day of Colours

    Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali

    Released 02 March 2004

    Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali come into their own with a new-found maturity in their voices and a profundity in their approach that not only maintains and furthers a family tradition but develops their own identity as singers and breathes fresh life into a centuries-old style that has today become one of the glories of modern world music.
  • Ya Habib

    The Sabri Brothers

    Released 20 May 1990

    Recorded, as if in concert, at Real World Studios, Ya Habib consists of four long Qawwali songs, each combining powerful, sensitive, often improvised vocals with rhythmic percussion, thudding tabla and mesmeric harmonium drones.

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