Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - If Fire Could Sing

When I first heard Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan I was amazed at the power and passion in his voice and after hearing him use the sargam technique (assigning syllables to notes) in his solos I was floored.

The style of singing he sings is known as qawwali and it is a type of devotional singing in India and Pakistan where a group of singers are usually accompanied by a tabla and a harmonium while they sing songs devoted to various aspects of God and their beliefs.

Nusrat, who passed away in 1997, is the most well-known qawwali singer to the western world.  He collaborated with Peter Gabriel and others to create fusion albums that eventually were nominated for a Grammy. 

By far one of my favorite recordings of his is the album “Shahen-Shah” released in 1989.  It is traditional qawwali style and is full of energy and spirit.  You feel as if you are seated in a hall listening to the singers in front of you being transported to a level of reverence and ecstasy.

The song “Shamas-Ud-Doha, Badar-Ud-Doja” is my favorite and features Nusrat showcasing his amazing ability to sing the sargam technique with dexterity, quickness and rhythmic sophistication.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - "Shamas-Ud-Doha, Badar-Ud-Doja" 

His other fusion albums are definitely enjoyable and the power of his voice translates over any musical situation.  I have to say even though I enjoy listening to the fusion records, I prefer to hear him in his original traditional context.  There is a certain drive that happens when he is with his group and it is a joy to hear them play with the rhythms and reach higher and higher moments in the music.

Some of the fusion albums are:
“Mustt, Mustt”
“Night Song”

There also some great live performances online that will give you a sense of the group’s energy.  Check some of the out and let me know what you think.

“Allah Hoo” Televised concert as part of India and Pakistan Golden Jubilee Celebrations

“Dam Mast Qalander” performed at a concert welcoming Nelson Mandela during his visit to Birmingham, England 1993

Central Park New York Concert 1993


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