Star Crossed (Dum Dum Ali Ali)

The late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a master of traditional Qawwali music who came from a 600-year lineage of master musicians. For his generation, he was the face, voice and embodiment of ancient musical and spiritual traditions going back thousands of years. All that history and tradition aside, he wasn’t above writing some Bollywood soundtracks, either, or collaborating with secular Western pop stars like Peter Gabriel, or allowing his music to be remixed. It was his openness towards the modern and interest in the contemporary, of course, that allowed him to become one of the best known world-music superstars, and to bring a musical style that was considered old-fashioned and obscure even in his native Pakistan to millions of people around the world. In other words, it was Khan and his pop-oriented remix albums that allowed a white person sitting in America to even know what Qawwali music is. (It’s Sufi Islamic devotional music originating in Pakistan and Northern India.) He released dozens of records during his relatively short career, and although not all of them were designed to be accessible to Western pop fans, there were many that served as an invitation to delve deeper into more traditional forms of music. Many of the songs on records like Visions and Ecstasy, released with English titles and in pop-song adjacent form, can be found on other records in a more traditional style. For English speakers, it’s a confusing array to navigate, but it’s hard to go wrong with the work of an acclaimed master.

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