Ohhh, I can’t believe no one has noded Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, other than in a reference to the pentatonic scale by pingouin. I am not a musician and am not in the least qualified to describe his music, but I will give it my best shot because I love Nusrat and I think he should have some mention in Everything2.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was trained in a tradition of voice called Qawwali, a training centuries old, in which the words, wisdom and voices of Sufi’s and mystics are brought together. But Nusrat brought Qawwali out of the villages of India and into the world. His music exploded in Great Britain and the U.S. for a time and influenced such musicians as Peter Gabriel.

Umm, how do I describe Nusrat’s music? Well, Nusrat does great scat, by which I mean that he can improvize, move up and down scales, change rhythm with ease - wonderful control and a masterful sense of rhythm. In earlier recordings, he is accompanied by a band of tabla drummers and backup singers, sometimes a saxophone, but in later releases, he increased the instrumentation.

Nusrat’s final concert was held on May 4th, 1997. He died that August. I believe he trained a nephew to carry on the tradition of Qawwali, but I haven’t heard anything further about that.

I never knew exactly what he was singing about and don’t really want to know - I am not that interested in lyrics. I asked an Indian friend once, and he said that for the most part, Nusrat is saying, “Oh, please don’t be bad to each other" in various ways. In any event, there is a quality of feeling to his voice that is unique and very moving and I would highly recommend that anyone not familiar with his music listen to it. It's much fun.

I am horrified that someone would simplify the lyrics of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's songs to " 'Oh, please don't be bad to each other' in various ways."

Nusrat's songs derive from an ancient Sufi tradition--the mystical Islamic tradition that glorifies a sublimely transcendent and fiercely immanent God. His lyrics range from the most human, emotional, painful and blissful experiences of God as a friend and lover, to the most sublime, cosmological, and universal aspects of a God in comparison with whom we are nothing. Some examples of his most lyrically beautiful songs include:

Sanson Ki Mala Pe Simaroon Mein Pi Ka Naam
The title means: "I pray the name of God on a rosary of breaths." Muslims (like Hindus and many Christians) use a string of beads to keep track of certain prayers. In this song, Nusrat is using each breath as a bead, keeping God on his mind continuously. As the song progresses, he becomes lost in the prayers, and night falls without him noticing the passage of time. Eventually, Nusrat becomes the prayers themselves.

Kiven Mukhare Toh Nazaran Hatavan Ve Tere Vich Rab Disadan
The title means: "How can I avert my gaze from your face, as I see God in you?" This song intoxicates me; the idea of a love so strong and pure that it centers on the image of God is such a beautiful concept!

Tumhen Dil Lagi Bhul Jani Paregi
This song compares the minor loves of our world to the true Love of God. The title translates as "You'll have to forget these small loves..." For this song translating some principle verses is worthwhile:

Tumhen dil lagi bhul jani paregi; muhabbat ki rahon mein aa kar to dekho.
You'll have to forget all these small loves . . . take a chance and bask in the light of the true Love.

Tarapane pe mere na phir tum hasoge, kabhi dil kisi se laga kar to deko.
You'll no longer laugh at my anguish, if you take a chance at the true Love.

Zakham pe zakham kha ke ji. Zakham pe zakham kha ke ji. Apane lahu ke ghunt pi. Aha! na kar, labon ko si, ishq hai ye dil lagi nahin!
Suffer wound after wound. Survive by drinking your own blood. Don't complain and shout, this is the true Love, not some minor attachment!

Yeh ishq nahi asan, bas itna samajalijiye. Ik aag ka dariya hai aur dub ke jana hai.
This Love is not easy, understand this much. It's a river of fire crossed only by drowning.

Wafaon ki humse tawwaqo nahin hai; magar ek bar azaman kar to dekho.
We are faithless and not known for our loyalty, but oh Lord, take a chance on us just once!

Zamane ko apana bana kar to dekha, hame bhi tum apana bana kar to dekho.
You made the entire world yours, now Lord make me yours too!

I apologize for awkwardness in the translation, as I am neither a skilled translator or poet, I just did the best I could.

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