New Album Spotlight: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party at WOMAD in 1985 Photo © Andrew Catlin

I deeply love the unique, exhortative, and spirit-filled music of Pakistani sufi master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997). If you are unfamiliar with Nusrat and qawwali (sufi gospel) music, you can find some background in this post I wrote a few years ago.

Nusrat’s concerts were legendary for their intensity and power. He is no longer with us, but for those who have never heard him live, Real World Records recently released Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party - Live at WOMAD 1985 in celebration of the label’s 30th anniversary. The master was in his prime at this stunning performance with his 12-member band, including his young nephew, the teenage Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. It was an event to be remembered and cherished, and the recording of it had been previously unheard for 34 years. The new live album sounds amazing. Carefully restored from the original analogue tapes, the recording has been issued in all formats, including audiophile-quality 180g vinyl.

Live at WOMAD 1985 captures the magic of that July evening on Mersea Island, which proved to the music world that Nusrat could connect with audiences from different cultures who had no prior knowledge of qawwali music, the sufi devotional music from Pakistan. Nusrat and his group took to the stage at midnight to perform in front of a primarily non-Asian audience for the first time. Many in the mesmerized audience were moved to tears. This landmark show brought Nusrat into prominence in the west and marked the start of a long relationship between the artist and with WOMAD, Peter Gabriel, and Real World Records.

This video tells the interesting backstory of the concert and live recording:

There is no footage of the concert itself, but the following comes from WOMAD Yokohama, Japan, 1992. It features one of Nusrat’s most famous devotional songs, “Allah Hoo”: