Rating : 5/10
Reviewed by Ankur Sardana
Trying to understand a master can lead to serious disillusionment or a lifetime of peace.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan [NFAK] hardly lets people enter his mind and heart during the many interviews which have been video recorded. A shy mystic, either he was too aware of the damage a personal relationship with his audience could do, or he was a simple, unadulterated gift from Nature,providing experiences which turn atheists into believers. Masters who bring back humanity and positive irrationality into the viewers, readers or listeners. Such an effect can only happen in performing arts and with artists who are beyond categories.
I belong to an India where audio cassettes meant much more than what CDs mean today. The affordance was too high and the impact huge. New audio cassettes were bought as a gift for performing well in class and as a ritual before the long car journeys to the hills. And NFAK is someone who was always in the car and in the cassette drawer at home. I remember listening to this voice over and over again and never getting tired of it, having heard nothing like that before or after. It was not simple to hear him, one couldn’t just play it in the background and forget about it. It was, and is, the music which demands your attention and by an artist who wants you to look at him even when he is not visible.
And what is that NFAK want generations to remember – “They should make an effort to listen to good music”. Is this naive or too deep? [Watch it in the interview below, which also captures the complete family history, qawwali structure, his troupe and much more. Inspite of the interviewer being poker faced, she does manage to get NFAK smile a couple of times.]
Talking about the nuances of his life will be useless as there is and will always be enough material on him on the internet. So I’ll spare the intelligent reader.
Pierre – Alain Baud, has arranged/written more of a catalogue of NFAKs pursuits in music rather than get down to understanding the man in depth. Maybe he knows that digging in deep would be futile, since the ecstasy is in the music, which anyways has to be experienced and cannot be written much about.
But what he does is archive and archive well. It guides you to two very important documentaries, one from which he borrows heavily.
The last prophet. Watch it for the story, the cinematography and the music.
The other is Nusrat Has Left the Building… But When?
It talks about (without narration or dialogues) the change (read fall) in Nursat’s music as he sold himself to the West. Shot as a project of a film&video student would have shot, it does make you uncomfortable.
& now this
The one earlier, which is a fusion with Micheal Brook, is ephemeral but the one below just get you completely exhausted with involvement and raw genius.
If for nothing, reading this book, brings back all the memories and the music. Which is worth it.