The Ghosts of Nusrat: Dub Qawwali

dub-qawwali.jpgNusrat Fateh Ali Khan has a new CD out. While that may seem unlikely, given that he passed away ten years ago, it’s true. Italian/British producer Gaudi took old master tapes from the early 1970s in the possession of Nusrat’s original Pakistani record label (Rehmat Gramohpone), and reinterpreted them with Dub/Reggae beats. The sound is fresh, if not technically new — a successful way to bring back the ghost of Nusrat in a recording studio. Dub Qawwali has recently been released on Six Degrees Records; Gaudi was interviewed by NPR here.

Dub Qawwali is a collection of Nusrat songs that, for the most part, I hadn’t heard before, though admittedly my Nusrat collection is hardly definitive. The production quality, for those who pay attention to such things, is flawless, and the sound is “warm” — mainly because Gaudi used live musicians and vintage analog equipment to create a rich soundscape. It’s most definitely not the cheesy Bally Sagoo remix approach, where you get the feeling that the whole thing was put together on a computer by a stoned teenager. Here is how the record label describes the approach:

The use of vintage analogue studio equipment and dub production techniques such as tape echoes, valve amps, Fender Rhodes, spring reverbs, Hammond organ and Moog, characterizes Gaudi’s production style, however it is not without its share of 21st century intervention and wizardry… Individual tracks from the original 70′s multi-track recordings often contained multiple parts together on them. These had to then be carefully cleaned up in order to make them usable in a way that would enable the composition of these new works. (This included much of the vocal parts which were mixed in the same track as the Harmonium and other instruments!) (link)

So, yeah, the CD sounds pretty good.

The one possible flaw, and it’s debatable, might be that the songs on Dub Qawwali are almost too mellow. Nusrat, as videos like this might attest, was at times a frenetic, ecstatic performer, not a chilled out crooner. On the other hand, he did do some ‘slow’ records — and there must be a time and place for mellow for everyone.

So it’s not rapture, but a different kind of transport, the gentle vocal nurturing of a shared spiritual journey. And healing, and peace: here, Nusrat’s voice acts as a kind of salve, easing the pain of existence… that, for me, is Nusrat’s ghost.

Apropos of that, one song Gaudi reworks on this CD, which I had heard before, is the classic ghazal “Jab Tere Dard”:

Jab Tere Dard Mein Dil Dukhta Tha
Hum Tere Haq Mein Dua Karte Thay
Hum Bhee Chup Chaap Phira Karte The
Jab Teri Dhun Mein Jiya Karte The

(You can listen to the original, non remixed version here)

A prize goes to the person who translates the above lines first (give a link to your email address).

46 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Nusrat: Dub Qawwali

  1. Nusrat, as videos like this might attest, was at times a frenetic, ecstatic performer, not a chilled out crooner.

    well, ecstasy is the entire point of a qawwali – it’s the climax, the oneness with god that a qawwal is trying to reach. and out of all the qawwals i have heard, NFAK gets that bit perfect, always, in his qawwalis. i guess his slower records (ones that never reach that frenetic pace) are not technically qawwalis. but i did love night song – he has such a beautiful voice and it was nice to see it displayed in a different range.

    i’m surprised this album took so long to come out (or maybe they waited for an anniversary year) – after he died, at least 10 alums came out claiming to be his last.

    amardeep – can you tell us which of your NFAK qawwalis is your favourite?

  2. Jab Tere Dard Mein Dil Dukhta Tha: When my heart use to ache in your memory, Hum Tere Haq Mein Dua Karte Thay: I used to make wishes on your behalf Hum Bhee Chup Chaap Phira Karte The: I used to walk around quietly Jab Teri Dhun Mein Jiya Karte The: When I used to live in your memory/music

  3. I’ve always preferred live recordings to studio produced recordings of NFAK, but I will definitely check this cd out, Amardeep.

    Personally, one of my favorite Nusrat tracks is the recording of Nee Main Jana Jogi De Naal from what I’ve found out is his Live from India album – a track that I somehow had on a random recorded tape (which I’ve lost) but haven’t been able to find anywhere. Can anyone help? Each recording of this qawwali is slightly different, and I’ve been looking for this specific version for a WHILE now.

    Jab Tere Dard Mein Dil Dukhta Tha

    When my heart would ache from your pain

    Hum Tere Haq Mein Dua Karte Thay

    I would pray on your behalf

    Hum Bhee Chup Chaap Phira Karte The

    I would also wander quietly

    Jab Teri Dhun Mein Jiya Karte The

    When I would live my life in your melody

    Close? :) Any prize for effort?

  4. OK Amardeep, I am listening to the NPR segment. I wonder who else can be better than Nusrat, Yamla Jatt, and Gurdas Mann? Here is my lame attempt to translate lines of Jab Tere Dard song.

    “When my heart ached in pain of your remembrance Just only for you, I prayed to Allah in reverence I also wondered around and around in silence and that in when I breathed in your assonance “

  5. Ok, I’m worried someone might do it earlier than me, so a fast translation with my knowledge of 25 years of Hyderabadi Hindi + Urdu

    Jab Tere Dard Mein Dil Dukhta Tha Hum Tere Haq Mein Dua Karte Thay Hum Bhee Chup Chaap Phira Karte The Jab Teri Dhun Mein Jiya Karte The

    When my heart was in pain because of you(r memory), I used to pray for you, When I lived to the tune (of your love) Silently, I used to sway.

    – Of course, I won’t contest if someone can put it more beautifully (I’m sure somebody will :) , if it’s not already up)

  6. So funny that Urdu, when translated, has slightly different meanings to different people. Reading the slightly differing interpretations in posts 2 and 3 reminds me of family arguments over the dinner table as to the proper translations of Urdu phrases in old songs. Makes me wonder what connotation is lost in the translation, and makes me wish I actually understood Urdu as a first language.

  7. Thanks for the tip. I actually like the no fireworks approach (from both Gaudi and NFAK). As an uncle w/ mind on my money, I’m downloading it from emusic.

  8. So funny that Urdu, when translated, has slightly different meanings to different people.

    When I was editing a documentary that featured some Pakistani devotional singers, the director and his uncle agonized FOR AGES about how to translate the lines. Like, seriously, it was the most painful part of the subtitling and they kept trying to explain how it was all so much prettier in Urdu and had all these layers of meaning that they couldn’t convey in English. I’m just sorry I couldn’t appreciate it. :)

  9. emusic has a surprisingly extensive collection – but no real world label work :(

    amardeep – i’m going to check out jab dard…my favourite, btw, is tumhein dillagi bhool jani padegi – it’s of the fireworks/frenetic variety :)

  10. hmm, another NFAK remix.. so am a little skeptical. Will check it out once I get off work but till date I am a big fan of his original stuff (yes the 20 minute long ones) but do not like much any of his ‘selling out to the masses’ stuff in his later years. Even stuff he was involved with like Sangam which I don’t like. And speaking of NFAK doing mellow, check out his stuff for The Last Temptation of Christ, quite good and if I remember correctly mellow though it’s been a while since I heard it and may be wrong. Also, I had some stuff which was part French but can’t find it which also was quite mellow.

  11. Won’t ‘dhun’ here mean something stronger based on the context than melody or tune, rather passion or obsession. Like when we say, ‘Dhun savaar hona’ as in get obsessed with something.

  12. Actually of all the random places, I found this cd collection with live recordings of NFAK at Borders. I think the series is called The Early Years – recordings from the late 70′s and early 80′s – gooooood stuff. I only bought one of the cd’s so far, but it’s a 2 disc set with a total of about 6 tracks (because each track is 20 to 30 minutes long).

  13. Here’s another NPR story on the Gaudi’s remix which has streaming versions of two of his songs: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12201563

    On “Bethe Bethe Kese Kese” he uses a recording of MK Gandhi saying “In the midst of death life persists etc…”. Question: is it a mild case of orientalism to mix two sage-like brown men together ? Discuss :)

    I quite like his stuff. It’s great music to play while at work (sacrilege, I know).

  14. wow… gaudi remixing nusrat will be interesting to hear i thought the guy was mainly underground uk trance/club scene but i guess hes more popular now one of my favorite gaudi tracks is “sufani” from his album bass,sweat,& tears – its got an indian/middle eastern beat album itself is a must hear

  15. Fuerza,

    I have the ‘Ni Main Jaana Jogi de Naal’ from his live concert in Paris. Its one of my favourites. I can email the mp3 to you if you want.

    I am glad to see that there are so many fans of Nusrat on here. My father introduced me to the music when I first moved to US. Its funny how I discovered a pakistani jewel only when I moved to US. My father actually had the pleasure of seeing him live and of talking to him. My favourites qawwalis of Nusrat are his punjabi qawwalis. Before him, Urdu was the preferred language of Qawwali and no one cared to sing them in Punjabi. But Nusrat single handedly brought the Punjabi Qawwali back and his devotion to the classic Punjabi poems (Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu) and poets like Waris Shah is unmatched. Great stuff.

    My favourite which I don’t have anymore (my car got broken into and they stole the CDs.bastards) is ‘Oh Disdi Kuli Yaar Di’. That whole qawwali is about the time when Sohni died crossing the river to meet Mahiwal. She used to float on an upside down earthen pitcher and one night her sister in law (I think) switched the earthen pitcher with a defective one. As she started crossing the river, the pticher started melting and she drowned. The whole qawwali is about her conversation with the pitcher where she pleads to it that she can see the house of her lover (Kuli yaar di) and the pitcher pleads that the river bank is too far and it won’t be able to get her across.

    Its just pure genius. A more detailed description of the soni mahiwal is here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sohni_Mahiwal#The_End

  16. No problem. I will need your email addresses and I will send the file once I get home tonight.

  17. anyone listen to kcrw 89.7 in LA? not sure which songs of his they are playing lately. one was really good. sounds electic, which probably has played those is syndicated. used to hear it in bmore.

  18. jithe wandan aawaan khushbo othe mera yaar wasda jithe chan de bagaair hundi lo othe mera yaar wasda

    jithon kadi dardi khazaa nahiyon langdi jithe pailaan paondi ei bahaar sat rangdi jihnu takde ne badal khalo othe mera yaar wasda

    dasnaa nahi main oh thaan kehrhi thaan ei kehrhi hai oh jhok us pind da ki naam ei jithe khaab jande khaabaan wich kho othe mera yaar wasda

    eho jehi masti naa jantaan ch labhdi jhooth na main kahwaan mainu saun lage rab di bina peeteyaan hi nasha janda ho othe mera yaar wasda

    jithe wandan aawaan khushbo othe mera yaar wasda jithe pawan wi langdi khalo othe mera yaar wasda

  19. I can take a shot at it…

    jithe wandan aawaan khushbo (Where the winds spread fragrance or Where are winds are fragrant) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides) jithe chan de bagaair hundi lo (where there is light even without the moon. (I think this means a place without moonless/dark nights)) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides)

    jithon kadi dardi khazaa nahiyon langdi (Where even death is afraid to walk through.) jithe pailaan paondi ei bahaar sat rangdi (where the seven coulored Spring dances) jihnu takde ne badal khalo (even the clouds stop to gaze upon this place) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides)

    dasnaa nahi main oh thaan kehrhi thaan ei ( I am not going to tell which place it is ) kehrhi hai oh jhok us pind da ki naam ei ( which village (jhok could refer to the locality but is generally thought of as a village) it is or what the name of that village is) jithe khaab jande khaabaan wich kho ( where the dreams gets lost in dreams) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides)

    eho jehi masti naa jantaan ch labhdi ( One can’t find this joy even in the heavens) jhooth na main kahwaan mainu saun lage rab di ( I am not lying I swear to the almighty) bina peeteyaan hi nasha janda ho ( one gets intoxicated without drinking ) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides)

    jithe wandan aawaan khushbo ( where the winds are fragrant) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides) jithe pawan wi langdi khalo ( where even the the wind (pavan??) stops to notice) othe mera yaar wasda (Thats where my lover resides)

    Obviously the english parts are not as poetic as the punjabi verses. I am sure someone else can do a more proper translation but this should give you a general idea.

    By the way, where is this song from. Is it one of Nusrat’s? I have never heard it before.

  20. BariBarsi:

    Great translation. If you like Sohni Mahiwal, this is a contemporary take on it (no comparison to Nusrat or Dev Thareekewala’s songs like “Mainun paar langha de ve, ghariya minnatan teriyan kardi”). But it’s not bad if you look past the cheesy video.

    By the way, at least in the context of South Asia (not a term I use often but it seems to fit here), qawaalis were always in Sindhi or Punjabi, for centuries…prior to the 1800s, I don’t think you would have ever heard an Urdu qawaali.

  21. Amitabh,

    I misspoke regarding the punjabi qawwalis. I meant to say the dominance of urdu ghazal over the sufi qawwali. Qawwalis were not that mainstream until Nusrat came along. You saw one or two qawwalis in bollywood movies but they were always in Hindustani (mix of urdu and hindi) never in Punjabi.

    “Mainun paar langha de ve, ghariya minnatan teriyan kardi” That is indeed quite an amazing song.

  22. BaariBarsi:

    Sohni Mahiwal is one of my favorite Punjabi love stories. Do you think you could send me the kuli yaar di track? I’d be forever grateful. :D

  23. Fuerza

    I actually don’t have that track. My CD was stolen and I have not been able to find a replacement yet.

  24. In 2000, my car was broken into….like an idiot, I had left my laptop in there…they also stole a discman…and broke the windshield of course to break in in the first place…all said and done, my ‘nuksaan’ was over a thousand dollars…BUT they left ALL my musical cd’s lying there intact…I was so grateful to have my music that I didn’t even care that my computer was gone. I was kind of offended that an amazing desi musical collection was deemed unworthy of being stolen though (just kidding).

  25. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a divine voice from the heaven.He will always be the greatest composer and a qawwali singer.His divine voice crossed all the boundaries made my man under the sun.

    I am looking for a link to download this Dub Qawwali.Plz share if you have,thanks in anticipation.

    May His Soul Rest In Peace.

  26. Does anyone know who sings this song? You guys mentioned it above. I have the song on a cassette but there’s no artist or song titles. Thanks!

    “Mainun paar langha de ve, ghariya minnatan teriyan kardi”

  27. Okay a followup to my previous comment. Also, this person sings the following songs. I don’t know if these are titles of the songs, but those are lyrics out of those songs all on the same cassette.

    -Shahe-Medina -Mareya Dhost Khoon -Moo Te Na Mitera Poong -Main Roj Balma Pendhi

    Any help? Thanks.

  28. For SS : ‘Vigadh Gayi e Thode Dina To’ from ‘A Tribute To Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’ [Nupur Audio]

    For BariBarsi : Great translation, I have a suggestion though : Jitho kadi dar di khizan naiyon langdi – where the autumn of fear never treads/walks

    For a little background info on Qawwali, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yco-mKU1To

  29. helloo people, friends, brotherhoods…

    i really felt not only excited, i felt iluminated after to hear these album, really amazing

    BY THE WAY, CAN SOMEONE PLEASE, PLEASE TRANSLATE THE “BETHE BETHE KESE KESE” LYRICS.. IF SOME ONE DOES, ILL BE AND MANY PPLE LL BE HAPPY IT SEEMS THIS IS THE SONG FOR MY LOVE ONE….

    WAITING FOR YOUR REPLYS,,, BEST REGARDS

  30. For Alexis:

    Bethe Bethe = Sitting Idly Kaise Kaise = What All Rog Lagaye = Maladies inflicted Dil ne Hamare = By My Heart

    [While I was] Sitting idly, what all maladies were inflicted [on me] by my heart

    Tune kisi ka naam liya = You took someone’s name Aur Aankhon mein meri aansoon aaye = And tears welled up in my eyes