Sacrifice to Love
The great qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan left behind big shoes to fill when he passed away in August 1997, but his nephews Rizwan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan do a respectful job carrying on the family's musical tradition. The two brothers are blessed with robust, wide-ranging voices, the kind Nusrat so expertly bent and twisted during his decades of singing. On the down side, the teens lack the reposed approach to this devotional music that Nusrat summoned so effortlessly for a gradual, varied, and syncopated ecstasy. Still, for a debut, the two demonstrate deft skill and deep comfort with their medium while abundant in youthful energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps with time we'll see that energy harnessed into a fuller, more colored approach to this ancient Sufi tradition. --Karen Karleski
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Some background for those unfamiliar with the artists: The brothers Rizwan and Muazzam Fateh Ali Khan were trained from a young age in the mystical, musical traditions of Sufi Islam, called Qawwali. Qawwali is a many centuries old trance music They are the heirs to the family tradition of Qawwali singers that included their uncle, the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Following in their uncle's footsteps, the brothers have elevated Qawwali music with increased dynamism. Although traditionally, Qawwali singers need to train for decades before they step out into the public eye, often in their late 30's or 40's, the brothers were only 21 when they recorded this album (already their second). Yet, there is no mistaking their polished skills and pure talent. Their youth makes their advanced talent and the intricacies of their music all the more remarkable.
Okay, enough background ... Sacrifice to Love is an incredible album filled with ecstatic trance music that evokes heightened states of consciousness. The brothers pick up where Nusrat left off, with all of his skill and grace. They employ many of the styles and techniques of their predecessor that became his signature. It is no surprise that it takes both of them to equal the vocal power of Nusrat by himself, but they still succeed in doing so. They are incredible singers, expertly enunciating complex lyrics with passionate precision. Only four songs fit on the album; this is due to the Qawwali tradition of songs lasting a half hour or more and they are usually drastically pared when recorded. The selections on this album are perhaps the most intense and hard-driving examples of Qawwali yet recorded.
Qawwali groups, known as "parties" consist of one or two lead vocalists, a side vocalist, two harmonium players, a tabla player, and four to six chorus singers, who also set the rhythm through hand claps. The passionate vocals, the swirling tones of harmonium and chorus, the incessant rhythm of handclaps and tabla combine into one living organism. Members of the party take turns carrying the theme of the song, improvising and playing with it, then handing it to another who does the same. Often the play of each other with call and answer, until suddenly the whole party erupts into a single voice then back again to a soloist.
The music is infectious, captivating, and nothing short of incredible, each song a 15-minute ride of raw jubilant emotion. One cannot help but be moved by the soaring force of the music, and mesmerized by its intricate, elaborate power. I have had the rare honor of seeing Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali live in concert. Though sitting cross-legged on the floor, Rizwan gets so into his singing that he literally leaves the floor on the most ecstatic passages.
Sacrifice to Love is an amazing album, one of the best world music albums ever. The legacy of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is in very good hands. That we could be blessed with Rizwan and Muazzam's music for decades to come is a wondrous prospect indeed.