Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 302
Sun, Nov 11, 2012
Today we’re honoring the voice that Jeff Buckley once dubbed, “Nusrat, he’s my Elvis.” Jeff was talking about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Nusrat was as a Pakistan vocalist who was best known as a singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis. Nusrat became renowned in the western world when in 1985 when he collaborated with Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ and later, in 1990. released a record with Michael Brook Mustt Mustt on Gabriel’s Real World record label dedicated to bringing international music to the music globe.
I was first learned about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan when my virgin ears were just out of high school, at my first record store job my crazy manager Stephen would blow our minds by introducing us to other worldly rhythms from such artists as John Zorn’s Naked City, Ali Farka Touré’s Talking Timbuktu but my personal favorite – discovering the interstellar vocals of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Hearing Ali Khan sing his spiritual songs was like listening to a message from the musical Gods. I guarantee you will never forget the first time you discover the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Pearl Jam fans will recognize “The Face of Love,” as one of two songs, Eddie Vedder recorded with Nusrat for the eclectic soundtrack to Tim Robbins 1995 film Dead Man Walking. Vedder talked to Uncut UK about working with Ali Khan when he said, “Well, it was intimidating on many levels. We worked together for a few days – we were put together by Tim Robbins for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack – and everything had to go through an interpreter because I was told he didn’t really speak English. He was very centered, like a Buddhist statue in many ways and he looked like he was made of stone! And when he sang, it was like he was channeling something incredibly powerful and spiritual.”
Four years after Ten, working with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Eddie Vedder earned my respect. Instead of going for more mainstream success, an established Vedder invited his young audience to experience the magic and wonder of Qawwali music when he collaborated with Nusrat. Eddie Vedder talked about with Tim Robbins on his philosophy behind writing and recording songs like “The Face of Love” when he explained, “When I write some songs… there’s some kind of place where art exists, or the creation of art exists, and it’s somewhere between reality and space. Sometimes getting there takes some time, getting into that right place in the universe to make this stuff. It’s just a question of finding that place to create from. I think even when we mix the record we’re getting into that place. It’s like the place you used to visit when you were a kid with headphones on, in the dark, with closed eyes. There is a kind of focus that’s either ten feet in front of your head or a million miles away or somewhere in between. And getting to that place, we do that so when the people, when they listen to it, we’ve put it together with them in mind. Not many people hear music that way, and who knows how this generation listens to records these days. They pull one song off a computer. We’re still making records for people who listen to it all the way through, eyes closed, in that space.”
We invite you to plug in with your headphones and experience the powerful beauty in this magical collaboration between Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Vedder did share an amusing anecdote while recording “The Face of Love” with Nusrat when he said, “After two days of talking through the interpreter, we were left in the room alone, and he looked at me and said, in perfect English: “You have a very nice voice.” And it was like that scene in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, where the Indian guy finally talks to Jack Nicholson. I thought, you son of a bitch!”
Eddie seriously explained to Cameron Crowe in Pearl Jam Twenty what it meant to share the stage and song with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan when he said, “Singing with Nusrat was pretty heavy. I was lucky to work with Nusrat, a true musician who won’t be replaced in my life. There was definitely a spiritual element in his music. I saw him warm up once, and I walked out of the room and just broke down. I mean, God, what amazing power and energy!” Convinced? Get ready to feel the sound of musical enlightenment of this mystical duet; let Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan welcome you inside the glorious wonder that is “The Face of Love.”