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Exotic inspiration

Intoxicated Spirit
Intoxicated Spirit
By Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Shanachie Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the August 16, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

The newest album by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who made his name in the West through his work with rock star Peter Gabriel and new age artist Michale Brook, is a collection of more traditional Pakistani music. It's a beautiful music, this qawwali, strongly influenced by both the Islamic Middle East and the Hindu Indian subcontinent.

And forget four-minute hit song; this album runs over 70 minutes, yet contains only four songs: thus is the nature of the devotional "trance" song. While the lyrics are strongly Islamic in orientation, the music itself is closer to the familiar-to-Western ears Indian Hindu styles, with sitar and tabla among the instruments. In structure, too – at least to untrained American ears – th emusic seems closer to Indian raga than to Arabic forms.

Westerners may find this music takes some getting used to – the call and response vocals, the swirling melodies, the chanting – and it may be more likely to go over well in a dormroom than at a bridge party. For anyone with an adventurous bone in their body, though, it's well worth checking out.