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Babbling Brook a compendium of articles reviews and interviews

Mustt Mustt liner notes
drawn from interviews by Helen M. Jerome
[reprinted here without permission]

Mustt Mustt

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is today acknowleged as the greatest living master of 'Qawwali' - the devotional music of the Sufis. Having popularized this beautiful and inspirational music beyond Muslim peoples to a worldwide audience he explores now, for the first time, a whole new musical territory.

In their Qawwali performances, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party already modify their style to suit the audience. The Asian younger generation never used to bother with Qawwali - it bored them and was too slow. They wanted faster beats. "I made my own style," says Nusrat. "We update Qawwali with the times."

Nusrat was happy to experiment on this album - he is always striving for new ideas, just as he is listening to new styles of music. This doesn't mean he'll now stick entirely to modern techniques - traditional albums like Shahen-Shah and those recorded in Pakistan will continue to be made.

The opening song, "Mustt Musst," draws upon various devotional lyrics about a particular Sufi saint, upon which Nusrat had then improvised. While "Tery Bina" is a romantic song, based upon the Qawwali style, in which a lover claims: "I cannot live peacefully without you for even a moment. I miss you terribly when you are away."

These are the only two songs with actual lyrics; the rest are classical vocal exercises in which the words have no meaning but are used for the quality of their sound. These notations are selected to fit partiular ragas. The generic term for them is Tarana, of which there are many different kinds.

"Music is an international language," says Nusrat, pointing out that words are unnecessary to appreciate his music.

Producer Michael Brook emphasises that they had no real communication difficulties. "You have language problems, but in fact you need a very simple vocabulary to talk about music if you're playing it." He was suprised by "the mutual enthusisan of Nusrat and all the musicians. Everyone was excited - there really was a collaboration and that's all we could have hoped for..."

Instruments from different continents were used, like the big Brazilian drum - the surdu, and the Senegalese djembe, alongside Indian tabla and harmonium, plus bass, keyboards and Michael's invention, the "infinite guitar." The project also mixed musicians from different cultures. Michael is Canadian, Nusrat, Farrukh and Dildar are from Pakistan, Robert Ahwai is culturally West Indian, Darryl Johnson is from New Orleas, James Pinker from New Zealand. As Michael points out, "Although it wasn't painless - it worked."

"I'd really hoped we could show a more delicate side of Nusrat's singing. I love all the fireworks and the heavy metal solos that he does, but I thought it would be nice to bring out a slower, more introspective component."

Different tracks came about in different ways. "Fault Lines" was changed a lot after it was recorded, with the basic pattern becoming a small part of the track. "Sea of Vapours," like other tracks, had the "infinite guitar" added afterwards because of time constraints. By contrast "Avenue" has everyone playing live. "The Game" started from a drum pattern donated by Peter Gabriel. "Tracery" has nine beats in one cycle and eleven in another cycle. Michael comments, "Nusrat liked the challenge of that. He is an amazing musician. The whole chorus line fits perfectly and feels very natural. The palette he has to choose from is mind bogglingly large."

When the melodic phrase of a Qwalli, or devotional song, is repeated, it conveys the meaning of the accompanying lyrics even when the words are not sung. "A lot of the tracks were much longer so we shortened things, cut phrases out, moved the voice around, repeated sections and joined sections together." This is where the only problem arose.

"We made some edits that were not acceptable to Nusrat, because we'd cut a phrase in half - sometimes there were actual lyrics that we made nonsense of, says Michael. "Sometimes even though they were just singing Sa Re Ga we had interfered with the meaning of the phrase." A compromise was achieved - important lyrical phrases were restored without losing the musical structure Michael had developed.

So a halfway point was reached between east and west in songwriting, in performance, and in attitude.