'Chain of Light' to resurrect Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's magic as lost album eyes release

Album comes 27 years after the legendary singer's death

Entertainment Desk June 20, 2024

A treasure trove of unreleased recordings by the legendary qawwal Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is set to make its debut on September 20, over 27 years posthumously. Rolling Stone has revealed that this "lost" album, Chain of Light, emerged from the tape archives of Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. The label, which signed Nusrat in 1989, released a string of critically acclaimed albums with him throughout the 1990s.

Accompanied by his ensemble of eight singers and musicians, Chain of Light comprises four traditional qawwali tracks, including a previously unheard gem. This recording, captured at Real World Studios in April 1990, coincides with Khan’s work on Mustt Mustt, his iconic crossover album with Canadian producer Michael Brook, and showcases the maestro at the pinnacle of his vocal prowess.

Khan's illustrious career saw him become a cultural icon, winning fans from the realms of western rock and pop, including The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Known for his astounding six-octave vocal range, the beloved musician’s voice also featured in soundtracks for films by Hollywood directors such as Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Tim Robbins.

Unearthed from the depths of a warehouse storage at Real World Studios during an archive relocation in 2021, the April 1990 tape that comprises Chain of Light captures Khan on the brink of global stardom. Restored meticulously from the original analogue tapes, this lost album includes a pristine rendition of the beloved classic Ya Allah Ya Rehman and the sole known performance of Ya Gaus Ya Meeran. Producer Michael Brook praised the recordings, stating, “There is an amazing clarity to these performances. They are more harmonically adventurous than the other songs that Nusrat was recording at the time and the whole group is firing on all cylinders.”

Khan’s longtime international manager, Rashid Ahmed-Din, highlighted 1990 as a pivotal year in the singer’s career: “The year 1990 was a key point in Nusrat’s career, it was the beginning of him crossing over into a western audience. Everything just clicked. He always wanted to experiment and not be limited to one sound and these tracks express that movement beyond.”

Reflecting on his collaboration with Khan, Gabriel remarked, “I’ve had the privilege to work with a tonne of different musicians from all over the world in my time, but perhaps the greatest singer of them all was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. What he could do and make you feel with his voice was quite extraordinary and we were very proud to have played a role in getting him to a much wider global audience. It was a real delight when we found out this tape had been in our library. This album really shows him at his peak. It’s a wonderful record.”

Adding to the excitement, a definitive documentary on Khan's life is in the works. Islamabad-based Saiyna Bashir Studios is slated to release the biopic, Ustad, by the end of 2025. Earlier this year, the studio received a grant from the British Council to aid Real World Records in promoting the new album. Chain of Light will be released by Real World Records on September 20, with pre-orders available in various formats. The album’s launch is also supported in part by the British Council.

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