August 18, 1997 in Nation/World

Islam Loses A Voice

 

Soaked in sweat, anguished men and women knelt before the body of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at his unfinished house in Lahore, Pakistan, beating their chests and wailing in anguish Sunday at the death of the man whose mesmerizing, spiritual singing brought the devotional music of Islam to the West. Khan, considered one of the world’s greatest singers of Sufi devotional music known as “qawwali,” died at a London hospital Saturday of a heart attack. He was 49. Sufis are Islamic mystics, and music plays a key role in many of their rituals. Khan’s career spanned three decades and in recent years had drawn a growing Western audience to the music’s fierce passion, especially after he joined with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder for a song that appeared in the film “Dead Man Walking.” Some critics in Pakistan complained that Khan’s projects in India and with Western artists had corrupted his music, but a student, Nadim Salamat, said: “He never forgot spirituality. The credit goes to God. God was very close to Nusrat.”


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