Sunday, August 05, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - August 1/07

Remixes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan are almost a genre unto themselves. The late great master of qawwal had a long and well-recorded career with his "party" of harmonium (which he sometimes played himself) percussion and chorus, but since the 80s has been musical translated in all manner of styles. The most famous and widely released example
was Massive Attack's chilled electro-reggae version "Mustt Mustt" from 1990. I hesitate to say "most famous" and "widely released" without mentioning the considerable amount of bhangra remixes dating from this time - all of whom likely outsold anything Massive Attack did at the time. The man himself participated in a few re-imagined sessions - notably the Real World-curated collaboration with Michael Brook - but he always gave tacit consent to the use of his voice in dance remixes, despite the overtly secular/sexual environments for which they were intended. I never found out what he thought of Oliver Stone's utterly callous use of his devotional songs overtop of sensational acts of violence throughout Natural Born Killers...
During the sampladelic years of bhangra, his voice was a natural lead presence signifying tradition within modern production. Bally Sagoo, one of bhangra's early leading lights, created a mix from the same song called "Jewel" which was every bit the equal of Massive Attack's downtempo anthem, though its new jack breakbeat has dated a little bit.

This cottage industry has died down in the last few years, but now along comes downtempo master Gaudi to take another stab at the man's legacy. Dub Qawwali is surprisingly excellent. Based on rediscovered sessions from the 70s, the music perfectly matches Khan's generally mellow vocals from these recordings. Other elements retained from the original recordings are tabla and harmonium, from which Gaudi extrapolates the arrangements. The chords behind the music are ever-changing, leading to progressions which are seldom found in reggae. Yet the uplifting combination of the chords and vocals is simpatico with peace and love themes so common in roots reggae. It's rare to come across a mix so melodic and so dubby at the same time. Drums are a strong aspect of this project, in many cases played by none other than one of the all time great Jamaican drummers, Style Scott of the Roots Radics. There is a certain upscale worldtronica shimmer to the production (someday I'll post more on this topic), but Gaudi never gets carried away with the gloss. This is a heartfelt effort which manages to be both polished and challenging.

Incidentally, I was fortunate to see the man in a fairly intimate context: the Brigantine Room at Harbourfront. It was an astonishing performance, totalling some 4 1/2 hours. Frankly I was amazed that he could sit cross-legged and hit all those notes the whole time.

endless vibrations - lord shorty (crippled dick hot wax)
likambo nini - adam solomon (indie)
atiadele - mangwana all stars (otrabanda)
morsing code - radio i ching (revenant)
be happy - claudia quintet (cuneiform)
onotology (keep thinking) - arkana music (indie)
lord help me - amnesty (now again)
contacto com o mundo racional - tim maia (trama)
quero companheira - rubinho e mauro assumpcao (QDK)
pass it on - pieces of peace (twinight/numero)
2005 05 27 08:13:55 - bitchin' (NCRA)
entry one - moha! (rune gramofon)
how to start a fight - moondata (envision)
raval tardor - radio zumbido (quartermass)
lebleida - malouma (marabi)
dil da rog muka ja mahi - nusrat fateh ali khan rmx by gaudi (six degrees)
black heart man dub - barrington levy (auralux)
no meat - jah batta (wackies)
keep on coming through the door - lone ranger (studio one/heartbeat)
warrior dub - michael rose (M)
on the edge - the dub project (M)

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