Chakdey.com presents the 2nd essential Asian album of all time in the shape of qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s seminal “Mustt Mustt”
Only a handful of albums every decade can lay claim to changing the face of popular music at the time of release but NFAK’s Mustt Mustt is one of those incredible albums. Sometimes accused of not being ‘real’ qawwali simply because it was recorded in the UK and with a group of non-Asian musicians; for those who think that, the real achievement of this release is truly missed. The album took Nusrat from being a legend in Pakistan (and within the UK Asian community, who were instrumental in his overall success) to a legend in the Western Hemisphere. Produced by Canadian Michael Brook, who also played guitar on some of the album’s tracks, the release was nothing short of revolutionary. If ever there was any proof that great music was universal and transcended linguistic, cultural and religious boundaries, this was it.
In the late 80s as the concept of “world music” was taking shape and every major record label in the world jumped onto the bandwagon setting up sub-imprints for their recently signed ‘exotic’ acts, NFAK was already a major artist in his own right. Purported to have sold millions of cassettes in Pakistan in his lifetime and selling out UK live performances arranged by Birmingham’s legendary promoter Muhammad Ayub and his Oriental Star Agencies (and associated record label) at the time of this album’s release, it was mainstream artist Peter Gabriel who released the first ever Nusrat album commercially in the UK (although OSA had and would continue to release dozens of his albums too). Gabriel’s record label Real World succeeded in taking NFAK into the HMV’s and Virgin’s on the high street, an achievement every mainstream media and music publication didn’t fail to notice, generating endless column inches most other Asian acts could only dream of.
Featuring tracks like “Taa Deem” and “Tery Bena (Nothing Without You)” which would continue to be performed at many of his live shows until his death, Michael Brook’s presence and musical direction coupled with Nusrat’s ethereal voice must surely be credited in making this album the seminal release it became.
The final masterstroke of this album was commissioning the best and most cutting edge electronic act of the early 90s, and undoubtedly the coolest act on the planet at the time, Bristol’s Massive Attack to remix the title track. Their tripped out remix took Nusrat beyond the niche UK Asian scene and wider “world music” confines and onto the hippest specialist radio shows around the world, becoming a club hit in the UK & US in the process. While the pop masses were dancing to the Gregorian chants of “Sadeness Part 1” (in Latin) by German electronic act Enigma; the cooler contingent had Massive Attack’s Urdu language remix firmly on repeat. Although an over-used term these days, the track was a gamechanger in every sense and paved the way for acts like Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney and Asian Dub Foundation to make their mark over the next few years, spearheading what would be dubbed the “Asian Underground”.
Bally Sagoo, Simon & Diamond Duggal, Gaudi, Tarli Digital and, more recently, Dr Zeus and Bloodline would all find varying levels of success with NFAK remix albums but Mustt Mustt is undoubtedly where that idea first germinated.
Mustt Mustt was originally released in 1990 on Real World Records. The album has recently been re-released in digital format. Buy your copy here