Shafqat Ali Khan: Shafqat Ali Khan

shaak-sak.jpg (20k) Shafqat Ali Khan: Shafqat Ali Khan
(World Class - 2000)

Traditional Indi-Pakistani vocal stylings are seductively fused with more-modern electronic/acoustic instrumentation. With a muscial heritage traceable to the 16th century, Shafqat Ali Khan's adroit singing invokes faraway places and universal moods; almost a dozen musicians further expand Shafqat's reach with sounds both current and ages old. While I prefer to let the mystery of Shafqat's Punjabi lyrics linger, the liner notes include English translations for those who want to ascribe particular meaning to the tracks.

Beginning in an exotic haze, then shifting gears into a more contemporary groove, Dance of My Soul is backed by jazzily honking sax, droning synth and steadily pattering ethnic percussion. Soft electric guitar and flavorful drumming open My Restless Heart (4:09) where an enchanting pop structure is overlain with serpentine vocal wails and slithering/squawking violin. Buoyant bass riffs and a strangely not-out-of-place banjo give Dust to Dust a "small-world"ly feel, as Shafqat croons with feeling.

World-ballad Ashina rides in on delicately flowing piano passages, to be joined by ethno-syncopation, synth and velvety tones. Sweet harmonies and twinkling guitar runs are found in the Valley of Memories, the only track not featuring the keyboards/programming of producer/co-writer Douglas McKeehan. The Pakastani equivalent of a down-and-dirty blues/noir burner, Stolen Dreams are sought by loose bass thrums, cinematic strings, moody keyboard arrangements and plaintive words.

Sleeping World (9:50) takes an appropriately gentle pace, slowly unfolding with an intricate piano interlude. Stay, My Love crosses a line into a cloying pop-funkiness which, while expertly executed, doesn't encourage me to stay.

Obviously not ambient, the transglobal sounds of Shafqat Ali Khan bridge time and space without too much reeking of calculated cross-cultural sellout. First-rate muscianship and exotic atmospheres are always appreciated, and when topped with Shafqat's virtuoso vocals, I deem this self-titled debut with a mostly appeciative 8.2.

Virtually visit World Class for more info. If female vocalizations in a similarly third-world (though less modernized) setting are more to your taste, check out Rasa's Devotion also from HOS.

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This review posted May 29, 2000

AmbiEntrance © 2000-1997 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).