As this millennium comes to a close and invisible communications spread, cultures clash and merge with increasing frequency. The learning curve is steeper than at any previous point in history.
Ruminating on the challenges he encountered as collaborator and producer on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s latest Real World album— Night Song— Michael Brook describes the now-legendary singer as “pedal to the metal”. His intensity and stamina, in other words, consistently rise to peak levels which westerners can find both intimidating and inspiring. The only comparison we can make is with exceptional musicians such as the late John Coltrane, visionaries who give over their whole being— body and spirit— to music.
Brook recalls an example of the lessons to be learned from combining two radically different cultural norms. Producing the 1990’s Mustt Mustt— he considered how to adapt Qawwali singing for its new global markets. “In the traditional music it’s just non-stop vocal,” Brook explains. “We run out of steam trying to listen to that. On Mustt Musttwe tried to create a bit of structure that would match western listening ability a bit more. Nusrat’s nephew, who acts as translator, called up and said, ‘There’s these gaps in the song. We’ll have to change it when we release it in our market because it’ll sound like he forgot the words’. So it just shows you how you could never anticipate that. They really are coming from a different pace.”