Shafqat Ali Khan
Sublime Sufi (ARC Music EUCD 1798, 2003)
This is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2003. Pakistani Qawwali singer Shafqat Ali Khan has recorded an excellent album where ancient Sufi tradition meets modern Western rock and jazz instrumentation, creating a superb hybrid sound. The album features the dramatic vocals of Ali Khan singing Sufi poems, ghazals and ragas. The line-up includes mandolin, electric guitar, tabla, dumbek electronic percussion grooves; the fiery, but also subtle, tenor sax of George Brooks; and the arrangements and keyboard work of Oakland (California) producer Douglas McKeehan.
Doug McKeehan and Shafqat have known one another almost seven years, meeting in 1994, during a visit to the U.S. by Shafqat’s father, the renowned Pakistani vocalist Salamat Ali Khan. McKeehan, a keyboardist who has performed with the world fusion group Ancient Future, has long harbored a love of Indian and Pakistani music and culture.
Shafqat Ali Khan was born June 17, 1972 in Lahore, Pakistan. He began his professional career at the prodigious age of seven, performing two very difficult ragas at the Punjab Music Festival in 1980; his professional training had already begun when he was four years old. “People were amazed. I sang for twenty minutes.” Afterwards, he was approached by Radio Pakistan, which led to a series of on-air recitals which spread the fame of this preternaturally endowed talent. By the age of eight, Shafqat had already proved his mettle, earning widespread regard as a classical artist of merit. Further classical performances on area television stations enhanced his public profile.