Shabaz combined eleven generations of vocal history with a modern global sensibility and the wicked rhythms of the dance floor. Shabaz featured the voices of siblings Sukhawat Ali Khan and Riffat Salamat, the living embodiment of the ancient Sham Chorasi singing tradition. The pair can trace their lineage back to the court musicians for ruler Akbar the Great.
Their father Ustad Salamat Ali Khan was one of the great classical Indian singers and an influence on the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Sukhawat began singing at the age of seven and has performed around the world for presidents and kings. Renowned for his technique and passion, he shared vocal duties with sister Riffat who took Qawwali to places it’s never been before. American multi-instrumentalist and producer Richard Michos, the third member of Shabaz spent years exploring Indian music as both player and scholar.
With influences ranging from Zakir Hussain to Jimi Hendrix and dance music he brings an open Western sensibility to the band’s sound adding the colors and textures of electronic beats, dance, rock and ambient music to create a heady irresistible mix. As the Ali Khan Band, Shabaz (which translates as ‘Chief Eagle’) recorded two albums for City of Tribes. Their 1998 debut Tawsir appeared at the top of the CMJ New World Music chart and Zindagi (Urdu for ‘Life’) their follow-up disc reached similar heights in 2000.
Based in the San Francisco area, they played with artists like Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade transporting crowds with every gig. They continued to work and shape their sound polishing and refining pushing their unique talents across more musical boundaries from the rhythmic richness of ̶Bhangra, to the experimentation of ̶Chela, where club beats frame intoxicating passionate vocals. They had their unique vision of a true world fusion where continents and histories come together in the music of the dance. As Sukhawat Ali Khan said, “It’s an extraordinary time for communicating through music. Music is becoming a melting pot a place where cultures cross.”
Sukhawat Ali Khan later formed a new band called Baraka Moon.
Shabaz (Ark 21, 2001)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.