Soul Music from the Indus Valley

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Of all the offshoot sects of Islam, could any be more mysterious and devout than the Sufis? Their musical expressions of piety assume many forms, several of which are catalogued in this galvanizing anthology. Once the word got around that these sessions were taking place, dozens of Pakistan's finest musicians left the temples and street corners where they ordinarily perform and made a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Lahore. The resulting album showcases an eclectic assortment of instrumentalists and singers-several of the latter showing the finesse and power of that Sufi superstar, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. On one track, the classical virtuoso Allah Rakha Khan wrings chilling passages from the strings of a bowed sarangi. On another, a rural Hindu sings in the obscure dialect spoken in the Cholistan desert. Happily, Land of the Sufis is the first album in a proposed series devoted to this trance-inducing music. As a reminder that Pakistan's spiritual and artistic legacy outweighs its involvement in a nuclear arms race, the appearance of this CD could not be more timely.

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