Shafqat Ali Khan,
Shafqat Ali Khan
(World Class Records, 2000)

Shafqat Ali Khan skillfully blends old and new, mixing the traditional sounds of the music of his homeland with that of electric guitars, synthesizers and saxophones.

The music is good and the musicians do a good job of employing the newer instruments in the flow of the more traditional sound. They also do a good job of using the older instruments in the flow of a more electronic style.

The musicians are Douglas McKeehan (keyboards and programming), Richard Michos (electric guitar, acoustic guitar and electric bass), Jim "Santi" Owen (tavil, kanjira, morsing, tabla and pakowaj), Ian Dogole (udu, talking drum, dhumbek and shaker), George Brooks (soprano saxophone), Matt Venuti (electric valve insrument), Matthew Montfort (scalloped fretboard and electric guitar), Moses Sedler (cello), Dave Ristrim (banjo), Arshad Syed (tabla) and Vince Littleton (percussion).

Added to that is Shafqat Ali Khan's singing which soars and undulates through the music. And since he sings in Punjabi it is rather nice that they have translated the lyrics into English.

The opening notes of "Dance of My Soul" are rich in tradition, but it swiftly and easily slides to blend in keyboards and a saxophone. And while the sound after that point is very different it flows smoothly from beginning to end. This is followed by "My Restless Heart," a song of yearning that contains a restlessness without becoming ragged and jagged.

Then there is "Dust to Dust" which is strangely upbeat and up-tempo despite the lyrics. But if one listens to it, ignoring the lyrics, it works. (It also works when I read the lyrics, it just starts to confuse me, sending my mind off on rabbit trails on philosophy.)

"Ashina" returns to a quieter, more lyrical sound with a haunting edge of yearning to it -- an edge that is also found in the lyrics.

"Valley of memories" starts off with a eerie, haunting sound that becomes more upbeat -- a chance which sounds good but does not quite match with the lyrics. This continues into "Stolen Dreams," where the sad undertone to the music is matched with a strong up-tempo drive. And while it sounds wonderful it seems to put it at odds with the sadder edge in most of the lyrics. (This seems to be a reoccurring problem.)

"Sleeping World" has a quieter sound to it. The CD ends with the upbeat sound of "Stay, My Love" and the sound matches the lyrics in mood.

The music on this CD makes it well worth listening to. The lyrics, while not always entirely matching the feel of the music are always interesting. So take the time to give this CD a listen.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]



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