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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

A secondary singer, cousin Farouk Ali Khan, added stirring trills in a falsetto.

A secondary singer, cousin Farouk Ali Khan, added stirring trills in a falsetto.

The instrumental backing defines plain: two harmoniums (which resemble a large File-o-fax and produce an accordion-like drone) and two sets of tablas that give the music either a watery bottom end or a rapid-fire melody line. Further enhancing Nusrat Khan’s voice was the violin of his guest, American Lili Hayden; her technique and intonation were impeccable, adding bursts of fire to the musical mix.

Pakistani music has found its way into the works of a diverse range of Western composers and performers, most notably Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and Steve Reich. And Khan’s voice has been the one heard in Western settings — on the soundtracks of “Natural Born Killers” and “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and a Michael Brook-produced disc that sets him against a contemporary electronic backdrop.

But this music in its pure form speaks to a higher calling and, like the instrumental music performed at a greater level of understanding among musicians and audience, needs no translation. Fortunately, the ecstatic response has almost guaranteed a return visit.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

(House of Blues; 1,000 seats; $ 27.50)

Production: Presented inhouse. Band: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farouk Ali Khan, Rahad Khan, Rahmad Khan, Assad Khan, Dildar Hussain, Iqbal, Lili Hayden. Reviewed Oct. 17, 1995. Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, introduced as "the voice of the century," brought a rare spiritual presence to the House of Blues, transcending the boundaries of culture and language. Fans in the absolutely packed house ricocheted off each other -- dancing, clapping beats, throwing wads of crisp dollar bills onstage and raising their arms in praise of God -- as Khan and his eight musicians worked hypnotic spells with voices, drones and percussion. Seated in two rows (family in front, musicians in back), the group performed four ragas over the course of nearly two hours, the longest of which neared 50 minutes. Though much of his Qawwali-lingo singing is delivered with uncanny calm and directness, Khan's dramatic inflections and gestures added body to his gorgeous tenor.

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