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.