Ustad Saami – God is Not a Terrorist

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

There was a time in the mid-1990s when the mesmerising sound of the Pakistani devotional singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would drift through the unassuming household of a quiet suburban South Yorkshire village, largely due to the influence of the then ultra popular Jeff Buckley, together with the lead song from the soundtrack of the Tim Robbins Death Row drama Dead Man Walking. It was a sound from another world, which was at once hypnotic, mysterious and deeply spiritual. This sound has been largely absent around this particular household, until that is, the arrival of this Ian Brennan-produced album. Released as Volume 5 in Glitterbeat’s ‘Hidden Musics’ series, the album features Pakistan’s Ustad Saami, a 75 year-old Khayal singer, Khayal being the predecessor of the popular Qawwali music famously produced by Ali Khan between the mid-1960s up until his death in 1997, with six titles which revisit the intense drones of an archaic form, performed in a multitude of languages, including Sanskrit, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and what might be politely described as gibberish. Recorded at Saami’s home in Karachi, the six pieces of varying lengths, “Hymn” coming in at just over a minute, whilst the sprawling “Longing” reaches almost nineteen, are deeply hypnotic and feature a voice that would be almost impossible to imitate, accompanied by a minimalist drone-like harmonium. The roots of this music stretches back to the 13th century and in this release, we detect that it has lost none of its power over time.