If you've expressed any curiosity for the procession of wonderfully eclectic non-Western music that has been released over the last few years, you will unquestionably have spotted that a large percentage of it has come courtesy of the Hamburg record label Glitterbeat. Responsible for putting out revelatory contemporary albums by the likes of popular Turkish psychonauts Altin Gün, Saharan Banga rebels Ifriqiyya Electrique and the infectious Middle Eastern disco of TootArd, they continue that winning streak with what is only the second official album by 73-year-old Pakistani musician Ustad Naseeruddin Saami. Music writers have a penchant for describing certain long-in-the-tooth performers as 'risk takers', customarily because they've added a couple of synths, to flesh out their exhaustive arrangement of guitars, or they've precipitously embraced song structures that veer from the tried and tested 4/4 beat so prevalent in the rock and roll canon.
Photo by Marilena Umuhoza Delli While only heard on a recording for the first time last year, the music performed by Ustad Naseeruddin Saami has roots dating back to the thirteenth century. So rare is this music that there is a risk it could become a lost art. Today Ustad Saami is the last known surviving practitioner of this modal form of khayál technique, devotional music pre-dating the qawwali style of playing popularised in the West by perhaps Pakistan's most well-known musician, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.