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Real World Records to release ‘lost album’ by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Real World Records to release ‘lost album’ by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

A new album of unheard recordings by the Pakistan musical icon Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan will be released on 20 September 2024, 34 years after they were recorded. The ‘lost album’ — named Chain of Light — was discovered in the tape archives of Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records, the label that signed Khan in 1989 and released a series of universally acclaimed albums with him throughout the 1990s. The launch of the album is being supported in part by the British Council.

Joined by his eight-strong party of singers and musicians, Chain of Light presents four traditional qawwalis (Sufi Islamic devotional songs) — including one which has never been heard before — and captures Khan at the height of his vocal capabilities in pristine sonic quality. The recording was made at Real World Studios in April 1990, during the same time he worked on Mustt Mustt, his seminal crossover album with Canadian producer Michael Brook.

Descended from a 600-year-old lineage of qawwali singers, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice has been singularly responsible for spreading the devotional music of Sufism to the world, ever since he became the leader of his family’s musical group in 1971. At turns heavy and hulkingly powerful, yet agile and pointedly precise, his vocal not only embodies the tradition of the Sufi qawwali but it is the emotive essence of singing itself.

Over the course of his musical career, Khan became a cultural icon whose list of esteemed fans extended well beyond the Islamic world and into the realm of western rock and pop. The late Jeff Buckley famously said of the singer “He’s my Elvis” and Khan counted amongst his fans The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. His voice also appeared on the soundtrack of movies by Hollywood directors Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Tim Robbins.

Khan’s relationship with Peter Gabriel and Real World Records began after his watershed performance at the 1985 WOMAD festival, which was the first time he performed to a predominantly western audience. Shortly after that historic festival set he was signed to the label, and his international profile rose through a collaboration on Gabriel’s 1989 album Passion which featured in the movie The Last Temptation of Christ.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with a tonne of different musicians from all over the world in my time, but perhaps the greatest singer of them all was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,” says Peter Gabriel. “What he could do and make you feel with his voice was quite extraordinary and we were very proud to have played a role in getting him to a much wider global audience. It was a real delight when we found out this tape had been in our library. This album really shows him at his peak. It’s a wonderful record.”

Buried deep in a warehouse storage space at Real World Studios and unearthed whilst the label was relocating its archive in 2021, the April 1990 tape recording that comprises Chain of Light finds Khan at a crossroads, on the cusp of global greatness.

In 1997 Khan tragically died at the age of 48. He had exposed the mystical power of qawwali and its capacity for modern interpretations to the world, but his voice was no more. Almost 30 years later, the singer’s legacy continues to attract new generations of fans, evident in the 6 million average monthly Spotify listeners and YouTube videos of his music racking up over 1 billion views.

Fans of the great maestro will be thrilled to also learn that the definitive documentary film on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s life is in the making. Saiyna Bashir Studios, an Islamabad based company, will release their labour of love biopic Ustad at the end of 2025. The film will tell the untold story of one of the world’s greatest singers, featuring rare and unseen archive footage with contributions from a cast of close family, friends, collaborators, and fans. Earlier this year, Saiyna Bashir Studios received a grant from the British Council to support Real World Records to promote Chain of Light.

Reflecting on the significance of this album producer Michael Brook says “It touches you, it is a once in a lifetime experience. Like the immanent light of the record’s title, these songs are transformative and transcendent in a way that crosses languages and cultures. It draws the listener in, no matter their expectations. Thank God, or whatever you believe in: the voice has returned.”

Chain of Light is out 20 September 2024 on Real World Records. CD, standard LP and limited edition LP versions of the album are available now to pre-order. Ustad, the feature-length documentary film, will premiere in late 2025.


Real World Records was founded in 1989 by WOMAD and Peter Gabriel to provide talented artists from around the world with access to state-of-the-art recording facilities and audiences beyond their geographic region. At the beginning it was the musical relationships generated at the WOMAD festivals that gave the label confidence that something of this special spirit could be translated into a recording context. Consequently, Real World Records has become renowned for bringing together musicians who share an empathy with music in general, rather than simply a shared cultural background.

Saiyna Bashir Studios (SBS), headquartered in Pakistan, specialises in transformative visual narratives, serving both private and development sectors in South Asia and the region. The founder, Saiyna Bashir, is a National Geographic Explorer and works closely with the United Nations and other international organisations on projects ranging from climate change to arts and culture.

British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. They support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. They do this through their work in arts and culture, education and the English language. They work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021–22 The British Council reached 650 million people. www.britishcouncil.org