Boomkat Product Review:
The Sublime Freqs present an engrossing first field recording survey of Pakistan, specifically Islamic devotionals or Sufi Songs from Sindh and Punjab; the mountainous area sharing a border with India. We could say this about almost any SF collection, but this one is particularly spellbinding, bristling with an hypnotic energy in each of its eleven charged and beautifully recorded performances.
Where some of the label’s previous journeys have fringed on this region - Pakistan - Folk and Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976 and the Hindustani music of Rajasthan Street Music - this is the first to get deep into the field and particularly focus on the now controversial Punjabi Islamic music traditions which have been placed in opposition to the region’s increasingly Wahhabist approach to Islam.
Recorded and compiled by Discostan founder, Arshia Fatima Haq, the set renders an incredibly rich array of devotional songs which are delivered and felt so strongly that the performers are deemed ‘ishq ke maare’ or in the throes of love, hence the album’s title.
The results are a rare, unfiltered sensory feast; covering mesmerising solo instrumentals and vocal laments thru to massed, euphoric qawwali all recorded in a broad range of spaces - from decaying concert halls to intimate living rooms and the remote interior (flanked by a police escort) - and all played on a range of harmoniums, alghoza (twin woodwind pipes), been (snake charmer’s pipes), and bulbul tarang (a sort of Punjabi banjo), often improvised and always with a sense of rapturous passion that’s dead hard to ignore.
But it’s the voices that get us the most, from the lolling cadence of Kalyam Shariff Qawwali Troupe’s Jo tera Gham Na Ho, to Fatah Daudpoto’s spellbindingly stark aa Mil Yaara or the plaintive, plangent performance of Sehra by Basher Haidari and the way Sain Juman Shah somehow sounds like Ghedalia Tazartes channelling Rod Stewart, we’re pretty smitten with this set.