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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

6 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.32

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.240
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.819

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Volume 2011, Issue 183 (Jan 2011)


Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: the strange destiny of a singing mystic. When music travels . . .

Stefano Jacoviello
Published Online: 2011-03-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.016


Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Faisalabad, 1948–London, 1997) was a foremost singer of qawwâlî. This Muslim devotional music, which is prominent in South Asia, has been developed since the fourteenth century by the Sufi circles of the Chishti brotherhood in order to preach and communicate the teachings of the saints. Inspired by mystic spirituality, Nusrat's music travelled through the East and the West, absorbing some of the features of the musical cultures with which it came in contact. It also travelled through time, transforming the traditional style of the ancient chanted poetry into new forms of musical expression. Nusrat's life and his artistic vicissitudes show the postmodern destiny of qawwâlî as a religious kind of music that apparently went through a process of desacralization and profanation as a result of multiple interpretations by different audiences. In order to discern the conditions of significance, semiotics reconstructs the relation between text and context of interpretation on the ground of structural pertinences. In this way, semiotics offers an analytical standpoint alternative to the postmodernist approach to postmodern cultural phenomena. By surveying the forms of listening that are structurally provided by the textual discourse, semiotics investigates the destiny of the musical and religious meanings of qawwâlî in relation to the process of intercultural translation.

Keywords:: semiotics; Nusrat; qawwali; Sufi; raga; translation

About the article

Published Online: 2011-03-17

Published in Print: 2011-02-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.016.

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