You remix qawwali to make it easier for people who don’t want to sit through ten minutes or more of a single song. You’re not improving it. You’re not doing it better than the singer did it. You’re making it more digestible. The original recording asks you to concentrate. The singer spends five minutes building to a summit, fades again, rises, falls, winds, closes his eyes, reaches duende. You wash along with him, trembling. The remixer goes for duende with electronics: neat, contained, familiar. Sweat-free listening. You’re off the hook. Relax, enjoy.
So that’s all? No, not quite all. We’re also playing the game of what-if. As in: what if we took Gaudi’s remix of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing “Bethe Bethe Kese Kese” and put chilling keyboards behind? Ah, OK. So that’s what it sounds like. Now what happens if we take the same song and dibble around with a smack-and-slap beat? Hm, interesting. How about a different song? Let’s try “Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi”. Now what if we …
In summary then: the “New Dark Wave Remix” is the one with underlying chill and a feeling of tombs, “Bombay Dub Orchestra Remix” is the thoughtful one with the flute, “Pathaan’s Heavenly Remix” is the one with the bippety smack-and-slap over a well-chosen vocal sample, “Pinch 4X4” is the one that gulps and hisses like an air-piston in a jungle, “Pinch Remix” plays with tabla and bell, and Cheb I Sabbah’s “Shining Star” mix reverberates Khan’s voice almost constantly around the front of the song while most of the others tend to use it as punctuation between passages of chill or hissing. “New Dark Wave” is the most unusual—goth sufi!—and “Bombay Dub” is the most serene. Pinch and Pathaan are the men to go to for percussion. Pick a flavour.