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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now, evidence that music may be the key to immortality. Think Natalie Cole singing and dancing with her father. Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has been dead for 10 years. Khan gained a measure of success in the West through his own recordings and his collaborations with Peter Gabriel and Eddie Vedder. Now Khan's voice is being used by an Italian producer best known for dub reggae.

Anil Mundra reports.

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ANIL MUNDRA: Raising the dead is not for the faint of heart.

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MUNDRA: That's the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and here he is again today, 10 years after his death.

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MUNDRA: The medium at this seance is the London-based dub reggae producer who likes to be called by his last name: Gaudi. And he's the first to acknowledge the nerve it took to try this.

GAUDI (Italian dub reggae producer): Put yourself in my shoes. Italian Gaudi on the cover with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, co-writing all the tracks with Nusrat. Who's this Gaudi? Who's this one? Easy, tiger.

MUNDRA: Gaudi is a veteran producer with 11 solo albums over the past two decades. After dabbling in punk, he started experimenting with synthesizers and was fully steeped in reggae when he first heard one of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's dozens of records back in the mid-1980s. By this time, Khan was already known as the emperor of Qawwali - the traditional Muslim musical style popular in South Asia.

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MUNDRA: Gaudi displays an appropriate reverence for the emperor. That must have helped him when he approached Khan's old label. They gave Gaudi full access to original, unreleased, 40-year-old, reel-to-reel tapes.

GAUDI: And it was incredibly emotive for me, you know, seeing the writing -handwriting and everything. It was - I had the goose bumps really.

MUNDRA: Gaudi took the tapes and did some studio sleight of hand, removing unwanted instruments and laying the bare vocal tracks over his own beats.

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MUNDRA: But Gaudi says that in all that tinkering, his aim was not to adapt Khan's music to his beats, but exactly the other way around. He was even careful to preserve the message of Khan's music.

GAUDI: I had to employ a translator and make sure that all the parts of vocals that phonetically for me sounded great, meaning-wise had a sense.

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MUNDRA: The record took Gaudi two years to make. He says he spent months just listening before touching anything. And in the end, his careful study convinced him that he could safely use Jamaican beats without compromising the spirit of Khan's music.

GAUDI: Because the message of that music and the message of the red, gold and green music reggae is exactly the same. It's peace, love and spirituality. So that was my common denominator for me. Just to try to unify the two elements.

MUNDRA: Still, as harmonious as it felt to him, Gaudi sometimes despaired at the project.

GAUDI: Well, I would speak with my wife, saying that I know already that whatever I will do with this music, it will be not beautiful as the original material. And that's for sure. So I was about to give up. It's bigger than me, you know? It's bigger than everything I did so far. And it's quite intense, you know?

MUNDRA: But he went ahead trying to imagine that Khan's spirit was there with him in the studio. After all, Gaudi says, his studio is his temple.

For NPR News, I'm Anil Mundra.

NORRIS: You can hear complete songs from the new CD and discover more music at npr.org/music.

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