The Time Jeff Buckley Sang in Urdu and Stole Our Hearts

Hey, you know who was amazing? Jeff Buckley. Even the uninitiated think of him as "The guy who did that incredible, heartbreaking version of "Hallelujah" that I will literally never hear enough times."


I have Grace, I love Grace, and I've listened to it a hundred times. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I picked up "Live at Sin-é," a collection of recordings from a period when Buckley was doing solo gigs at Sin-é in New York.

It's a wonderful collection of performances, and gives a sense of his odd, off-kilter personality as well as his ferocious guitar-playing. Buckley is primarily known for his incredible voice, but he was no slouch on the guitar.

As great as many of the tunes on the collection are, this performance of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's "Yeh jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai" is… well, it's unreal. He spends the first three and a half minutes of the clip (sorry!) talking about how much he looks up to Nusrat, before going into full-on Urdu and performing the entire dang song.


Good god, the talent-level on this guy. I like how the audience kinda laughs uneasily when he starts singing, thinking, "Is this for real?" Before they realize that yes. Yes, this is for real.

Also worth checking out: his performance of "Dink's Song," recorded in the same space. The placeholder image for this YouTube video gives an idea of the venue—literally a coffee shop with like, ten people in it. Unbelievable. It's basically 11 minutes of him building, building, building… listen to this entire track (no really, do it), and picture a guy standing in a coffee shop, mostly alone, singing like this. What a monster.


If you don't have Grace, well… hey, get Grace! You can also get Live at Sin-é here.


Kirk Hamilton

Also, how does everyone feel about those posthumous Buckley recordings that get released? Sometimes they make me sad, like "Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk." I get that there's this desire to get his music into the world, but he seemed like such a perfectionist, at least in the studio, so I don't love listening to his music when it's so clearly half-finished.

So, sometimes I think "something's better than nothing, and this is respectful of the man," and other times I think "I would be okay not getting to hear this."