Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: A Music Maestro

 “His voice is the golden thread in this exotic tapestry of sound”. May 19 2001, Billboard

It was 1992 when I first heard Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing “Dam Mast Qalandar Mast Mast” on NTM, and for the first time I actually enjoyed listening to a Qawwali. The simple reason being that he had fused together eastern music with western in such a fascinating manner that neither did it lose its originality and yet brought a new flavor to it, and so soon his songs such as “Mera Piya Ghar Aya”, “Gali Wich Kaun Langiya”, “Kina Sona Taenoo Rab Ne” and many others were immense hits. Perhaps he did not have the most beautiful voice in the world, but it possessed a quality, which was soft and sweet, touching the heart deeply.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: A Great Qawwal

But his career had started long before that, nearly a quarter of a century ago, and he was no ordinary musician; rather he was a Qawwal of high caliber, possibly one of the greatest in the world. His father Ustad Fateh Ali Khan was also a great classical musician and his expertise in Qawwali is still acknowledged by everyone. Some time after his death in 1964, when Nusrat was only 16 years old, he had a visionary dream in which he was touched on the throat by his dead father’s spirit, who urged him, to dedicate his life to Qawwali. He woke from that dream singing and then never stopped.

During his lifetime, he revived Qawwali, making it an internationally celebrated art form. From Birmingham to Tokyo, from Mumbai to Toronto his concerts and new recordings were impatiently awaited. Wherever he performed he transported his listeners to a territory of peace and happiness.

 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: His Achievements

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan holds the world’s record for the biggest recording output by a Qawaali artist; a total of 125 albums of recorded music, yet that was not enough to get him the real fame he deserved. That came when he composed the music for several films of international standing including Martin Scorsese’s “Last Temptation of Christ”, Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers”, and Tim Robbins’ “Dead Man Walking”. He also worked with artists as sundry as Massive Attack, Eddie Vedder and Peter Gabriel, who admit that he was indeed one of the world’s most motivated and stimulating singers. He had also announced plans to record an album with Luciano Pavarottihad and had been invited to perform with Michael Jackson and Madonna, but health problems upset all his plans.

In the 30 years of his professional career he accumulated lifetime achievement awards in France, Japan and Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan honored him with Pride of Performance in 1986 on his splendid services to represent Pakistan’s culture abroad as he was the first South Asian singer to reach audiences in the West. He earned a Grammy nomination in 1997 in the traditional folk album category for his album Intoxicated Spirit. His collaboration with Michael Brook produced Mast Mast released in 1990, and was voted one of the decade’s top 100 albums by Alternative Press.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Pride of Pakistan

After his tour of America, the American Government, impressed by his style of Qawwali and songs requested him to teach his music and give some lectures, so during 1992-93 he taught at the University of Washington.

His greatness was such that he had the honor of performing in Alhambra, Spain which had been specially opened up for him. And on his death the French Ambassador to Pakistan, especially learned few lines of Urdu so he could pay his tribute to him.

In the words of Gohar Iqbal Punn “Some people are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. With Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan it had only been the first two. His contributions in Qawwali, classical music and compositions are marvelous. His name is a certificate in all the spheres of music. His alluring personality won the hearts of his visitors. He was a thorough gentleman, hospitable and sympathetic. He was the pride of Pakistan and Pakistan was proud of him

This amazing person sadly left us on the 16th of August 1997, but his memory will remain with us forever.




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