Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a great singer & composer of 20th century’s World Music. A Pakistani Qawwal who started his journey with the family’s legacy but ended up doing great things for the world audience. He was a musical genius; actually a great phenomenon of nature. some were mesmerized with his rhythms, some were with his tunes; and some like Japanese thought that he was like singing Buddha, sitting & singing divine tunes. What a great artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was!!!
Born on 13 October 1948, in Faisal Abad Pakistan, Nusrat belonged to a traditional Qawwali Family. His father Fateh Ali Khan & uncle Mubarak Ali Khan were already a famous Qawwali Duo & the band had contributed a lot in the genre. Mubarak Fateh ali Khan Qawwal were famous for Kalam e Iqbal ( Poetry of great Urdu Poet Muhammad Iqbal).
With this DNA, Nusrat was born, but this lot was less for his perspective of the music. He was given Tabla Training in the first attempt. May be it was thought that his voice was not suitable for vocal training; may be. Looking @ his zeal for music, father & uncles started training him with the art & craft of music. At 15, he had to bear the loss of his father Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, who died a sudden death in 1964. Nusrat, for the first time, performed @ the Chehlum of his father. The Qawwali band continued under the supervision of Mubarak Ali Khan. In 1971, his uncle Mubark also had to leave for the heavens & 23 year old was left with the legacy & responsibility of the whole family.
Early Life & Struggle
Nusrat Fateh Ali & Younger Farrukh Fateh Ali, father of great Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, took the responsibility of Qawwali Band & started performing @ different shrines all over Pakistan. People narrate that sometimes the band had to walk miles to reach shrines in the far flung. In 1971, the band performed @ an annual Radio Lahore’s event called Jashn e baharan. The young band was listened by the music masters like Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, Roshan Ara Begum, Ustad Amanat Fateh Ali & Chhotey Ghulam Ali Khan. The masters had recognized that Nusrat had some exclusive talent & was later on, @ a young age, given the title of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, well before his international recognition.
Rising of a national & International star
Nusrat & the band started recording their audio albums under the growing culture of Audio Cassette recording. The business already had flourished in US & Japan, and it was getting mass appeal in Pakistan. Nusrat & the band recorded ” Haq Ali Ali’ with EMI. Later on, Rehmat Gramophone Agency recorded most of his popular albums & the band was established as one of successful Qawwali Bands in couple of years. In 1980, Nusrat was invited by Raj kapoor in India, At the wedding of his son Rishi Kapoor.
In 1985, Khan & the band performed @ the WOMAD( World of Music, Arts & Dance) festival in London, England. The canvas of the star was expanding. He visited to perform in Paris twice; in 1985 & 1988. He visited Japan, at the invitation of Japan Foundation, in 1987. In 1989, Khan was performing in New York. For the next three years till 1992, He was amazing international artists in Washington DC.
Collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Micheal Brooke & Eddie Vedder
In 1988, Khan teamed up with Peter Gabriel, an eminent English Singer & Music producer. The collaboration ended up with amazing sound track of ” Last temptation of Christ.
The Khan & peter duo carried on working together & produced five more albums in years to come. Mast Mast in 1990 was one such Album which made Nusrat the biggest star in India & Pakistan. The irony of the fact is; Nusrat was first acknowledged by International audience, & later on applauded by the people of his own region. Khan & peter produced great work together like Night Song & star Rising.
Nusrat Fateh also collaborated with Canadian Guitarist Michael Brooke. His team work with Eddie Vedder brought the track of dead man walking movie. Khan also provided vocals for the movie Prayer Cycle. He was internationally expanding as an artist; and the evidence is two Grammy Award nominations in 1997 for his albums Intoxicated Spirit & Night Song.
Khan’s influence on Indian Music & Movies
Khan left his permanent imprints on Indian Music & movie industry called Bollywood. Eminent lyricist Javed Akhtar collaborated with Khan to produce album like Sangam in 1996. Nusrat composed the music of Kachche Dhaage where Lata Mangeshkar had the privilege to sing a Nusrat composition. Khan with A.R.Rehman contributed to the “Gurus of Peace”, a song from Album Vande Mataram.
Except big few names collaborated with Khan, rest were happy to only copy his tunes like Viju Shah, Nadeem sharawan & Annu Malik. All these composers blatantly copied the tunes, even with out a smaller innovation. He influenced the trade so much that even after almost 25 year of his death, his style & songs are sung in Music Reality shows of India. singers have become singers after singing his songs. His influence still continues in from of the great Rahat Fateh Ali, who is his student & a leading playback singer of Bollywood for the last 15 years or so.
Demise of the genius
At the age of 48, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan departed to heavens on August 16, 1997 @ Cromwell Hospital London. His weight was said to be more than 130 Kilo and the reason of death was multiple failure of Liver & Kidneys.
Awards, Legacy & Posthumous acknowledgement
Nusrat left a deep influence on world music of 20th century. He took classical music of Pakistan to an international level. He made Qawwali, an international genre of music. He was the one who mixed his Khayal Singing with western arrangement and created another new genre of music- The Nusrat Style. In 1987, Government of Pakistan awarded him the Pride of Performance. In 1995, he received UNESCO Music Prize. In 1996, he was awarded Grand Prix Ameriques @ Montreal World Film Festival. He won awards from Japan & also earned the title of ” Singing Buddha”. He was also nominated for the Grammy’s twice, for two of his albums, one with Peter Gabriel. He was also recorded by Guinness World Records for most Qawwali Recordings of any South Asian Artist. He was given the title of ” voice from the other world”. On October 13, 2015, Google celebrated Khan’s 67th birthday anniversary with a doodle for India, Pakistan & Japan, along with some other countries. Nusrat Fateh was a Pakistani native, with an international vision for world music. His influence & legacy still continues in the 21 century. His songs are being remixed in year 2020, even 24 year after his death.