Remembering Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: A musical genius and mystic

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a mystic and one learns something new about his impeccable music every day.

Born in a Punjabi Muslim family in Faisalabad, Pakistan in the year 1948, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan introduced qawwali and Sufism to the world. He performed in front of various audiences in over 40 countries. Khan was the heir to Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, a renowned vocalist and qawwal belonging to a 600-year-old qawwal Gharana.

Khan was just 16 years old when he lost his father. He worked with the Oriental Star Agencies and recorded over 150 albums in his musical career. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was called the “Shahenshah-e-Qawwali” (the King of Kings of Qawwali) and rightly so. He did justice and more than that, he did magic to the world of music.

Khan Sahab recalled in one of his interviews that during his early days, he began his riyaaz (music practice) with his harmonium from dawn till dark. Some of the greatest singers who have been his audience have talked about being in a trance state while seeing Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan live.

He remains one of the most powerful qawwali singers of the continent who always keep his rhythm and energy intact while he performed to large audience for hours together. He is one such vocalist who had something for everyone. Every person who explores his music finds something to love and get hooked to. While some are fascinated by his traditional qawwalies, some others adore his western collaborations with the likes of Michael Brook and Peter Gabriel.

Ustad left for his heavenly abode on the 16th August 1997 after a prolonged illness. His funeral was a public event and large masses gathered to express their sorrow and attended his funeral.

At present, the musical tradition of the gharana is being continued by his nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the Rizwan-Muazzam duo. While Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s true devotees acknowledge that his musical prowess is unmatched and would remain so forever, one can hope for good music from his heir Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

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