Nusrat Fateh Ali khan who was born in Faisalabad Pakistan on 13, october, 1948 was one of the best and finest singer not only in Pakistan but in the whole world and is considered to be the king of qawaali music. He had an extraordinary range of vocal abilities and could perforn in high level of intensity for several hours that is why his voice is considered to be one of the best voice ever recorded.
Nusrat Fateh Ali khan proceeded 600-years old qawaali tradition of his family. Khan was highly credited for introducing qaawali music in international audience and is popularly known as “Shahenshah-e-Qawwali”, meaning “The King of Kings of Qawwali”.
Nusrat Fateh Ali khan started singing qawaali in the age of 16, at his father’s chelum and later in 1971 he became the head of the qawaali party of his family. Khan was signed by Oriental Star Agencies, Birmingham, England, in 1980. He engaged in collaboration with different western artists and became well known music world artist. He performed in more than 40 countries and released his albums in Europe, India, Japan, Pakistan, and the US.
Khan’s first public performance as the leader of the Qawwali party was at a studio recording broadcast as part of an annual music festival organised by Radio Pakistan, known as Jashn-e-Baharan. Khan sang mainly in Urdu and Punjabi and occasionally in Persian, Braj Bhasha and Hindi. His first major hit in Pakistan was the song Haq Ali Ali, which was performed in a traditional style and with traditional instrumentation. The song featured restrained use of Khan’s sargam improvisations.
Nusrat Fateh Ali khan got fame in almost every city of the world he visited. In 1985 he visited England and performed at the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival. In the same year he also performed at Paris and then is 1988 he again visited Paris. The Japan Foundation invited khan and he visited Japan for the very first time and performed at the 5th Asian Traditional Performing Art Festival. In 1989 khan performed in Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York.
1992 and 1993 was academic years for khan and in these years he was a visiting artist in Ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States.
In 1995 to 1996 he grouped with Peter Gabriel and Eddie Vedder and came up with different albums which included Mustt Mustt, The Last Temptation of Christ and Dead Man Walking. All these albums included the touch of both qawaali and westren music and reflected the image of both Asian and Western music.
Two of his albums “Intoxicated Spirit” and “Night Song” were nominated for Gammy Award in 1997 for best traditional folk album.
Other than albums he also sang some of the best individual songs for several Pakistani and Indian Movies. He recorded “Aur pyar ho gaya” and “Kache Dhaage with Udit Narayan for Indian movie. He sang “Saaya bhi jab sath chor jaye” for Sunny Deol’s movie Dillagi. The movie was released two years after his death in 1999. Another song for Indian movie “Dhadkan” was released in 2000.
Khan contributed the song “Gurus of Peace” to the album Vande Mataram, composed by A. R. Rahman, and released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. Rahman, who was a big fan of Khan could not compose further songs with him. As a tribute, Rahman later released an album titled Gurus of Peace, which featured “Allah Hoo” by Khan. Rahman’s 2007 song “Tere Bina” was also composed as a tribute to Khan.
Awards and Titles
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is cosidered to be the important part of qawaali music. He recieved President of Pakistan’s award for Pride of performence in 1987 for his extraordinary contribution to the Pakistani music.
Khan recieved the UNESCO music pride in 1995. In 1996 he was awarded Grand Prix des Amériques at Montreal World Film Festival for exceptional contribution to the art of cinema. In the same year, Khan received the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also received The Legends award in 2005 in UK Asian music award. In 2006 the Time magazine listed him as one of the top 12 artists and thinkers in the last 60 years. He also appeared on NPR’s 50 great voices list in 2010. In August 2010 he was included in CNN’s list of the twenty most iconic musicians from the past fifty years. In 2008, Khan was listed in 14th position in UGO’s list of the best singers of all time.
There are also several documentaries made on the life and career of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: le dernier prophète (1996). Directed by Jérôme de Missolz.
Nusrat has Left the Building… But When? (1997). Directed by Farjad Nabi. (This 20-minute docudrama focuses on Khan’s early career.)
A Voice from Heaven (1999). Directed by Giuseppe Asaro. New York, NY: Winstar TV & Video. (This 75-minute documentary, available on VHS and DVD, provides an introduction to Khan’s life and work.)
Samandar Main Samandar (2007). A documentary aired on Geo TV detailing Khan’s career.
The King of Qawalli (2009). A short film aired on Dawn News about Khan’s life and career.