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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Emperor Qawwal

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan , the emperor Qawwal was a popular figure in Indo Pak region who was world renowned for Qawwali. Qawwali is a pious form  of music attributed to the Muslim saints through which they used to express their dedication for God. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born in the city of Faisalabad ( former Lyallpur )  in Pakistan on October 13, 1948. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was the fifth child of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and this family is notable for performing Qawwalis for generations as this is  their family profession since last six centuries. Nusrat’s father never wanted to grow his son as a Qawwal, as he always desired him to adopt any other worthy profession. But Nusrat’s father had never thought that his son will conquer the hearts of millions of people around the world with his unique style of performing Qawwalis one day.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan , Qawwal

When the elders of this family felt Nusrat’s keen interest in Qawwali they started to train him and he began with playing of Tabla, learning of  Raag Vidya and Bolbandish. After his father’s death  in 1964, he was further trained by his uncle Mubarak Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and he performed “Chehlum” after the forty days of his father’s death. The actual start of his career was In 1971 when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan appeared as a Qawwal Leader in his first public appearance in a program known as “Jashn-e-baharan “.This program was organized by the Radio Pakistan.

After the first major hit of Haq Ali Ali which was sung by him in real conventional style Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan brought some innovations in the traditional way of singing Qawwali by including modern background music. Specially he blended  Khayal singing with the techniques of Qawwali and sang many of his songs by using the Sargam technique and also added the western style of Techno in his numerous performances. Ultimately it all converted into a fabulous career of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He sang mainly in Urdu and Punjabi and occasionally in Persian, Brajbhasha and Hindi. Nusrat fateh Ali Khan was given the name of Shahenshah-e-Qawwali ( The King of Kings of Qawwali.) by his fans. Nusrat’s performances with world artists made him a world class musician and he toured extensively in more than 50 countries of the world.

Nusrat  and Peter Gabriel together worked on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ in 1985. He also teamed with Canadian musician Michael Brook on the albums Mustt Mustt (1990) and Night Song (1996). Nusrat also contributed to the soundtrack of Natural Born Killers. In 1994 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also composed the music for the film Bandit Queen in collaboration with Roger White. In a series of Peter Gabriel known as Real World Nusrat sang traditional Qawwali. Nusrat performed traditional Qawwali a number of occasions before international audiences at several WOMAD world music festivals. Nusrat’s album Intoxicated Spirit was nominated for a Grammy award in 1997 for best traditional folk album. With the renowned musician of India , A.R Rehman who was a big fan of Nusrat, he contributed the song “Gurus of Peace” to the album Vande Mataram, at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. Rahman, later released an album titled Gurus of Peace featuring “Allah Hoo” by Nusrat as a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His many songs were added as title songs in many Bollywood movies.

The list of the honors and awards for ” Shehenshah e Qawwali “is unlimited. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was awarded with the President of Pakistan’s Award for Pride of Performance . The prominent honors for Nusrat include  the UNESCO Music Prize , Grand Prix des Amérique , The “Legends” award at the UK Asian Music Awards. He was listed by the  TIME magazine in 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. Nusrat fateh Ali Khan, the emperor Qawwal was widely considered as the most significant name in Qawwali. He was died on the peak of his marvelous career due to kidney and lever failure on Saturday, August 16th, 1997.

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