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The Aspects You Don’t Want To Miss About Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is well known for Qawwali and devotional Sufis music.

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Initially, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was named Pervez Fateh Ali Khan. Wikimedia Commons
Initially, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was named Pervez Fateh Ali Khan. Wikimedia Commons
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born on 13 October 1948 in Faisalabad, Pakistan
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was deeply interested in everything related to music
  • When Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan started his career, it was the period of mass awakening and social upheaval

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a legend in himself. He is well known for Qawwali and devotional Sufis music. Nusrat Fateh literally changed the general perception about Qawwali. He was born on 13 October 1948 in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Initially, he was named Pervez Fateh Ali Khan and also known by his nickname, Paiji. Nusrat Fateh was the first boy, born after four girls and it made him the centre of attention and everybody’s affection.

Nusrat Fateh birth was celebrated with great fervour. Many reputed musicians, like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Lal Khan, came to the family home to pay homage to the newborn, who was already exhibiting a tendency to plumpness.

In the very beginning only, certain signs seemed to predict a unique destiny for this child with his small hands and remarkable corpulence.

In the first place, Nusrat Fateh’s intended to have him trained as a doctor because his father was well aware of the fact that professional musicians were often accorded a very low status in a traditional society like theirs and that a doctor would command far greater respect. But it was impossible though, to ignore for long a family legacy that was so present in Nusrat Fateh’s blood.

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From his childhood only, Nusrat Fateh was deeply interested in everything related to music. He used to follow the classes when his father used to teach some of his students, absorbing and storing away all the knowledge he could, even trying to play the harmonium when his father was not around.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was called ‘Shahanshah-e-Qawwali’ or The King of Kings of Qawwali. Wikimedia Commons
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was called ‘Shahanshah-e-Qawwali’ or The King of Kings of Qawwali. Wikimedia Commons

Gradually, Nusrat’s father got to know his interest in music and then on some occasions, his father used to shower few words of advice from his father. As his father realised his son’s extraordinary skill, he initiated him seriously into the mysteries of classical music and qawwali.

Nusrat Fateh’s father began him teaching the tabla, then the harmonium and to sing the main ragas and the technique of chanting the poetic phrases.

The learning process was very herculean for Nusrat and the voice had to be absolutely perfect. One day, Nusrat Fateh said, “When I sing, the distance between God and me decreases and the distance between my cheek and my father’s right-hand increases!”

Nusrat Fateh wholeheartedly devoted himself, locking himself up in his room, spending sleepless nights absorbing his father’s lessons and perfecting them.

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He literally inherited the 600-year-old tradition of qawwali from his forefathers.
But his talent was not just limited to qawwali. Nusrat Fateh also collaborated with renowned musicians like Peter Gabriel and Eddie Vedder which saw a union of the electric guitar and the tabla, producing some of the richest fusions of the time.

Nusrat Fateh’s knack for improvisation and the sheer intensity of his chords unsurpassed him as one of the most significant voices from the region.

His voice spews magic and humble sanity which touched millions and hence he was called ‘Shahanshah-e-Qawwali’ or The King of Kings of Qawwali.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's voice spews magic and humble sanity which touched millions. Wikimedia Commons
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice spews magic and humble sanity which touched millions. Wikimedia Commons

When Nusrat Fateh started his career, it was the period of mass awakening and social upheaval. The dictators were sent home and people became more politically conscious than ever. It was during this environment that qawwali made its way to streets and bazaars.

We have compiled a list of the best music composed by none other than Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, have a look.

  1. Mere Rashke Qamar- Baadshaho
  2. Tanhai- Dillagi
  3. Sanson ki Mall ape
  4. Piya re Piya re- Sultan of Sufi
  5. Mazaa aa gya
  6. Afreen Afreen- Sangam
  7. Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai- Qawal and Party
  8. Tere bin nahi lagda dil
  9. Sanu ik pal chain na aawe- Mehfil-E-Sama
  10. Sajna tere bina- Bandit Queen

Next Story

Meet Unusual Musical Duo ‘Tabla for Two’

An Eastern man and a Western woman make up one of the most unusual musical groups in Washington, D.C.

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tabla for two, tablasphere
“We play new music for the New World, we call it. It's our signature music and it is composed by Masood. It's for two tabla players,” Greenway explains. VOA

An Eastern man and a Western woman make up one of the most unusual musical groups in Washington, D.C.

Masood Omari and Abigail Adams Greenway both play tabla, an Eastern percussion instrument, every day in Greenway’s basement outside Washington. They call this colorfully decorated studio, Tablasphere. And they call themselves Tabla for Two.

Omari introduces the instrument: “This is a goat skin and the middle part, the black here, is burnt steel, coming from the steel powder and pasted with a strong glue and put in the center. It makes a cosmic sound, you can see?”

To Greenway, every note that emerges from the tabla is a “prayer.” “It’s mathematically perfect and very meditative,” she adds. What is unusual is that she and Omari both play the tabla together, giving them a modern sound.

The duo plays three different kinds of music, much of which can be heard on YouTube. The first two are classical music and traditional music of Afghanistan and India. The third:

“We play new music for the New World, we call it. It’s our signature music and it is composed by Masood. It’s for two tabla players,” Greenway explains.

Greenway

Greenway grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, a manufacturing city steeped in U.S. history. Her first two names hark back to the wife of America’s second president, Abigail Adams.

“I grew up listening to classical music and American Jazz,” Greenway says. “My father was a classical violinist.” A visual artist, Greenway moved a long way from all that when she embraced Afghan music and musical instruments.

She first became intrigued when she was introduced to the music of India. “I heard the music and I just said this is the most amazing instrument I’ve ever heard, the tabla,” she said, adding, “They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

The pair met eight years ago in an Afghan antique and textile shop in Washington. “I realized that he was this amazing tabla player and I asked for lessons. I didn’t know at the time where this was going. All I knew is that I had a huge desire and a force pushing me to learn to play the instrument.”

“When I saw her first time Abigail, she doesn’t (didn’t) understand the language of Afghanistan. (But) she understand (understood) the beat and melody, and she was very exciting (excited) to learn. She learned quickly.”

tablasphere, couple, tabla for two
Abigail Adams Greenway plays harmonium in her basement, they call Tablasphere, outside Washington. VOA

Omari

Omari fled Afghanistan when he was 15 and resettled in Islamabad. There, he studied tabla for 10 years and received his mastership before coming to the U.S. in 2002.

“What’s really extraordinary is that Masood is singing and playing tabla at the same time,” Greenway says about her teacher. “That is exciting.” Greenway has learned to play harmonium, also known as a pump organ, from Omari.

And here, she earns his praise: “Abigail is playing harmonium in a style no one can play like her. She is playing with her fingers. She is playing very soft, graceful and gentle.” After devoting years to intense study and practice, the duo formed Tabla for Two. They play at embassies, museums, universities and at the Tablasphere for special invited guests.

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Ambassadors

If Greenway worried about acceptance as a woman playing Afghan music, she discovered differently. “I am clearly an American female and I am playing their music. It’s a coming together of cultures,” she says. “When I play this music they are accepting me, the Afghan people are accepting me.”

“It’s just the beginning. I’ve just started learning about a place that I knew nothing about that has been so ravaged,” Greenway enthuses. “And I’m thrilled to show Afghanistan in a positive, beautiful light.” (VOA)