Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a well-known Pakistani singer, musician, Qawwali, devotional music of the Sufis. Khan was born in Faisalabad in the year 1948 in a Punjabi Muslim family. His family has migrated to Pakistan in 1947 post partition of India from their city Jalandhar, East Punjab, British India present Punjab, India. His father, Fateh Ali Khan, was a vocalist, instrumentalist, musician and also a qawwal.
The tradition of qawwali has been followed through successive generations of Khan since six centuries. Khan was the youngest among the 5 children to his parents and the only son. Khan was married to Naheed, daughter of his uncle Salamat Ali Khan; they daughter named Nida. At the initial stage, his father didn’t want his son to follow the path of qawwali as he thought they bear low social status being Qawwali artists; he wanted him to become doctor or engineering.
But Khan developed his keen interest in the Qawwali. Before moving to learn vocals, Khan learned Tabla. After his father’s death in 1964, he took his further musical learning under Mubarak Ali Khan and Salamat Ali Khan, his paternal uncles. Mubarak Ali Khan died in 1971; after which, officially Khan became the leader of ‘Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan & Party’, his family Qawwali party. Khan did his first performance as a leader at annual musical festival’s studio recording broadcast organized by Radio Pakistan; Jashn-e-Baharan.
He was well versed in singing in Punjabi and Urdu; he also sang in Persian, Hindi and Braj Bhasha. His song ‘Haq Ali Ali’ was his first hit in Pakistan; the song witnessed Khan’s sargam improvisations. Khan performed at many international platforms as a Festival in London (1985); which was ‘World of Music, Arts and Dance’, in Paris (1985 and 1988), Japan (1987) and Brooklyn Academy of Music,
(1989); he was praised on all the platforms.
He also has performed in Japan at the 5th Asian Traditional Performing Art Festival. Khan worked with international singers, musicians as Peter Gabriel, Michael Brown, Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder for various albums/songs as ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, Mustt Mustt, Night Song and ‘Dead Man Walking’; also improvised his qawwalis with Western music working with Peter Gabriel.
Khan’s international album ‘Intoxicated Spirit’ was nominated in 1997 for Best Traditional folk album in Grammy Award and also the album ‘Night Song’, the same year, were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best World Music Album. Khan has been honored with the Award Pride of Performance from President of Pakistan’s Award. He received the UNESCO Music Prize in 1995.
For his contribution to the art of cinema, he was awarded Grand Prix des Ameriques at Montreal World Film Festival in 1996. Khan has received many international awards apart from these; some other few are Legends Awards at UK Asian Music Awards, Arts and Culture Prize at Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.
He was given the title ‘Ustad’ at a function in Lahore; which was held on his father’s death anniversary. Khan sang many songs in Pakistani films. Also, his songs that he sang in Bollywood are ‘Koi Jane Koi Na Jane’ from the film ‘
Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya
’, ‘Saya Bhi Saath Jab Chhod Jaye’ from ‘Dillagi’ and ‘Dulhe ka Sehra’ from the film ‘
’. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died on 16th August 1997 at Cormwell Hospital due to sudden cardiac arrest; before that he was admitted on 11th Aug due to his kidney and liver failure. Khan’s music legacy is continued by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, his nephew.