Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: “The King of Kings of Qawwali”

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As a singer, he was blessed with an extraordinary voice and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours.
As a singer, he was blessed with an extraordinary voice and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a Pakistani musician and singer, counted amongst the greatest voices ever recorded. He was primarily a singer of qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis. As a singer, he was blessed with an extraordinary voice and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours. Born into a family of accomplished singers and musicians, he developed an early interest in the art form.

However, his father wanted him to become a doctor or engineer as he felt that practitioners of qawwali had low social status. But fate had other plans and Nusrat too went on to become a musician cum singer. He gave his first public performance at the age of 16 and soon became the head of the family Qawwali party. Within a few years, he established himself throughout Pakistan as one of the greatest qawwals of his generation.

As he matured as a performer he developed his own unique style of qawwali, experimenting with the tempo and voice ranges. It did not take long for his fame to spread worldwide and he became a much recognized and respected figure in countries across the world including India, Japan, and the U.S. Credited with introducing qawwali music to international audiences, he is popularly referred to as “Shahenshah-e-Qawwali”, meaning “The King of Kings of Qawwali”.

Career started

  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan joined his uncles in giving performances and blossomed into a talented singer of qawwali. Initially, he drew on his uncles’ musical style, and as he matured as a performer, he added his own creative touches to his music and developed his unique, distinguishing style of singing qawwali.

  • His uncle Mubarak Ali Khan died in 1971, and Nusrat Khan became the official leader of the family Qawwali party which now became known as “Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan & Party”.
    Major Works
    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was one of the first artists to popularize qawwali to Western audiences. He possessed an extraordinary range of vocal abilities, and his powerful, intoxicating voice mesmerized audiences not just in his native Pakistan, but all over the world. Some of his most popular albums are ‘Mustt Mustt’, ‘The Day, The Night, The Dawn, The Dusk’, ‘Night Song’, and ‘Sangam’.
    Awards & Achievements
    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan received the President of Pakistan’s Award for Pride of Performance for his contribution to Pakistani music in 1987.
    He was honoured with the UNESCO Music Prize in 1995 and the Grand Prix des Amériques at Montreal World Film Festival the next year.
    In August 2010 he was included in CNN’s list of the twenty most iconic musicians from the past fifty years.
Magic Moments
Magic Moments
Personal Life & Legacy
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan married his first cousin, Naheed, the daughter of his uncle, Salamat Ali Khan in 1979. They had one daughter, Nida.
He fell ill with kidney and liver failure in 1997 while in London. He suffered a fatal heart attack and died on 16 August 1997. He was 48 years old. Khan’s musical legacy is now carried forward by his nephew, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

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