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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - 'King' of Sufi Music

Updated on April 30, 2020

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948 - 1997), was a Pakistani music genius, a singer, a composer, a music director, a live stage performer. Born in Faisalaabad, in a traditional classical music family, known as 'Patiala Gharana'. Nusrat was a born artist. He is considered as a on of a great singer ever, in the field of 'Qawali', 'Sufi Music' and traditional classical singing.

Nusrat rose to prominance when he first performed at his Father Chehlum at the age of 15.

'kar do kar do karam, Murshed-e-Mohtaram'...By 'Magical' Nusrat

He became the head of the family qawwali party in 1971. He was signed by Oriental Star Agencies, Birmingham, England in the early 1980s. Khan went on to release movie scores and albums in Europe, India, Japan, Pakistan and the U.S. Khan tourede around the globe and promoted his style of singing. he was liked by millions, the way he mastered the classical music. His devotion to his profession was admired all around the globe.

Early Life & Career

Nusrat born in 1948 in Faisalabad to a 'Patiala Gharana', a traditional classical music clan, having a history of music of more than six hundered (600) years. First performance that gave him fame was at 'chehlum' of his father Mr. Fateh Ali Khan.

'Tumhain Dil-Lagi bhool jani parey gi', by the 'Master'

Nusrat initially started learning 'Tabla' and besides his father 'Fateh Ali Khan', his other two music gurus were 'Ustad' Mubarik Ali khan and 'Ustad' Salamat Ali Khan. Soon after the death of his father in 1964, Nusrat rose to prominance. Khan initially worked with his uncle and guru 'Mujahid Mubarik Ali qawall and party', which were later named as 'Mujahid Mubarik, Nusrat Fateh Ali qawall and Party'.

'sochta hoon keh woh kitny masoom thy', by 'The Magical Nusrat'

After the Death of Mujahid Mubarik Ali, Nusrat became leader of the 'qawall' party in 1971. His first national performance was aired by Radio Pakistan in 1971. Nusrat was a musical genius with exceptional voice and complete masery on all forms of classical and sufi music. Soon he became a household name and later after start of his international career he continued his qawall party as well as solo performances.

Rise to the International Stage

in 1985, Khan perforformed at World of Music arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival Lonodon and same year in Paris. Later he was signed by renowned music agencies from Pakistan, Bollywood, and Europe and USA.

Nusrat was one of world Best Music Composer, one of the world best voclist, and exceptional music director who ruled and is still ruling th 'Sufi' Music and Qawali Music.

Mesmerizing Nusrat at WOMAD 1992

Magical Career (1971-1997)

Nusrat Enjoyed an unmatched magical career from 1971 to his death in 1997. Nusrat was very comfortably ahead of his time by 25 to 30 years. His compositions and his vocals are still as fresh as a rose and world is still mesmerized by his music and singing.

Nusrat Inspired a world of Musicians and singers. Now a days there are large number of singers in India and Pakistan inspired by the Maestro and they are also enjoying a good fame and career as well. Later I will share list of those as well.

'Mery Rashk-e-Qamar' by Nusrat


'Ustad (Maestro)' Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan left this temporary world for his eternal abode on 16th August, 1997. He was facing liver and kidney failure challenge in his last days. He travelled from Pakistan to London for treatment in August of 1997, but complications develped and Khan could not survive a sudden cardiac arrest on 16th of August, 1997 at Cormwell Hospital London.

Khan's early departure left the whole music world stunned and sad. Today after 23 years of his sad departure, Khan still enjoying a place in music world, whis is 'One and only'. No one is still near to his calibre and ability.

'Akhian udeekdian' by 'Maestro'

Awards And Honors

There is a long and un-ending list of Awards & Honors by 'Ustad' Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. To name a few of his awards;

  1. Pride of Performance Pakistan - 1995
  2. Guinnes World Record for Most number of Qawwali's - 125
  3. Grammy Music Award
  4. UNESCO Music Prize - 1995
  5. Grand Prix des Amériques at Montreal World Film Festival for exceptional contribution to the art of cinema - 1995
  6. "Legends" award at the UK Asian Music Awards (Posthumously) - 2005
  7. "60 Years of Asian Heroes", lists him as one of the top 12 artists and thinkers in the last 60 years - 'Time' Magzine - 2006
  8. 'Ustad' (The Master) of Music

'Iss Karam ka Karoon Shukr kesy ada' by the Master

Legacy & Influences

"Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's voice was otherworldly. For 25 years, his mystical songs transfixed millions. He performed qawwali, which means wise or philosophical utterance, as nobody else of his generation did. His vocal range, talent for improvisation and sheer intensity were unsurpassed."

Jeff Buckley cited Khan as a major influence, saying of him "He's my Elvis"

List of his legacy & influences is unending globally:

  • Rahat Fateh Ali Khan - Pakistan
  • Naeem Abbas Roofi - Pakistan
  • Hans Raj Hans - India
  • Ustad Saleem Khan - India
  • Nooran Sisters - India
  • Jeff Buckley cited Khan as a major influence, saying of him "He's my Elvis"
  • Nadia Ali,
  • Zayn Malik,
  • Malay,
  • Peter Gabriel,
  • A. R. Rahman,
  • Sheila Chandra,
  • Alim Qasimov,
  • Eddie Vedder, and
  • Joan Osborn, and so many other dignatrie

His Dignatries fan club other than musicians is as rich as any body in the world. I am not including any specific names as it will be unfair to those excluded from the list. whole world seems to be mesmerized by this music genius.

Magical Nusrat performing 'Ye Jo halka halka suroor hy'

Domination everywhere - Films, Concerts, Qawwalis

Nusrat was one of the highest paid playback singer, highest paid concert singer and highst paid 'Sufi Music' concer singer of his time. He was simplest of simple and the most humble human being as well. He was a role model and a gem of a person.

His work is masterpiece and should be preserved as a world cultural and musical heritage for the coming times.

'Vigar gai aye thory dinaan toon' by Ustad Nusrat


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