Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Luminary of Classical Music

Remembering Shahensha-e- Qawwali on his 69th Birth Anniversary

Tommy Newberry said that “If you want to live any extraordinary life find out what ordinary people do –and don’t do it.” Nusrat  Fateh Ali Khan’s father wanted his son to become a medical doctor however Nusrat  by following his heart ended up becoming the greatest Qawwal in the modern times.  It is believed that success is not accidental but rather depends on the choices made by an individual. Likewise Nusrat made the right choice by first mastering tabla at a very young age Despite being the son of a renowned musician Nusrat got his first breakthrough as a tabla player by performing with Pandit Dina Nath.  The great musician from Calcutta Pandit Dina Nath once visited Pakistan and stayed with Fateh Ali Khan (Nusrat’s father) in Faisalabad. To Pandit’s dismay no tabla player was up to his mark at that point in time therefore he expressed his disappointment to Fateh Ali Khan.   Back in the day a skilled tabla player was considered essential to accompany a classical singer. Nusrat‘s father knew his young son was capable of performing even in the company of the great Pandit as he practiced harmonium and tabla every day. However Pandit Nath initially did not take Nusrat seriously who was rather a plump boy. Conversely the young Nusrat being well aware of his talent dreamed of becoming a musician even though his father wanted him to end up becoming a doctor.  Nusrat perceived that the opportunity of playing tabla for Pandit Dina Nath could be the greatest prospect in shaping his future as a musician. The Pandit despite being a little hesitant allowed Nusrat to accompany him but contrary to Pandit‘s expectation Nusrat dazzled him with his lightning fast fingers on the tabla.  Nusrat‘s first electrifying public performance on tabla became a stepping stone in changing his destiny as a musician. However Nusrat’s first performance as a singer was at his father’s funeral when he was only sixteen.

Some less Known interesting facts about the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

  • Nusrat at the time of his birth was named Pervez Fateh Ali Khan however his father changed his son’s name on the advice of his friend Pir Ghulam Ghaus Samandani.
  • One of the reasons for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s immense popularity in Japan was owing to his resemblance with the laughing Buddha.
  • It is said that many Japanese mistakenly believed that Ustad Nusrat was a reincarnation of laughing Buddha.
  • Nusrat revealed in his documentary film that he saw his father in a dream ten days after his death instructing him to sing.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan initially gained popularity as the head of his Qawwali team which was known as Qawwali party in 1971.
  • The Qawwali party gave its first public performance at a music festival organized by Radio Pakistan.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan during the early 1980’s was signed by the Oriental Star Agencies Label a company famous for producing some of the greatest hits in the United Kingdom.
  • Owing to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s matchless singing capabilities internationally acclaimed musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Jeff Buckley collaborated with him for their musical ventures.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “intoxicated spirit” and the “Night song” was nominated for the Grammy Awards in 1997.
  • Nusrat was awarded a UNESCO Prize in 1995 for the title “The Greatest Musician” which was an indication of his immense global popularity.
  • Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan rendered a song “Gurus of Peace” and gifted it to A.R Rehman for his album Bande Matram on the 50th anniversary of the Indian independence.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was remembered by his millions of fans worldwide on his 69th birth anniversary on 13th October this year.  His extraordinary music still connects and resonates with people even after his death. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan shall always be remembered as a true gem of our society.



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