It’s hard to believe it was eleven years ago when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the world-renowned Qawwal, left us to meet his Maker. The date was August 16, 1997.
Regarded by PakistaniMusic.com to be “Pakistan’s greatest export”, Khan redefined how Pakistan and Qawwali was viewed across the world. Trained in the art of qawwali, as had been the Khan family tradition for over 600 years, he transformed what was previously a quaint Sufi tradition into its present modern form.
In the mid 1990’s, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan began his march Westward, collaborating with music personalities such as Michael Brook, Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) and Peter Gabriel. In the East, he performed several tracks for Indian films further consolidating his fan base. Before long, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music had millions of followers across the globe, with his form of qawwali played everywhere from weddings in Lahore to cafes in Paris to nightclubs across Europe. The Shahenshah-e-Qawwali had arrived.
“Mast Nazron” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Unfortunately, he wasn’t destined to stay with us for long. Although at the height of his career and international stardom, he was physically a weakened man. He fell ill with kidney and liver failure on August 11, 1997 and died of a sudden cardiac arrest at age 48.
It’s been eleven years, but we still miss Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. For those of my generation, he represented something magical. Something powerful. His music was inspirational. To see him perform, awe-inspiring. It is tragic that someone with so much talent and potential left us so soon. Yet, his music lives on, with tracks such as Halka Halka Suroor, Ali Maula, and Dam Mast Qalander continuing to inspire.