Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Iss darr ki sagawat kya kahiye,

Pakke rishte joh teri rehmat se ban jaate hain,

Kachche dhaage se bandhe log chale aate hain

Tu mila deta bicchde huye insano ko,

Tere andaz-a-karam shaan yeh diklaate hain

Iss darr ki sagawat kya kahiye …

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A frenzied Annu Kapoor enacts an enthralling qawwali, ‘Is Shane Karam Ka Kya Kahna … ‘ in the movie aptly called Kachche Dhaage. A hindi commercial potboiler the movie didn’t quite hit the record-charts but it had great music. And leading the pack was the title number being rendered by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Even those who did not quite follow the Qawwali and Ghazal genre and had only a passing acquaintance of Sufi music could not ignore the powerful rendition. It touched the heart as was the case with many of his other songs. And Bollywood music recognized the potential of the voice and we got a few great numbers from the maestro.

Popular numbers include ‘Piya Re Piya Re …’, ‘Koi Jaane Koi Na Jaane …’ (the final stanza), ‘Dulhe ka sehra suhaana lagta hai, dulhan ka toh dil deewana lagta hai’, Tere bin nahin lagda dil mera dholna …’ ‘Morey Saiyan Toh Hain Pardes …’, ‘Kinna Sona Tujhe Rab Ne Banaya, Dil Kare Dekhta Ravan …’ and ‘Saaya Bhi Saath Jab Chorr Jaaye Aisey Hai Tanhai’.

One is encouraged further to look for his more traditional songs that go beyond film music. The popular songs include renditions of classics like ‘Mera Piya Ghar Aaya Ho Ramji…’, ‘Nit Khair Manga Main Teri, Dua Na Koi Aur Mang Di…’, and ‘Akhiyan Udeek Diya’ among other popular numbers.

We then follow it up with his classical concerts featuring Qawwalis and Sufi music. The repertoire includes ‘Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai …’, ‘Dama Dam Mast Kalandar …’, ‘Saanson Ki Mala Pey …’,’Jaane Kab Kam Honge, Iss Duniya Ke Gham…’, ‘Sanu Ek Pal Chain Na Aave…’ and ‘Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande Mat Dalo …’ among others.

His success paved the way for renaissance of Sufi music in Hindi films and enabled Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, his nephew, to inherit his mantle. Nowadays no music reality show is ever complete without including its segment of Sufi singers and the songs are making their way back to popularity charts all the time.

And his genius went beyond singing – music was his life. He would compose amazing pieces and collaborate with international artistes across the spectrum including many from the western world. He became the face of Qawallis and popularized it with a generation that was not ordinarily drawn to it. And he left us a rich legacy by grooming his nephew to continue in his footsteps.

Words fail us when we try to describe his genius. Just like his popular song in collaboration with the redoubtable Javed Akhtar –

‘Usne jaana ki tareef mumkin nahin,

Aafreen, aafreen; Aafreen aafreen.’


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