Nusrat fateh ali khan is a name synonym with Sufi music in south-Asia. Many like me were introduced to Sufi philosophy and music via his singing. I remember first listening to him in 1997 , that was time when many of his albums were launched in India and many music channels use to play his music. I for one loved his remarkable ability to sing in his high pitch and selfless devotion to Allah ( God or Ram or any other name you call it).
The first song if I could remember properly, it was afreen-afreen which became a sensation in India and Lisa Ray, the female model in it became a symbolic beauty. His singing not only brought happiness but I can say it showed that how India-Pakistan are so close culturally inspite of hating each other deeply. The various raags that he use to practice and the qawali could be found in India’s sufi shrines to government functions being enjoyed by all people ranging from different walks of life.
I donot deny the fact, when I was a child I was also filled with emotions to bomb Pakistan and kill everyone who would harm my country but it was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music that amounted for so much dilemma in not able to understand that how can such contradictions lie in one place (But then Osama story did help in sorting out that confusion). The irony being that apart from religion both countries having the same ethnic groups. Sufi music did certainly played its part and so did Nusrat fateh Ali Khan in bringing closer both nations, even though detractors might remain.
His songs were based on both god and appreciation of god’s creativity. Like a true poet and a musician many were based on women (argued by poets as the best creation of god). His song kina sona tenu rabb ne banaaya ( How beautiful the lord has made you) was another one his many songs on women appreciating them and their beauty. That song was remixed to add it the “modern” touch (which I think would have been fine without that “touch” ). Though his song Tere bin is one of my all time favorites.
The best of his qawalis which have been recorded are in public gathering and still 14 Years after his death he remains to be the face of Sufi singing in sub-continent and outsells many others in this genre of music. His nephew Rahat Nusrat fateh ali Khan is taking the music forward. Many his songs are also good but I had always had a liking for Nusrat fateh ali khan more. His music brings out a selfless devotion (now that devotion could be used for anything). I have also read that his fore-fathers use to sing for Mughals in Mughal courts.
There are many things which bind India and Pakistan , same ethnicity, common heritage, culture and most notably Sufism. A sect within Islam which adheres to peace and plurality and doesn’t enforces anything. There are songs where Allah-Ram are made synonym. Words like “Kafir” or the non-believer are not here as all are considered equal and no religion greater or weaker.
Though, I also know that it is the north India which is more into it culturally and Delhi is considered its hub, but regions in south-India like aiyappa temple, one can also see sufism present. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs talking about various relationships are equally soothing and enlightening. Particularly if I could assess my life till now, listening his song is like a spiritual bath you take,cleansing you soul of all the dirt in this world. Much like in day to day life one has take that bath daily in-order to avoid being sick of some disease and remove the dirt from the body. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a remarkable voice which one could hear for long hours. The only down side, it is so addicting that you might forget anything else. My advice to all those drunks and “lovers”, move over that self-made experience and listen to him. The ecstasy that you will find, will be beyond anything that you have ever felt.