Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Finest Ambassador
On the 16th August 1997, the legendary Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan passed away at the premature age of 48 years. He was the undisputed ‘King of Qawwalis’, he had made the genre his own, to great international acclaim. The musical legacy was then passed onto his 23 year nephew, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. His uncle has mentored him in the classical genre since a very young age, he was the chosen one. The heavy weight of 600 years of traditional Sufi devotional music was on Rahat’s shoulders.
After years of hard work and dedication to his art, indeed Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has risen to the responsibility and challenges.
In 1983 the Oriental Star Agencies of Birmingham, England first brought Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and group to the UK. They had spotted a gap in the market for this type of music for the Pakistani and Indian migrants. Indeed the performances were a huge success and the group toured around England. Rahat’s first tour to England was in 1985, at the age of 12 years old, he first performed solos.
Over the decades Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has developed an enormous following and now sells out large arenas, all over the world. From a firm foundation of classical Qawwalis he has extended into Bollywood tracks. This introduced a new younger generation to his time honoured style. Rahat, together with his musicians are now a strong force in worldwide entertainment. His recent track ‘Zaroori Tha’ from his new album Back2Love, has a massive 29 million hits on Youtube. Over the years, having been to many of his concerts in Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham and London, I can say his vocals and music is appreciated by all. Whether one is from Pakistan, India, England or North America the fans are astounded and mesmerised by his performances. Even audience members who don’t understand the language of the lyrics relate strongly to the music and emotions. Rahat says ‘the language of music is worldwide, rhythm and sur is not dependent on any language’.
I have been to many concerts but would class Rahat’s phenomenal live performances to be the best. During the concerts he is always happy and jovial with a smile. He is humble and most appreciative of his audience’s support. In his usual 3 hour concert, he continuously sings his popular tracks both classical Qawwalis and the newer Bollywood hits. He is able to quickly move from one song to another to fully entertain his audience. He usually starts with ‘Allah Hoo’ and finishes with ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’.
In 2009 Rahat Fateh Ali Khan teamed up with the prestigious City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, in a series of ‘Tribute to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’ concerts in the UK. They were a large orchestra and the mix of Western and Eastern classical music and instruments to the sounds of Qawwali was a delight for all. Rahat continued the trend started by his Uncle to bring his genre to a wider audience, by pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation. He is able to build bridges with a wide range of communities.
In 2013, at the House of Lords in London, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was honoured with a prestigious award for Community Cohesion. This was a great achievement for a Pakistani artist.
In December 2014, Rahat was invited to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and Concert in Oslo, Norway. His music was greatly appreciated by the mainly European audience. The concert was hosted by American hip hop/ rap musician and actress Queen Latifa. On the theme of the right for all the world’s children to have an education, the appropriate finale performed by Rahat was ‘Aao Parhao’, please see the link below; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO0ux0UqM9I
Indeed Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and group project a positive image of Pakistan worldwide. Through his many years of hard work and dedication to his art, he is our flag bearer internationally. He has put Pakistan on the world stage. He has brought the unique Qawwali genre to a whole new level. I wish him the best of luck in his future work and salute him for being Pakistan’s finest ambassador.