22 January, 2021

Song Of Transcendence

Breaking the cultural caste system, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan gave qawwali a universal appeal

Song Of Transcendence

I write to mourn the passing away of a great musician. Yes, I do know he was a qawwal, one of the most popular singers to have emerged from the Asian subcontinent, a composer, a star, and much more. But I would still prefer to address him first as a musician because today, when most musicians closet themselves in tight little compartments with labels that read Classical, Khayal, Thumri, Bhajan, Ghazal and so on, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan chose to sing, free and unfettered by any obligations to any one style, gharana, or form. Coming from a line of blue-blooded qawwali singers from Pakistan,

Nusrat soon became a household name with his unconventional foray into World Music. Synthesisers, drums, guitars and other western instruments joined the heady beat of the Ustad's qawwali, hitherto sung to the traditional accompaniment of the dholak, tabla, harmonium and sarangi. Why did he do it? For money? Or did he want more popularity? These and many other questions await any musician who dares to step out of the rigid boundaries of style and...



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