The Day That Music Died

I love music.

Any kind.

Yet if all the music in the world, except that of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan [NFAK] (and trad kashmiri music ;-), were suddenly to vanish I would not mind at all.

One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I never could attend a live concert by NFAK even when I could have. I guess I was hoping for him to perform in Kashmir – ecstatic sufi poetry in NFAK's divine voice in Kashmir would have been an experience to cherish forever. There could have been no finer backdrop for his mesmerising voice than the exquisite beauty of a land steeped in sufi mysticism.

When I am really in the mood for music, a typical session invariably starts off with NFAK, moves on to Aziz Mian then switches over to Kashmiri in Hassan Sofi's ethereal voice, and finally to traditional kashmiri folk with Rashid Hafiz and Ghulam Ahmed Sofi. My sensibilities are not tuned enough yet to be able to appreciate Sufiana Kalam.

Back to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He intially achieved enormous popularity with his magnificent qawwali singing but by the time he died his fame had traversed continents as one of the greatest crossover artists of world fusion music. Singing Buddha , as he was known in Japan, is an especially apt description of his live performances.

From Wikipedia : Nusrat's music invites us to eavesdrop on a man communing with his God, ever so eloquently. He makes the act of singing a passionate offering to God. But we do not merely eavesdrop. The deepest part of Nusrat's magic lies in the fact that he is able to bring our hearts to resonate with the music, so deeply, that we ourselves become full partners in that offering. He sings to God, and by listening, we also sing to God.

Time Magazine listed NFAK as one of the Top 12 Artists and Thinkers in their 60 Years of Asian Heroes issue. From the article: Khan had made the rich religious poetry of the Sufi tradition even more magical, bringing words and music together in an ecstatic celebration of the divine. To listen to him was to hear the harmony of the spheres.

National Geographic World Music commented on the …nearly superhuman vocal abilities, extraordinary improvisational skills or the enduring love that millions of fans lavished upon Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The same article also reveals how NFAK agreed to all kinds of projects and collaborations, overlooked unauthorized releases – and even sang into personal tape recorders for just about anyone who would ask, though he knew that those bits would probably soon be pirated – with the justification that any recording, "legitimate" or not, would help spread the Sufi word of universal peace and love. Face of Love with Eddie Vedder and Gurus of Peace with A R Rahman are prime examples of this foresight.

August 16 marks the 11th death anniversary of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

R.I.P, Ustad.