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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born in 1948 in Fajsalabad, in the Pakistani province of Punjab. He was a member of a family whose male descendants had specialized in the performance of religious music qawwali for over 600 years . The music has developed on the basis of Sufism – the mystical trend of Islam. The essence of qawwali is prompting a religious trance enabling a direct contact with God.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s father, a great master of qawwali and respected musicologist, taught his son the basics of this music and passed on the knowledge of classical hindu ragas and the Indian art of vocal khyal based on improvisation. Talented, divinely gifted Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has contributed to the popularization and development of qawwali by combining all these musical genres. In the literary layer, this was Sufi poetry, originated in Persia, India and Punjab province, which constituted the spiritual dimension of his creative activity.
Even before his death Nusrat reached the status of the greatest voice of the Indian subcontinent. His voice, covering 5 octaves, became recognizable in Bombay, the northern Afghanistan, remote villages of the western Baluchistan and Bangladesh. His concerts – mysteries, lasting for many hours, were filled with an excited audience, who paid no attention to the religious differences of other listeners, which even now is an exception among Muslims from Pakistan and Hindus from India. Nustrat’s music was not limited to India and Pakistan. It also won the recognition of the Western world and built a bridge between Eastern and Western civilizations.
Nusrat recorded more than 120 albums for various records companies in Pakistan, India, Europe, Japan and the United States. His voice can also be heard in the famous final scene of crucifixion in the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” directed by Martin Scorsese, “Natural Born Killers” by Oliver Stone and in “Dead Man Walking” by Tim Robbins. Some directors from Bollywood have also often used his music. Many Muslims living in Pakistan are still convinced that during his concerts Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in trance had direct contact with God. Japanese and Zulus people, who are so distant in terms of culture and religion, attribute divine qualities to Nusrat and call him Little Buddha or Unkulunkulu (God-Man).