Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan


Born on: 13 October 1948 – Lyallpur (Faislabad), Punjab, Pakistan
Died: 16 August 1997 (aged 48) London, England
Burial Place: Jhang Road Graveyard, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan
Spouse(s): Naheed Nusrat (1979)
Children: Nida Fateh Ali Khan
Occupation: Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Music director, Composer, Vocalist
Years active: 1964 – 1997

Image Credit Source – Facebook

  • Qawwali
  • Ghazal
  • Sufi
  • Classical
  • Folk world
  • Punjabi


  • Mubarak Ali Khan (Uncle)
  • Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan (Brother)
  • Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan (Cousin)
  • Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (Nephew)
  • Rizwan-Muazzam (Nephew)


Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; 13 oct 1948 – 16 August 1997

Parvez Fateh Ali Khan known as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was a Pakistani vocalist, musician, composer and music director primarily a singer of qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music. He is considered to be the greatest Sufi singer in the Punjabi and Urdu language, and World’s greatest qawwali singer ever; he is often referred to as “Shahenshah-e-Qawwali” (The King of Kings of Qawwali). He was described as the 4th greatest singer of all time by LA Weekly in 2016. He was known for his vocal abilities and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours. He belonged to the Qawwal Bacchon Gharana (Delhi gharana) extending the 600-year old qawwali tradition of his family, Khan is widely credited with introducing qawwali music to international audiences.

Born in Lyallpur (Faisalabad), Khan had his first public performance at the age of 15, at his father’s chelum. He became the head of the family qawwali party in 1971. He was signed by Oriental Star Agencies, Birmingham, England, in the early 1980s. Khan went on to release movie scores and albums in Europe, India, Japan, Pakistan and the U.S. He engaged in collaborations and experiments with Western artists, becoming a well-known world music artist. He toured extensively, performing in over 40 countries. In addition to popularising qawwali music, he also had a big impact on contemporary South Asian popular music, including Pakistani pop, Indian pop and Bollywood music.

Early Life and Career

Khan was born into a Muslim family in (Lyallpur) Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan, in 1948. His family originates from Basti Sheikh Darvesh in Jalandhar, Punjab in present-day India. His ancestors learned music and singing there and adopted it as a profession. He was the fifth child and first son of Fateh Ali Khan, a musicologist, vocalist, instrumentalist, and qawwal. Khan’s family, which included four older sisters and a younger brother, Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, grew up in central Faisalabad. The tradition of qawwali in the family had passed down through successive generations for almost 600 years. Initially, his father did not want Khan to follow the family’s vocation. He had his heart set on Nusrat choosing a much more respectable career path and becoming a doctor or engineer because he felt qawwali artists had low social status. However, Khan showed such an aptitude for and interest in qawwali, that his father finally relented.

In 1971, after the death of his uncle Mubarak Ali Khan, Khan became the official leader of the family qawwali party and the party became known as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan & Party. Khan’s first public performance as the leader of the qawwali party was at a studio recording broadcast as part of an annual music festival organized by Radio Pakistan, known as Jashn-e-Baharan. Khan sang mainly in Urdu and Punjabi and occasionally in Persian, Braj Bhasha and Hindi. His first major hit in Pakistan was the song Haq Ali Ali, which was performed in a traditional style and with traditional instrumentation. The song featured restrained use of Khan’s sargam improvisations.

Later Career

In the summer of 1985, Khan performed at the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in London. He performed in Paris in 1985 and 1988. He first visited Japan in 1987, at the invitation of the Japan Foundation. He performed at the 5th Asian Traditional Performing Art Festival in Japan. He also performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, in 1989, earning him admiration from the American audience.

Khan, throughout his career, had great understanding with many south Asian singers such as Alam Lohar, Noor Jehan, A. R. Rahman, Asha Bhosle, Javed Akhtar, and the Lata Mangeshkar.

In the 1992 to 1993 academic year, Khan was a Visiting Artist in the Ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States.

In 1988, Khan teamed up with Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, which led to Khan being signed to Gabriel’s Real World label. He would go on to release five albums of traditional qawwali through Real World, along with the more experimental albums Mustt Mustt (1990), Night Song (1996), and the posthumous remix album Star Rise (1997).

Khan’s experimental work for Real World, which featured his collaborations with the Canadian guitarist Michael Brook, spurred on several further collaborations with a number of other Western composers and rock musicians. One of the most noteworthy of these collaborations came in 1995, when Khan grouped with Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder on two songs for the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking. Khan also provided vocals for The Prayer Cycle which was put together by Jonathan Elias, but died before the tracks could be completed. Alanis Morissette was brought in to sing with his unfinished vocals. In 2002, Gabriel included Khan’s vocals on the posthumously released track “Signal to Noise” on his album Up.

Khan’s album Intoxicated Spirit was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1997. That same year, his album Night Song was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.

Khan contributed songs to, and performed in, several Pakistani films. Shortly before his death, he composed music for three Bollywood films, which includes the film Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya, in which he also sang for “Koi Jaane Koi Na Jaane” on-screen with the lead pair, and “Zindagi Jhoom Kar”. He also composed music for Kartoos where he sang for “Ishq Da Rutba”, and “Bahaa Na Aansoo”, alongside Udit Narayan. He died very shortly prior to the movie’s release. His final music composition for Bollywood was for the movie, Kachche Dhaage where he sang in “Iss Shaan-E-Karam Ka Kya Kehna”. The movie was released in 1999, two years after his death. The two singing sisters of Bollywood, Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar sang for the songs he composed in his brief stint in Bollywood. He also sang “Saya Bhi Saath Jab Chhod Jaye” for Sunny Deol’s movie Dillagi. The song was released in 1999, two years after Khan’s death. He also sang “Dulhe Ka Sehra” from the Bollywood movie Dhadkan which was released in 2000. Khan was used by Imran Khan to source funds for his Cancer Hospital as told by Appo G, his eldest of four sisters. Khan contributed the song “Gurus of Peace” to the 1997 album Vande Mataram, composed by A. R. Rahman, and released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. As a posthumous tribute, Rahman later released an album titled Gurus of Peace which included “Allah Hoo” by Khan. Rahman’s 2007 song “Tere Bina” for the film Guru was also composed as a tribute to Khan.

Tributes, Legacy and Influence

Khan is often credited as one of the progenitors of “world music”. Widely acclaimed for his spiritual charisma and distinctive exuberance, he was one of the first and most important artists to popularise qawwali, then considered an “arcane religious tradition”, to Western audiences. His powerful vocal presentations, which could last up to 10 hours, brought forth a craze for his music all over Europe.

Alexandra A. Seno of Asiaweek wrote;

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice was otherworldly. For 25 years, his mystical songs transfixed millions. It was not long enough … He performed qawwali,which means wise or philosophical utterance, as nobody else of his generation did. His vocal range, talent for improvisation and sheer intensity were unsurpassed.

Jeff Buckley cited Khan as a major influence, saying of him “He’s my Elvis”, and performing the first few minutes of Khan’s “Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai” (including vocals) at live concerts. Many other artists have also cited Khan as an influence, such as Nadia Ali, Zayn Malik, Malay, Peter Gabriel, A. R. Rahman, Sheila Chandra, Alim Qasimov, Eddie Vedder, and Joan Osborne, among others. His music was also appreciated by singers such as Mick Jagger, socialites such as Parmeshwar Godrej, actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, Trudie Styler, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins, and authors such as Sam Harris, who cited Khan as one of his favourite musicians of all time.

Paul Williams picked a concert performance by Khan for inclusion in his 2000 book The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: a ‘top-40’ list, in which he devotes a chapter each to what he considers the top 40 artistic achievements of the 20th century in any field (including art, movies, music, fiction, non-fiction, science-fiction). The Derek Trucks Band covers Khan’s songs on two of their studio albums. Their 2002 album Joyful Noise includes a cover of “Maki Madni”, which features a guest performance by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Khan’s nephew. 2005’s Songlines includes a medley of two of Khan’s songs, “Sahib Teri Bandi” and “Maki Madni”. This medley first appeared on the band’s live album Live at Georgia Theatre (2004).

In 2004, a tribute band called Brooklyn Qawwali Party (formerly Brook’s Qawwali Party) was formed in New York City by percussionist Brook Martinez to perform the music of Khan. The 13-piece group still performs mostly instrumental jazz versions of Khan’s qawwalis, using the instruments conventionally associated with jazz rather than those associated with qawwali.

In 2007, electronic music producer and performer Gaudi, after being granted access to back catalogue recordings from Rehmat Gramophone House (Khan’s former label in Pakistan), released an album of entirely new songs composed around existing vocals. The album, Dub Qawwali, was released by Six Degrees Records. It reached no. 2 in the iTunes US Chart, no. 4 in the UK and was the no. 1 seller in’s Electronic Music section for a period. It also earned Gaudi a nomination for the BBC’s World Music Awards 2008.

On 13 October 2015, Google celebrated Khan’s 67th birthday with a doodle on its homepage in six countries, including India, Pakistan, Japan, Sweden, Ghana, and Kenya, calling him the person “who opened the world’s ears to the rich, hypnotic sounds of the Sufis”. “Thanks to his legendary voice, Khan helped bring ‘world music’ to the world”, said Google.

In February 2016, a rough mix of a song recorded by Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1998 called “Circle of the Noose” was leaked to the internet. Guitarist Dave Navarro described the song saying, “It’s pop in the sense of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, hook. I really love it and we use a loop of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It’s really nice. The best way I can describe it is it’s like pepped- up ’60s folk with ’90s ideals, but I would hate to label it as folk because it’s not, it moves.”

The 2018 book The Displaced Children of Displaced Children (Eyewear Publishing) by Pakistani American poet Faisal Mohyuddin includes the poem “Faisalabad”, a tribute to Khan and to the city of Khan’s birth. “Faisalabad” includes a number or references to Khan, including the excerpt, “There are no better cures for homesickness / than Nusrat’s qawwalis, / except when you’re a mother / and you find comfort in the unfolding / hours of a child’s existence.” The poem was first published by Narrative Magazine in Spring 2017

Awards and Titles:

The world of awards always falls too short in front of a great man of stature of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. No award can exceed the Unimaginable Enduring love and respect  poured by millions of fans and thousands of artists around the globe on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Once a magazine wrote ” Nusrat’s voice has conquered more Alexander’s sword”. World knows that the statement was true. However for the very simple and humble Nusrat, the greatest achievement ever always remained the same “A fan liking his song”.


Lists Featuring Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:-

  1. 1. Mojo 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time
  2. The 20th Century Greatest Hits: What works of Art should be remembered and why
  3. 3. Artists, writers, and musicians: an encyclopedia of people who changed the world
  4. The 100 Greatest Stars Of 20th Century………….Q Magazine (August 1999)
  5. 5. Top 12 Artists and Thinkers in the last 60 years………TIME Magazine,2006
  6. 50 Most Influential Artists Of Music ………. SPIN Magazine,1998
  7. NPR 50 Great Voices…………. National Public Radio,USA,2010
  8. 20 Most Iconic Musicians From Past 50 Years ……. CNN,2010
  9. 100 Minorities who changed the World: …… Sacred-Bridge
  10. Spin Magazine 100 greatest singers
  11. UGO, Best Singers of All Times


Major Awards (in chronological order)

  • Best Qawwal 1982 Punjab Youth Academy Lahore
  • Award by Cultural Association of Pakistan
  • Pride of Performance Presidential Award Government of Pakistan
  • Grand Prix 1989 Deola France
  • 5th Asian Traditional Performing Art Festival Japan Foundation (Best Singer)
  • Award for Great Contribution to Qawwali by Pakistan Workers Association London
  • Shield Presented by Urdu Revival and Cultural Society South Africa
  • For Services to Pakistan Music by Pakistan Welfare Association Birmingham UK
  • Award Presented by His Worship Councillor Frank Carter Lord Mayor Birmingham
  • Dycct Award
  • Adelaide Music Festival, Most Popular Singer (1992)
  • UNESCO Music Prize (Gretest Musician, 1995) Young Writers Award, Italy
  • Grand Prix des Amériques at Montreal World Film Festival for exceptional contribution to the art of cinema.(1996)
  • Two Grammy Nominations (1997, for fusion work)
  • “Legends” award at the UK Asian Music Awards (2005)



  • A voice from Heaven
  • Shahanshah-e-Qawwali
  • Khusrau-e-Sani
  • Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Doctor Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Professor Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Niak Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Best Qawwal Graduate Award
  • Peace Award Faisalabad
  • Living Legend
  • Guders Award Faisalabad
  • Super Star of Music
  • Popular Voice of Islam
  • Power of Pakistan
  • Pakistan’s Wall of Sound
  • A Man Called Qawwali
  • Nusrat the Magnificent
  • Singing Buddha
  • Shining Star of Music
  • Messenger of Peace
  • De Jays Award
  • Inner Wheel Club of Lahore
  • The Legend of Music World Raja Entertainers
  • Shaharyar-e-Mosseqi


Popular Culture

One of Khan’s famous qawwali songs, “Tere Bin Nahin Lagda” (“I am restless without you”), appeared on two of his 1996 albums, Sorrows Vol. 69 and Sangam (as “Tere Bin Nahin Lagda Dil”), the latter a collaborative album with Indian lyricist Javed Akhtar; Sangam sold over 1 million copies in India. Lata Mangeshkar recorded a cover version called “Tere Bin Nahin Jeena” for Kachche Dhaage, starring Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan and Manisha Koirala. Composed by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Kachche Dhaage soundtrack album sold 3 million units in India. British-Indian producer Bally Sagoo released a remix of “Tere Bin Nahin Lagda”, which was later featured in the 2002 British film Bend It Like Beckham, starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley. A cover version called “Tere Bin” was recorded by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan with Asees Kaur for the 2018 Bollywood film Simmba, starring Ranveer Singh and Sara Ali Khan.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music had a big impact on Bollywood music, inspiring numerous Indian musicians working in Bollywood since the late 1980s. For example, he inspired A. R. Rahman and Javed Akhtar, both of whom he collaborated with. However, there were many hit filmi songs from other Indian music directors that plagiarised Khan’s music. Viju Shah’s hit song “Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast” in Mohra (1994) was plagiarised from Khan’s popular qawwali song “Dam Mast Qalandar”.

Despite the significant number of hit Bollywood songs plagiarised from his music, he was reportedly tolerant towards the plagiarism. In one interview, he jokingly gave “Best Copy” awards to Viju Shah and Anu Malik. In his defense, Malik claimed that he loved Khan’s music and was actually showing admiration by using his tunes. However, Khan was reportedly aggrieved when Malik turned his spiritual “Allah Hoo, Allah Hoo” into “I Love You, I Love You” in Auzaar. Khan said “he has taken my devotional song Allahu and converted it into I love you. He should at least respect my religious songs.”

His music also appears on soundtracks for Hollywood films such as The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Dead Man Walking (1995)

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Discography

Most of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s early music was recorded with Rehmat Gramophone House later turned RGH Label. Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan released hundreds of cassettes, most of them containing one or two lengthy songs. Chris Nickson, of Global Rhythm, argues that trying to make order of Khan’s entire discography would be a nightmare.

Nusrat Fateh recorded hundreds of albums around the globe. OSA, Birmingham released about 125 audio albums and 30-35 concert films. His international labels included Real World Records, Virgin Music, Ocora, World Music Network, Shanachie, Nascente, American Records, EMI Arabia & France. He recorded 40-50 cassettes in Pakistan, many of which are available under the EMI Label. More than a decade after his death music companies around the world are releasing new albums every year.


Original Sound Track (OSA):
  • Vol 1, Best of Shahenshah
  • Vol 2, Tumhain Dillagi Bhool
  • Vol 3, Je Toon Rab Noon Manana
  • Vol 4, Wadah Kar Ke Sahjjan
  • Gorakh Dhanda – Vol 05
  • Yadon ke Sayeay – Vol 06
  • Jani Door Gaye – Vol 07
  • House of Shah – Vol 08
  • Dam Dam Ali Ali – Vol 9
  • Jhoole Laal – Vol 10
  • Marhaba Marhaba – Vol 11
  • Magic Touch – Vol 12
  • Shabads – Vol 13
  • Mast Qalander – Vol 14
  • Maikadah – Vol 15
  • Bari Bari – Vol 16
  • Nit Khair Mangan – Vol 17
  • Mae Ni Mae – Vol 18
  • Sham Savere – Vol 19
  • Naat – Vol 20
  • Bulle Shah – Vol 21
  • Aansoo – Vol 22
  • Mighty Khan – Vol 23
  • Dhol Mahia – Vol 24
  • Allah Hoo – Vol 25
  • Chithhi – Vol 26
  • Kali Kali Zulfon – Vol 27
  • Sanson Ki Mala – Vol 28
  • Saqi Mere Saqi – Vol 29
  • Vird Karo Allah Allah – Vol 30
  • Akhian – Vol 31
  • Beh Ja Mahi – Vol 32
  • Neendran – Vol 33
  • Sanam – Vol 34
  • Mere Man Ka Raja – Vol 35
  • Piya Ghar Aaya – Vol 36
  • Washington University – Vol 37
  • Mast Nazron Se – Vol 38
  • House of Shah 2 – Vol 39
  • Kande Utte Mehrman Way – Vol 40
  • Yadan – Vol 41
  • Jana Jogi De Naal – Vol 42
  • Ali Maula – Vol 43
  • Tere Main Ishq Nachaian
  • Charkha Naulakha – Vol 45
  • Kehde Ghar Jawan – Vol 46
  • House Of Shah 3 – Vol 47
  • Jewel – Vol 48
  • Mighty Khan 2 – Vol 49
  • Must Mast 2 – Vol 50
  • Bandit Queen – Vol 51
  • Prem Deewani – Vol 52
  • Kalam-e-Iqbal – Vol 53
  • Ya Hayyo Ya Qayyum – Vol 54
  • Chan Sajna – Vol 55
  • Loay Loay Aaja Mahi – Vol 56
  • Wohi Khuda Hai – Vol 57
  • Pilao Saqi – Vol 58
  • Samandar Maen Samandar – Vol 59
  • Ishq – Vol 60
  • Piala – Vol 61
  • Kulli Yar Dee – Vol 62
  • Gali Wichoon Kaun Langia – Vol 63
  • Sufi Qawwalies – Vol 64
  • Pyar Karte Hain – Vol 65
  • Sorrows – Vol 69


Major International Releases
  • In Concert in Paris, VolNitin Sawhney, Musician, 17 June 2004, 1. Ocora.
  • Shahen-Shah. RealWorld/CEMA.
  • Mustt Mustt. RealWorld/CEMA. Collaboration with Michael Brook.
  • Magic Touch OSA.
  • Shahbaaz. RealWorld/CEMA.
  • The Day, The Night, The Dawn, The Dusk. Shanachie Records.
  • Devotional Songs. Real World Records.
  • Love Songs. EMI.
  • Ilham. Audiorec.
  • Traditional Sufi Qawwalis: Live in London, Vol. 2. Navras Records.
  • Pakistan: Vocal Art of the Sufis, Vol 2 – Qawwali. JVC.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party. Real World Records.
  • The Last Prophet. Real World Records.
  • Traditional Sufi Qawwalis: Live in London, Vol. 4. Navras Records.
  • Revelation. Interra/Intersound.
  • Back to Qawwali. Long Distance
  • In Concert in Paris, Vol. 3–5. Ocora.
  • Qawwali: The Art of the Sufis. JVC
  • Night Song. Real World Records.
  • Dead Man Walking: The Score. Columbia/Sony
  • Intoxicated Spirit. Shanachie Records.
  • Mega Star. Interra.
  • Bandit Queen. Milan.
  • The Prophet Speaks. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • Sangam. EMI.
  • Live In India. RPG.
  • Akhian. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • Live in New York City. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • Farewell Song: Alwadah. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • In Concert in Paris, Vol 2. Ocora.
  • Oriente/Occidente: Gregorian Chant & Qawwali Music. Materiali Sonori.
  • Dust to Gold, Realworld Recordings.
  • Allah & The Prophet. Ex Works.
  • Star Rise: Remixes. EMI.
  • Live at Royal Albert Hall. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • Missives from Allah. BCD.
  • Imprint: In Concert. Hi Horse Records. (Selections from the 23 January 1993 concert at Meany Hall, University of Washington in Seattle, during Khan’s residency at their Ethnomusicology program.)
  • Peace. Omni Parc.
  • Live at Islamabad, Vol 1–2. M.I.L. Multimedia.
  • Passion. NYC Music.
  • Visions of Allah. Ex Works.
  • Swan Song. Narada.
  • Jewel. MoviePlay.
  • Live in London, Vol 3. Navras Records.
  • Opus. Vanstory.
  • The Final Studio Recordings. Legacy/Sony.
  • Pukaar: The Echo. Navras Records.
  • The Final Moment. Birdman Records.
  • Body and Soul. RealWorld/CEMA.
  • Sufi Qawwalis. Arc Music.
  • Allah Hoo. Saregama.
  • Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. Saregama.
  • Ishq Da Rutba. Saregama.
  • Kartoos. Saregama.
  • Main Aur Meri Awargi. Saregama.
  • Ye Jo Halka. Saregama.
  • Nami Danam. JVC Compact Discs.
  • Mitter Pyare Nu. Nupur Audio


Album Features
  • Passion (1989) – with Peter Gabriel
  • Only One (1997) – with Mahmood Khan
  • Vande Mataram (1997) – with A. R. Rahman



Various reports said Khan weighed over 135 kilograms. He had been seriously ill for several months, according to a spokesperson at his U.S. label, American Recordings. After traveling to London from his native Pakistan for treatment for liver and kidney problems, he was rushed from the airport to Cromwell Hospital in London.

He died of a sudden cardiac arrest at Cromwell Hospital on 16 August 1997, aged 48. His body was repatriated to Faisalabad, and his funeral was a public affair. He was buried in Kabootran Wala Qabristan also known as Jhang Road Graveyard on Jhang Road, Faisalabad.

His wife, Naheed Nusrat, died on 13 September 2013 in Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Naheed had moved to Canada after the death of her husband. She is survived by their daughter Nida Khan. Khan’s musical legacy is now carried forward by his nephews, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Rizwan-Muazzam.

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