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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Song Of Transcendence

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

Song Of Transcendence
Song Of Transcendence
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

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 discipline. I have seen the number of eyebrows that shot up and disappeared into hairlines when I sang Ali More Angana, which catered to popular taste. One is almost expected to apologise and explain such seemingly wayward behaviour. And therefore, I salute the Ustad's truly post-modernist attitude that allowed him to compose and create, governed only by his creative needs and urges, made him join hands with other creators and artistes, without allowing himself to fall into the trap of a cultural caste system.

The singer who became a legend in his lifetime was born with a voice initially considered unmusical. He soon overcame this handicap and cultivated a voice that carried the message of the Sufis to regions far removed from his native land. Rajneesh explains the term 'Sufi' in...

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