Rahat Fateh Ali Khan speaks to The Asian Today
Qawwali Maestro Rahat Fateh Ali Khan comes to Birmingham next month as part of a spellbinding tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The two will pay homage to the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in a project that follows on from last years Mohammed Rafi tribute tour between the 75-piece symphony orchestra and Sonu Nigaam.
We spoke to Rahat to find out why he was so keen to be part of the project…
Rahat you’re back in the UK for the ‘Remembering Nusrat’ tour in October. How much are you looking forward to it?
Well, I have been to the UK before with Nusratji and my group. But this time is a bit different as I am very excited to be a part of this show. I’m really looking forward to working with Tim (composer Tim Pottier). I am really happy with the work he has done and am sure that the show is going to be a great success. I am really very excited about this event. I have never done anything like this before and am really looking forward to seeing how the audience will react to it.
Why do you think there’s still this fascination with Nusratji so many years after his death?
Well he was one of the greatest Sufi singers of all time. He had the most unique voice. People used to call him the ‘Voice from Heaven’. He won many awards in his time and he will never be forgotten.
What was it about the project that made you want to get involved?
When Tim came to Pakistan to see us I was shocked yet very impressed with the work he had done on the Dum Mast Qalandar song. It inspired me and that has made me want to work on this project. It felt right.
You’ve already spoken about Tim Pottier and his role in bringing you into the project. He helped bring the sound of Mohammed Rafi back to life last year with Sonu Nigaam. Are you confident he will do justice to Nusratji?
When Tim came to Pakistan to see us with a sample of ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’ I was really surprised but in a nice way. The CBSO have very talented and accomplished musicians and I think they will understand the music of Nusratji and bring something new to it. I am really looking forward to it and have no doubt that it will be spectacular.
What do you think the CBSO brings to the array of Nusratji songs chosen for the tour?
I just feel that we are going to experience something very special and rare.
You’ve often been cited as the modern-day version of your uncle. How does this comparison stand with you?
I find this very strange. Many people have said the same but I always feel that no comparisons can be drawn between Khan saab and me! I just hope that I can do his music and legacy justice with my performance.
How are preparations for the tour going? Have rehearsals begun yet?
All is going well. We came to the UK last month for a press conference which was very good. I’m happy to see how much interest there is in the event. Tim Pottier will be coming to Pakistan soon and that’s when all the work is going to begin. We will be rehearsing a lot, nearly 7-8 hours a day.
You started your singing career at a very young age, why were you so keen to get involved in Qawwali?
Well, Qawwali has been in the family for nearly 200-300 years. I have grown up around it and have a great love for it. I was very lucky to be trained under the great Khan saab and hope that I can carry this legacy on.
What memories do you have of your uncle?
Khan saab was a wonderful and dedicated Sufi singer. He loved all styles of music and was very interested in expanding his knowledge. I learnt a lot from him.
You’ve branched out into Bollywood and Hollywood – what do you say to those who accuse you of betraying Qawwali?
I will never betray my roots. All the songs that I have sung for Bollywood and Hollywood have all been inspired from Qawwali. I have just released a CD called Revival of Qawwali and it has works from some of the greatest poets of Sufism like Ghalib and Bhulleh Shah. It is wrong to say that I have betrayed Qawwali because everything for me starts from there. But one needs to be open minded and that is what creating music is all about.
What do you think the future hold for Qawwali music?
Qawwali music has a very bright future. It will never become old. The basic message of Sufism is Peace, Love and Unity. All nations and religions are one and we should learn to love and respect one another.
Remembering Nusrat: A Tribute to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Group in concert with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Symphony Hall, Birmingham: Friday 2 October 2009