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Was Nusrat Fateh Ali khan an Overrated singer?

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (born Pervez Fateh Ali Khan; 13 October 1948 – 16 August 1997), a Pakistani musician, vocalist, and music director rose to prominence as a result of his massive contribution to Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music.

Qawwali originated from the Indian subcontinent and has spread its popularity in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan; in Hyderabad, Delhi, and other parts of North India, including Dhaka. Qawwali form of music is quite different from the westernized form. Qawwalis are rather sung with a loud voice that too with a force, which in turn favors the singers to extend their chest voice to higher frequencies, in comparison to the western songs.

The maestro, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was no exception to this. His music videos and live performances are proof of his ability as a Qawwali performer, who made use of his loud and forceful voice to reach high notes, bringing out the rhythmic flow in his songs. He possessed a remarkable range of vocal abilities, in a sense, that he could perform at high levels of intensity for several hours at a stretch. He was the one to have taken Qawwali to the International stage, and popularise it to a wider audience. The wider reach of his songs and his terrific contribution to music, especially in his forte of Qawwali, no doubt fetched him recognition in the form of many awards, accolades, and titles.

He was named as "Shahenshah-e-Qawwali" (the King of Kings of Qawwali). He was described as the 4th greatest singer of all times by LA Weekly in 2016. He belonged to the Qawwal Bacchon Gharana (Delhi Gharana) keeping intact with the extended 600-year old Qawwali tradition of his family. He was given the title of Ustad.

Although he left for his heavenly abode in the year 1997, his songs are still sung to this date, and his name and fame remain intact. Death could not fade his presence, which is strongly represented in his songs. Also, he was posthumously acknowledged in the Guinness World Record, as the beholder of “Most Qawwali Recordings”, for having recorded over 123 Qawwali albums before his death. In 2005, he received the “Legends” award at the UK Asian Music Awards.

The recognition he received from his huge contribution, no doubt, has been appreciated by many, but there might be a possibility for many people to consider it rather as an act of overrating him, as a musician and a singer. From the discussions put forward, it is to be noted how widening a reach his Qawwali songs had all around the world. This needs to a mention that apart from his popularity as a musician, his songs also had a huge impact on contemporary South Asian popular music, including Pakistani pop, Indian pop, and Bollywood music. An inspiring personality with a piece of influential music could hardly be called an overrated artist. Basically, his contribution to Qawwali music as an artist cannot be denied, and hence he deserves and has undoubtedly achieved his share of recognition for his efforts into expanding the ranges of Qawwali music around the nook and corner of the world. Audiences, who have loved, enjoyed and thrilled over his musical videos, and live performances, act as a testimony to his mark as a singer.

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