Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Show #34: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party

December 3rd, 2005

I am posting next week’s show a bit ahead of schedule as I’ll be leaving town Monday morning at zero-dark-early.

 Show #34: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party

This week’s performance is by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Born in Lyallpur (Faisalabad), Pakistan on 13 October 1948, he went on to become one of the best and the most well-known Qawwals or singers of the music of devotional Sufism, Qawwali. From a tribute to Khan:

Qawwali, a mystic style of music is one of the innovations of Hazrat Amir Khusru. Its primordial name was Sama’a. When Hazrat Moin-Ud-Din Chishtie came from Sanjar (a town in Iran) to Ajmer (India) to preach Islam, he thoroughly studied the Hindu style of preaching and found that they were very fond of music, and music was in all rites and rituals of the Hindus. The Brahmins used to sing Shloks, Shabads and Bhajans with percussion and wind instruments. So, he adopted the same Hindu way of preaching among the new Muslims.

The evaluation of Qawwali versus Sama’a is centuries old. It came from Khorasan (Iran) where the nomad singers performed their songs with drumbeats and hand clapping. A leading singer used to sing the Persian rhymes and the other party men accompanied him with hand clapping. Hazrat Moin-Ud-Din Chishtie, being an Iranian, experimented the same style. This way of preaching named Qawwali in the era of Amir Khusru, the disciple of Khawaja Nizam-Ud-Din Aulia, in the 13th AD. Amir Khusru’s innovation of Qawwali included Qawwal, Qalbana, Rung, Naqsh, Gul, etc. The Qawwali was began from the Qawwal Bachey clan of Delhi and it emphasized the musicians of the era to adopt it, especially the Sufis (Mystics) who were much lured and influenced by this style of singing Qawwali. When harmonium was invented, it became a part and parcel of a Qawwal party. The Qawwals of yore had been using many instruments, i.e. Arani, Dilruba, Taoos, Rabab and Dholak as accompanying instruments. But in later years only tabla and harmonium became prominent due to its loudness.


Khan’s first pubic performance as the leader of a Qawwali group was in March of 1965. He first gained prominence in the United States when he contributed to the soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. He also contributed to the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers and teamed up with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder to compose music for Dead Man Walking. His first tour of the United States was in 1996 and his friendship with Peter Gabriel eventually led to performances at the WOMAD festival and the release of some of his albums on Gabriel’s Real World label.

Khan tragically passed away in 1997 at the age of 48.

The performance at hand was recorded on 25 February 1995 at the WOMAD festival held at Botanic Park in Adelaide, Australia. This show features two pieces but I don’t know the names of either.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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One Response to “Show #34: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a fantastic show! Thanks for posting it.

    The D

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