Legendary Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, passed away on Saturday, August 16, 1997 in a London hospital. He was only 49. He was born in Faisalabad, in Pakinstan's eastern Punjab province. For hundred of years, members of his family have been singers of qawwali. Khan's father, also a prominent qawwali singer, originally discourraged him for the profession. Khan was considered one of the world's greatest singers of Sufi devotional music. Sufis are Islamic mystics, and music plays a key role in many of their rituals.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan recorded dozens of cassettes in Pakistan, where he enjoyed a huge, fervent following that spanned generations. He was renowned worldwide for his songs of religious devotion in Urdu, long performances that build in emotion and complexity to the backdrop of stringed instruments and the harmonium. The distinctive style is known as qawwali.
Beyond the Islamic world, Nusrat's music has touched all who encountered him. Some of his greatest collaborative work with Western music began with Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for Martin Scorsese's 'The Last Temptation of Christ' - the ground-breaking score, Passion. The long-standing relationship with Canadian producer/musician Michael Brook on the albums Mustt Mustt and Night Song introduced Nusrat's music to another new audience. By the time he was to be heard as the key voice for the films 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Dead Man Walking' (with Eddie Vedder), he had reached the status of international superstar. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a phenomenon who crossed all musical and cultural boundaries to enlighten us with inspirational talent. He has left with us an outstanding musical legacy for generations to come.
Among artists to pay tribute was Peter Gabriel, whose professional and personal relationship with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan dates back to 1985. I feel a great sense of loss today. The loss of an extraordinary artist and the loss of a friend, Gabriel, said. Tim Buckley writes of the first time he heard the qawwali singer, saying, Then came the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Part Buddha, part demon, part mad angel... his voice is a velvet fire, simply incomparable.