When Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performed at Rishi Kapoor's wedding...

The legendary qawwal performed at the wedding of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. It was possibly his first performance in India. This is what happened...

Swati Goel Sharma

Long before Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was invited to sing or compose by well-known Indian music directors, it was showman Raj Kapoor who introduced him to the stalwarts of Bollywood. How? By inviting him to sing for his second son's sangeet ceremony in 1979.

This was confimed by Rishi Kapoor's wife Neetu Singh in an interview, where she said: “My reception was at RK Studios. All other festivities — and they went on for 20 days — were at RK House. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performed at my wedding, which is when people got to know of him.” She added: “Papa [Raj Kapoor] had heard him casually somewhere and kept him in mind and invited him for my sangeet. He sang all night. The guests were stunned by his performance! The gaana bajaana [musical celebrations] went on for days.”

A 2007 documentary by Pakistan's Geo TV on Khan's life and career, revealed this bit of trivia: Raj Kapoor was already an admirer of Nusrat's father Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and uncle Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, both accomplished qawwals in Pakistan. He happened to hear Nusrat's voice in a recording in Birmingham, and promptly decided to invite him for his son Rishi's upcoming wedding. 

The invitation was, in fact, extended to Nusrat by famous Pakistani actor Mohammad Ali. 

Khan was thrilled, more so for the chance to visit Ajmer Sharif Dargah, the famous shrine of sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, in Rajasthan. The wedding party boasted of a number of artists and musicians from that era. While introducing Nusrat on stage, Kapoor said that, while he had not personally heard the young singer's voice, his father was somebody he admired. This led to a flurry of emotions in Nusrat, who had been a professional qawwal for more than a decade and was quite a sensation back home. At the last moment, he decided to treat the guests to Indian classical vocals rather than his trademark qawwali. It is said that his performance created a flutter, with senior musicians climbing to the stage to personally congratulate the then 31-year old. 

A few months ago, Rishi Kapoor shared some photos of that performance with this tweet: “...All actors of that time producers music directors were spellbound till 7 in the morn (sic)”.

Nusrat went on to sing live and perform at a number of concerts across India in the years to come, but it was only with 1994's Bandit Queen that he first composed music for an Indian film. His first recorded Bollywood song came about in 1996, thanks to Aur Pyar Ho Gaya, starring Aishwarya Rai and Bobby Deol.