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11 momentous songs by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — Anniversary special


On the singer-composer's 70th birth anniversary, we revisit some of his most famous hits - from his memorable qawwalis to international collaborations with artists like Peter Gabriel and Bally Sagoo.

Sonal Pandya

Widely hailed as one of the best sufi singers, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, born on 13 October 1948, brought traditional music forms like qawwali and sufi music to international audiences with these 11 seminal music pieces from his celebrated career.

1. 'Haq Ali Ali'

This was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's first hit in his native Pakistan. In this performance, he sings the devotional qawwali to Ali, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed and believed by many to be the first Imam.

2. 'Passion'

In 1988, Khan collaborated with singer-musician Peter Gabriel for the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. The stand-alone album won a Grammy in 1990 for Best New Age Album and helped spread the genre internationally.

3. 'Kinna Sona'

The next generation NRIs discovered Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan through the hugely popular remixes created by British-Asian producer and DJ Bally Sagoo. His 1991 album Magic Touch with Sagoo, and its corresponding video starring a young Arjun Rampal, went a long way to bring new flavour to older Indian and Pakistani songs.

4. 'Afreen Afreen'

Indian audiences first began hearing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan through this 1996 album on which he paired up with Javed Akhtar. This early music video featuring Canadian actress Lisa Ray served to popularize the Sufi sound to the public.

5. 'Allah Hoo'

A traditional Sufi chant turned qawwali, this 1993 performance was broadcast during the golden jubilee celebrations of India and Pakistan. Khan's nephew, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who trained under him, can also be seen singing alongside his uncle.

6. 'Piya Re Piya Re'

This lovely romantic track further cemented Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as a mainstream sufi singer. The music video, directed by Ken Ghosh, flourished in an era where non-Hindi film music (largely labelled as Indi-pop) found a legitimate but limited niche for itself.

7. 'Sajna Tere Bina' — Bandit Queen (1994)

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's first attempt at film composing for a Indian feature was the National Award-winning Bandit Queen (1994), directed by Shekhar Kapur. His enthralling score and songs including the melancholy 'Sajna Tere Bina' linger long after viewing the film.

8. 'My Heart, My Life'

Another one of Khan's international collaborations, the album Night Song, was the last finished album before his death. Music producer and guitarist Michael Brook and Khan together created timeless music.

9. 'Koi Jaane Koi Na Jaane' — ...Aur Pyar Ho Gaya (1997)

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's Hindi film debut, ...Aur Pyar Ho Gaya (1997), featured music composed by Khan. He sung two tracks and even made an appearance in the film as qawwali singer in this notable track.

10. 'Ishq Da Rutba' — Kartoos (1999)

Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, Kartoos (1999) boasted of a score composed by three different music directors: Anu Malik, Bally Sagoo and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The song's picturization in South Africa never matched up to the lyrics and melody of the number.

11. 'Mann Kunto Maula'

Originally composed by Amir Khusro, this qawwali has been covered by many others, including Abida Parveen, and even given a modern guitar treatment in Gunday (2014). However, Khan's version is still regarded by most to be one of the best renditions of this song.