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The leg­endary Pak­istani singer Us­tad Ra­hat Fateh Ali Khan shares his ex­cite­ment about his first-of-its-kind con­cert in Dubai this Fri­day as he re­veals plans to wow fans with his ren­di­tion of un­plugged, soul­ful, pure Qawwalis, just the way his late great un­cle Us­tad Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan used to

ICONIC PAK­ISTANI SINGER Us­tad Ra­hat Fateh Ali Khan has a mes­sage for his fans in Dubai. “I am go­ing to wow you with the purest form of Qawwali. No Bol­ly­wood songs, or any other pop­u­lar songs. It’s go­ing to be just a night of pure un­plugged, bliss­ful, soul­ful Qawwalis,” the le­gend said when City Times caught up with him over the phone ahead of his con­cert at the Dubai World Trade Cen­tre this Fri­day, De­cem­ber 7.

Billed as a grand fi­nale to his cur­rent world tour ti­tled, Just Qawali, the show, which has done its rounds in the US, UK and other Euro­pean coun­tries has re­ceived rave re­views ev­ery­where it has played.

“This is the first time I am com­ing to Dubai with a Qawwali group. The au­di­ence can ex­pect to lis­ten to this clas­sic genre in its purest form, just like how my un­cle, the great Us­tad Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan used to per­form. I’m do­ing such a show after nearly two decades. In the last cou­ple of months, I have have taken Just Qawali all over the world and the fans lapped it up. I hope mu­sic lovers in Dubai, too, will en­joy my mu­sic.”

Khan who has given hits like Tere Mast Mast Do Nain, Sa­j­daa, Ore Piya, Jiya Dhadak Dhadak, Jag Ghoomeya and Mein Tenu Samjhawan to name a few, has re­cently come out with a new sin­gle ti­tled, Dhad­kane. The bal­lad is com­posed by his un­cle the leg­endary Qawwali singer Us­tad Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan. “I have writ­ten the lyrics along with my cousin Javed Ali. Us­tad Nus­rat was a big fan of World Mu­sic.

“I re­mem­ber, some time back, in the late ‘80s or ‘90s, my un­cle heard a com­po­si­tion by an Ital­ian singer from the ‘40s. He was im­me­di­ately drawn to the melody. So he took in­spi­ra­tion from the song for the first verse in Dhad­kane and then com­posed the re­main­ing verses in his own style. The mu­sic video was done in Los An­ge­les.”

While Ra­hat has lent his voice for songs fea­tur­ing lead­ing Bol­ly­wood he­roes like Sal­man Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, to name a few, when asked if it was true that he wanted to do a song pic­turised on Amitabh Bachchan, he laughed, say­ing: “That’s not what I ac­tu­ally meant (in an ear­lier in­ter­view). You know, ev­ery hu­man has wishes. So it hap­pened that, dur­ing an in­ter­view, I was asked to ex­press a wish. That’s when I said I would like to do play­back for Amitabh Bachchan. I don’t know if my voice would be best suited for the great star, but per­haps I could do a back­ground song pic­turised on him. Bachchanji is a such a great ac­tor and a won­der­ful hu­man be­ing too.”

The Faisal­abad-born singer comes from a fam­ily that has been into Qawwalis for gen­er­a­tions; that in­cludes the late Sufi le­gend Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan and his grand­fa­ther, Qawwali singer Fateh Ali Khan.

“Qawwali in its purest for­mat fea­tures a qawwal (singer), a har­mo­nium and a tabla. That’s it, that’s how my un­cle used to per­form. Up un­til now, I had been per­form­ing fu­sion Qawwalis which re­quires the back­ing of a full band com­pris­ing a drum­mer, key­boardist, gui­tarists and a sax­o­phone player. I have not per­formed the pure form of Qawwali for nearly two decades, and now I will be do­ing it in Dubai, for the first time.”

Hav­ing per­formed all over the world over the years, Ra­hat has mil­lions of fans, but when asked which is the best au­di­ence he has per­formed for, the mae­stro said, “Au­di­ences all over the world love my mu­sic and I have ut­most re­spect for them. But I must say that, the last nine Qawwali shows I did in the US at­tracted some of the best crowds, and the UK was ex­tra spe­cial, since my un­cle Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan was ex­tremely pop­u­lar there. Gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple abroad have been lis­ten­ing to Qawwalis which is the rea­son peo­ple en­joyed my mu­sic and show­ered me with so much love and re­spect.”

So how does he keep his per­for­mances fresh de­spite play­ing in the same venues re­peat­edly? “Ev­ery time I per­form, it’s a new show for me. I ap­proach each con­cert with a fresh mind and ap­peal. Some­times we shuf­fle the set list to make the con­cert sound dif­fer­ent and fresh.”

The lis­ten­ing tastes of mu­sic lovers are chang­ing fast, pop, hip hop and other gen­res are be­com­ing the choice of young lis­ten­ers, so where does Qawwali fit into this sce­nario?. “Let me tell you, Qawwali as a genre has carved a niche it­self in the mu­sic world. And I’m not talk­ing about just In­dia or Pak­istan, it’s all over. Take for in­stance, Pak­istan. There has never been a bet­ter time for this genre than now. About 40 years back, there were just 12 Qawwali groups in Pak­istan, but now, you will eas­ily find two to three groups in ev­ery neigh­bour­hood. By this you can gauge how pop­u­lar this style is right now.”

Com­pared to yes­ter­year songs, movie songs of to­day don’t have much of a shelf life. So what’s lack­ing in to­day’s mu­sic? “There’s never been a bad era for mu­sic. Doesn’t mat­ter if the songs are from the past or present, un­less un­de­sir­able lyrics have been used in the com­po­si­tion. How­ever, I must stress that the sim­plic­ity in the songs of the past era is clearly miss­ing in to­day’s com­po­si­tions.

“Go­ing back four or five decades, peo­ple would find a con­nect with the lyrics in songs be­cause they were used to sim­ple lives and the lyrics would ex­press sim­plic­ity and would be mean­ing­ful. The melodies too were sim­ple and catchy. That’s the only dif­fer­ence.”

For Ra­hat art is art, and he feels there should be no bar­ri­ers or bor­ders to re­strict mu­sic.

“You know, so­cial me­dia has ac­tu­ally bro­ken all bar­ri­ers. Any­one can ex­press their like or dis­like on so­cial me­dia. Nearly 75% of the on­line au­di­ence, who have liked my mu­sic, are In­di­ans. Sim­i­larly, you will find a huge num­ber of fans for In­dian artists in Pak­istan – Shah Rukh Khan, Sal­man Khan, Ak­shay Ku­mar, Ran­veer Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, they are all liked by peo­ple in Pak­istan. There can be land bar­ri­ers, but there can be no bar­ri­ers when it comes to art, es­pe­cially mu­sic.”

It’s go­ing to be just a night of pure un­plugged, bliss­ful, soul­ful Qawwalis.” Ra­hat Fateh Ali Khan

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