Since the establishment of life on earth, human beings have sought various ways to express themselves. One of these include the mi of various sounds to create one that pleases them, and most importantly expresses the language of their heart. It is an articulation of one’s feelings through instrumental and vocal sounds. Music gives one a mean to express themselves in a language, that is felt by everyone and understood without having words to it. It represents one’s culture, feelings, and even passion. Music in my life although started with a strong cultural aspect to it, but Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music enabled it to go beyond that horizon. His music enlightens my day and truly inspires me.
I learnt to appreciate music at an early age, as my father was very fond of classical music. He wanted one of his kids to learn playing a musical instrument. Being a native of Pakistan, a South Asian country, our popular musical instruments included Sitar, Harmonium and Tabla. My eldest sister learnt to play harmonium at an early age. She is a wonderful harmonium player, and continues to play it till today. She started with folk songs and went on to classical music. This is where I got my first admiration of classical music. Being more particular she used to sing “Ghazals”, which is basically poetry with deep meaning to it. These were in Urdu language, which is our national language. I pursued my earlier education in Pakistan, and hence in 7th grade I actually got a chance to read and interpret this form of poetry. The meaning of this poetry amazed me. Hence whenever my sister would start learning a new Ghazal I used to interpret it with her and sing along with her. That used to be our way of spending time on Saturday mornings, and the memory of it still brings a smile on my face.
As I went on in my life though, a singer from our country became real popular worldwide. He was called the Elvis Presley of the East, and is considered one of the greatest qawwal in the world. He had made a great impression on the music scene with a mix of eastern poetic music with that of the west. He was the world foremost avatar of Sufi devotional music known as ‘Qawwali’. Referred to as “The Brightest Star” his hypnotic rapturous vocals achieved extraordinary peaks of divine ecstasy, earning not only massive fans in the East, but transfixed the western world as well. He was basically from a family whose numerous member particularly his father were well known for their work in music. I was moved deeply by his incantory vocal style, that was a combination of complex Punjabi, Persian and Urdu languages. My favorite album is "mast mast". This album was issued with the help of Peter Gabriel and was a collaboration of guitars with Michael Brook. This album is undoubtedly a piece of art. One can imagine its popularity from the fact that it sold over 3 million copies in India alone and 1.5 million in Pakistan.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan earned several Grammy nominations, and in 1993 he even undertook a brief teaching tenure at the University of Washington. He collected lifetime achievement award in France and Japan. His music transcends their listeners to a stale called “Ishq” or the harmonic coexistence of earthly passion and divine love. This is the aspect of his music that inspired me the most. It does not only refer to a passion felt by two souls in love, but it goes beyond this world and life to form of love that is godly in nature; a love that is selfless and unearthly in nature. I also liked his music, as it is a beautiful combination of East and West music. He truly is a “Brightest Star” of music in my eyes. He sang with a voice that emanates from some place deep inside, and touches one soul.
During his several years of performance in the West he has also shown the understanding of his devotional music. This is music in its truest sense, that is music as an ‘international language’. His popularity owed a lot towards his inventiveness, an ability to bring together separate traditions as his collaboration with Peter Gabriel, Michael Brooks and Eddie Vedder attest. I can listen to his music at almost any time of a day, in any mood and with just about everyone in my family and friends. I also got an opportunity to attend his concert in 1993, and it was truly a memorable experience. His music elevates the spirit, and brings the listener to where earthly passion and divine love exist in harmony.
Music I believe is a language that doesn’t need words, because passion and sentiments speak volumes and transcends genres, ages, religions, races and belief. Nusrat music is truly a reflection of my belief. Hence thinking of music in my life brings him to my mind. I thoroughly enjoy his music, and feel that his music is essential to my life.
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