5 Qawwals Who Simply Mersmirse Us


Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music isn’t just simply music, it’s more than that. It’s a type of worship. Your soul dances along the beats of his music, your pulse vibrates with every high note and you fade into oblivion with every low note. It’s surreal.

He is known as “ShahenShah-e-Qawwali”, meaning, “The king of the kings of Qawwali.” NFAK performed for the first time at the age of 16 at his father’s chehlum. In 1971, he became the head of the family Qawwali party in 1971. His first performance after becoming the head was at a Studio Recording Broadcast organized by Radio Pakistan.

Zhan performed at the World of Music Arts and Dance Festival in London. He also performed in Paris, Japan and New York. He joined the Ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington, Seattle as a Visiting Artist during the academic year 1992 – 1993.

He worked with Western Singers like Peter Gabriel, Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook which gave him the chance to blend his Qawwalis with Western Music and come up with something that defies the conventional genres. His albums Intoxicated Spirit and Night Song were nominated for a Grammy Award. Just before his death, he recorded several songs for Bollywood films.

In 1987, he received the President of Pakistan’s Award for Pride of Performance for his contribution to Pakistani music. He also received several other awards including UNESCO Music Prize. Many honorary titles were bestowed upon him including Ustaad and Singing Buddha.

Amjad Sabri

Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s leading Qawwals, was trained by his father, Ghulam Farid Sabri. Even at the age of ten, Amjad was so determined and motivated that he would sacrifice his sleep and wake up at 4am for his early morning raag.

He first performed with his father at the age of twelve in 1988 and ever since, he has been hypnotizing his audience with his magical voice. Amjad followed the footsteps of his father and paved some of his own on his journey to fame. He performed some his father’s works and also experimented with contemporary forms of Sufi Music. Sabri also performed in India, America and Europe where he was known as “Rock Star of Qawwali.”

Sabri’s last project was with Coke Studio which connected to almost every Pakistani but unfortunately his performance was the first and last on that platform. Sabri was shot dead in Karachi and his untimely and unexpected death not only left Pakistanis in mourning but also created a deep black void inside the legacy of Qawwali and Sufism. His funeral was flooded by human faces and the air was filled with blubber and cries. Since Amjad Sabri was the only one among his siblings to carry on with the family tradition and association with music, fans have now started to refer to him as The Last Sabri.

Aziz Mian

Aziz Mian was one of Pakistan’s best Qawwals. He is still listed amongst the most popular Qawwals of South Asia. Mian started to learn the art of Qawwali from Ustad Abdul Wahid at the age of ten. He didn’t neglect his education and earned degrees in Urdu Literature, Arabic and Persian. He was more interested in the religious side of Qawwalis rather than the entertainment perspective. He addressed Allah directly and complained about the pain and suffering of men and often discussed religious paradoxes in his Qawwalis.

Aziz’s Qawwalis were not only powerful enough to deprive his audience of all their senses but his lyrics, which he used to write himself, penetrated the hearts and souls of his audience. He often claimed that his music could help create a direct spiritual connection with Allah and many of his fans agreed to it.

Mian was later known as Fauji Qawwal because most of his early stage performances took place in military barracks for the army. His performance before the Shah of Iran in 1996 garnered him a gold medal from the Shah. He was also awarded the Pride of Performance medal in 1989 for the services he rendered.

Badar Miandad

Badar Miandad, a well reputed Qawwal with 200 albums released in Pakistan, was born to a family of outstanding Qawwals; he was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s cousin and brother-in-law.

Badar started his career in Qawwali in 1975 and within a few years, he was well renowned. His music was widely and deeply admired. His famous Qawwalis include Dam Dam Hussain Maula HussainJashan-e-Aamad-e-RasoolTu Nahi Tay Tairiyan Yadan Sahi and Ganj Shakar Walian Da Raja.

His style was similar to that of his cousin, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali khan. He also blended the traditional Qawwali words with non-traditional beats. His qawwali remix projects were applauded widely by critics and qawwali lovers. His best selling qawwali fusion album, Good Karma 1, is still considered one of the finest albums.

Badar also composed music for various Bollywood films including Virod. Pakistani movies like Chupkay Chupkay and Lahoria Ibraa Janat Ki Talash also feature his music.

Badar Ali Khan died on 2 March 2007 after two years of heart problems. His fans were miserably sad about his demise as his voice was a form of therapy for them. 

Fateh Ali Khan

Fateh Ali Khan, the father of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, was trained in classical music and Qawwali by his father, Maula Baksh Khan. Soon after his training was completed, Fateh Ali Khan came out as an outstanding vocalist and instrumentalist. He not only learned to play traditional Indian Instruments like sitar and sarod but he also got a hang of western instruments like the violin.

He was the leader of his family’s Qawwali party. Fateh, along with his brother, Mubarak Ali Khan, are listed among the foremost Qawwals. Fateh Ali Khan also played a vital role in popularizing the poetry of Allama Iqbal through singing.

Allama Iqbal thanked him by saying, “I was restricted to schools and colleges only. You (Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) have spread my poetry through India.”

Fateh Ali Khan was awarded the Pride of Performance award in 1990 by the President of Pakistan for his commendable services to music.

Written by Salman Bokhari 


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