Sukhawat Ali Khan is the son of the legendary Indian-Pakistani Vocalist Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Sukhawat belongs to the school called Sham Chorasi which was established by two brothers – Mian (maestro) Chand Khan and Suraj (son) Khan. They were the court musicians of Akber the Great. Akber the Great was one of the great artistic kings of India. These brothers belonged to the group of nine Jewels of the court.
Sukhawat Ali Khan started his training at the age of 7 and started performing with his father soon after. He toured with his father to England, France, Holland, India, Sri Lanka and America. He has performed at the Columbia University, the Asian Society of New York, The Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Museum of Washington, D.C. Sukhawat Ali Khan has taught music throughout the United States.
Sukhawat Ali Khan now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the lead singer with the Alikhan Band.
Sukhawat Ali Khan, in his own words. . . March 1998:
“I am so glad to be able to live in this time. Music is becoming the melting pot, a place where cultures cross, boundaries break down. It’s an extraordinary time for communication through music. I hope it continues this way. I hope people reach new understandings of each other through the love of music. We are very small, [Ali Khan] but we can do something, and I believe that that something will count.”
“Each song I do has classical thought behind it and I know how to sing it properly, but my style comes from my life too. I spent time in New York. I go to clubs. I like the hip hop beat, Latin, rave… I’ve toured with Ben Harper, even opened for Jane’s Addiction. I’ve listened to a lot of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, you know, all the classic stuff. I love Nat King Cole’s voice. These people have something that is really exciting. There’s a performing energy there that I also feel. Its the same kind of energy a good Qawwali singer has, and we can really express it freely in America.”
Ali Khan’s singers are heirs to a 500 year lineage of devotional Sufi Qawaali singing, a passionate style made popular by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Although Qawwali is becoming more and more popular, to be considered a true Qawwal (vocalist), one must have extensive classical understanding. Sukhawat Ali Khan and his sister Riffat come from a long line of Qawwals and have been singing all their lives. Their father and his brother were renowned singers in the 60s and 70s, and certainly Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was in the next generation, looked to the Ali Khan brothers for inspiration at the time. The Ali Khan family’s musical lineage can be traced directly back to India’s Moghul Age, where two famed court musicians to Akbar the Great planted the seeds for one of the truly distinguished families in music today.
In 2001, Sukhwat and his sister formed a new band called Shabaz.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.