Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Wissam Joubran

Le Trio Joubran

Wissam Joubran was born in 1983, and was introduced very young to ud by his brother Samir. He attended numerous local and international festivals, among them the Printemps de Palestine, in France in 1997.

He has inherited of his father’s vocation, a stringed-instrument maker master, and is strikingly talented in improvising and creating clever and appropriate transitions between the Arabic Maqams.

Wissam was the first string-instrument maker from the Arabic world to enter the Antonio Stradivari Institute (Italy) in order to bring his knowledge to perfection. Samir and Wissam started to go on tour outside of the Middle East on August 2002, and their reputation never stopped to grow while they performed in Europe, Canada and Brazil.

Discography

Randana (Randana, 2005)
Majaz (Randana, 2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Suhail Khoury

Suhail Khoury

Suhail Khoury’s music is deeply connected with his personal experiences. It talks about freedom, victory, Jerusalem and love. Some of it was composed during Suhail Khoury’s six-month imprisonment in 1988 for producing a tape of music, and is a manifestation of Khoury’s experience in the Israeli jails. One piece talks about the streets of Jerusalem after midnight, which he composed while walking through the streets of the Old City at 2.00a.m in the morning; and another one entitled ‘Ramallah-Jerusalem and vice versa,’ portrays the current situation on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the exhausting daily experience of having to pass through checkpoints, road bumps and countless public transportation vehicles.

Suhail Khoury has collaborated with Ahmad Khatib in arrangements, and Karloma Group.

Discography

Marah (1987)
Marj Ben Amer (1989)
Ashiqa (1995)
Matar (1998)
Al-Fawanees (2004)
Jerusalem After Midnight (2009)

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Artist Profiles: Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran was born in 1973 in Nazareth. He is a Palestinian ud virtuoso and graduate of the Abdul-Wahab Conservatory for Eastern Music, Cairo. He is a music teacher and a lecturer about Eastern Music History.

In 1994, Jubran founded the Al’Een Nazareth Group which participated in the Third Arabic Musical Festival in the Opera House in Cairo. He has also participated in various festivals in France and Palestine combining music and poetry.

Since his first appearance in France at the Nuits atypiques festival in Langon in 2002, and the release of his first album Tamaas in February 2003, Samir has unfailingly delighted the public.

The first musician to have received a two-year grant from the International Parliament of Writers (2003 – 2004) in Pontedera, Italy, his recent decision to settle in Europe has provided a platform on which to develop his reputation, touring France, Europe and beyond.

His success at the Cha?non Manquant festival in Figeac brought him a series of concerts in France. His performance at Strictly Mundial 2003 in Marseilles led to engagements at top European festivals including Moers in Germany and Sfinx in Belgium.

In 2004, Samir was selected for the Rideau 2004 project in Montreal, gaining his first opportunity to perform in North America.

Samir performs in duo or trio formations with his younger brothers: Wissam Jubran and Adnan Jubran under Le Trio Joubran.

Discography

Misunderstanding (Dar Productions, 2001)
Tamaas (daquí, 2003)
Randana (2005)
Majaz (2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
Le Dernier VoL, with Chkrrr (2009)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013) boxed set of 5 CDs and 1 DVD
The Long March (Cooking Vinyl, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Rim Banna

Rim Banna

Rim Banna is a Palestinian singer born in the city of Nazareth in Galilee. She loved music and singing ever since she was a child. She participated in festivals commemorating Land Day (March 30)as well as in national and political occasions. She also participated in celebrations at schools.

Rim started her artistic life when she was 10 years old. She studied music and singing at the Higher Music Conservatory (Gnesins) in Moscow. She specialized in modern singing and in leading vocal ensembles. She finished the 6-year academic studies and graduated in 1991. During this time, Rim produced two albums of live recordings: Jafra and Your Tears, O Mother.

In 1991 Rim married Leonid Alexeyenko, a musician from Ukraine. Leonid studied music and singing together with Rim at the Higher Music Conservatory in Moscow, where they worked together in music and composing. Currently, they live in the Arab city of Nazareth, the capital of the Galilee.

Rim Banna’s songs are unique first and foremost because she composes most of her songs. She has a special musical method in composing and singing her songs. Her songs are inspired from the heart of the Palestinian People, from its heritage, its history and culture. Her singing and music are also inspired by the rhythms of the desert in the south, by the sea along the long Palestinian coastline, by the beautiful nature and its lovely colors of the flatland and the hills, by the echo between the mountains and the valleys, by the beat of the ancient Canaanite hymns which imitated the sound of the pure water emerging from between the rocks and the singing of the birds in the fields, that do not migrate but stand steadfast just like the blessed olive tree and the stubborn cacti which fill the land of Palestine.

The music and the melodies are inspired by the solidity of the lyric and from a profound feeling of the rhythm of the word. The intermarriage between word and tune take us from the skies of Palestine into the whole world. Her songs express the suffering of the Palestinian People, its dreams and obsessions, its joys, its sadness and its hopes.

The lyrics of the songs are by famous Palestinian poets: Tawfiq Zayyad, Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al Qasim, Zuhaira Sabbagh, Sidi Harkash and some songs are written by Rim Banna herself. The two artists, Rim Banna and Leonid participate in composing the tunes in a creative and unique way.

Rim Banna’s specialty is the Palestinian genre Tahalil which are children’s bedtime songs. These had been imprisoned inside rooms until Rim sang them and presented them to the audience all over the world. Rim is still the only singer who presents Tahalil.

Rim sang several songs for children which she wrote and composed herself. These songs became widely popular among children especially when presented at Children’s Festivals such as Nawwar Nisan Festival, Farah and Marah Festival, Jericho Winter Festival and Martyrs’ Children Festival.

Rim Banna and Leonid present the Palestinian traditional song in a modern way both musically and in terms of its performance without destroying the essence of the tune or the beauty of the lyric. Together with her husband, Rim composes music for Palestinian popular lyrics such as popular stories, games and seasons songs. They compose music for these lyrics, which is inspired from Palestinian popular music, ancient Arabic music and also from international music of different nations. Rim Banna’s songs posses a rare continuity from generation to generation which maintains the great heritage of authentic popular art which is rooted deeply and fortifies National belonging.

Rim Banna and Leonid have participated in numerous local and International festivals in Egypt, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Jordan, at the Mediterranean Women Festival in Tunisia, Switzerland, Romania, Denmark and Morocco.

Rim’s songs also played an important role in several film and TV productions, including documentary programs about the Palestinian popular uprising (Intifada) in Palestine.

Rim Banna carries a message and aspires to achieve several goals:
– Upgrading the Arabic Palestinian committed and untraditional song to the level of the international song.
– Upgrading the ability to enjoy popular music and singing to a suitable Arab and international level and liberating the Arab song from negative influences.

Discography

The Dream (1993)
New Moon (1995)
Mukagha (El-Tufula Center, 1996)
Al-Quds Everlasting (2002)
Krybberom (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2003)
The Mirrors Of My Soul (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2005)
This Was Not My Story (EMI Music Arabia, 2006)
Seasons Of Violet – Lovesongs From The Palestine (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2007)
April Blossoms (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2009)
Revelation Of Ecstasy & Rebellion (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2013)
Jul På Orkesterplass (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2015)
Voice Of Resistance (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Oriental Music Ensemble (OME)

The Oriental Music Ensemble (OME) was established by the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine in 1996. It has participated in numerous musical and cultural events locally and abroad.

The music pieces chosen by the group are selected for their artistic meaning and expression. Some of the pieces are so old that their composer is unknown and some are modern, composed by contemporary composers. Other pieces belong to the gypsy and folklore genres.

Every music genre has its own texture and Arabic music has its own texture as well. What characterizes Arabic Music is the Hetrophonic Texture, which is the essence and the soul of Arabic Music and its source of strength. Hetrophonic Texture is the ratio and the interrelationship between the “voices” of the instruments. Western classical musical ensembles play the same note in a direct manner whereas in Arabic music there is musical embellishment which comes down to a discrepancy in the speed of playing music between the different musical instruments. Each musician plays on his own, which contributes to speed differences on one side and to musical intertwining and harmony on the other. Here lies the strength of Arabic Music.

The instruments used by the OME are the same instruments used since hundreds of years. No change whatsoever occurred on them, meaning that no technological change was imposed on them, which make them authentic Arabic music instruments. Therefore, the buzuq is the same buzuq the great Arab musician – Al Farabi – from the 11th century described. No changes have been added to it. The same applies to the nay (Arabic Flute) and the oud (Arabic lute). The instruments are pure oriental instruments and they are locally hand-made by Palestinian music instrument makers.

Musicians:

Khaled Jubran: ud and buzuq
Suhail Khoury: nay and clarinet
Ibrahim Attari: qanun
Habib Shehadeh: ud
Ramzi Bisharaton: percussion

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Artist Profiles: Nizar Rohana

Nizar Rohana

Ud player and percussionist Nizar Rohana was born in the Arab village of Isfiya in Israel. He is a graduate of the Rubin Academy, Jerusalem; the Department of Classical Arab Music, and the Musicology Department of the Hebrew university where he completed his Masters. Nizar started his musical journey playing the piano. Later he discovered his father’s old ud, and since then has been exploring his own Arab music heritage.

He teaches Arabic music and ud at the Palestinian Academy of Music in Ramalla and East Jerusalem, and plays in various Arab music ensembles, as well as in world music ensembles. In the past he played with several ensembles, including Yemei Habentime, Between Times, and Yosef Wahed.

Discography

Sard (2008)
Furat (Loplop Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Issa Boulos

Issa Boulos

Ud player, composer and teacher Issa Boulos was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1968. Issa Boulos comes from a family of both musical and literary traditions and began to study voice at the age of 7. At that early age, Issa showed extraordinary talent in singing Arab classical maqam repertoire. At the age of 13 he entered the Institute of Fine Arts in Ramallah to study the ‘ud with Abu Raw`hi ‘Ibaidu. He graduated in 1985 and worked in Ramallah as an arranger of folksongs and a musician in the ensemble of Sariyyat Ramallah Dance Group and Released al-‘Ashiq in 1986, and in al-Ra`hh’la, with composer Jamil al-Sayih and Released Rasif al-Madinah in 1989.

During the 1990s, under the influence of newly developed musical trends, Boulos’s career took a new direction. He pursued music composition in response to a contemporary concern for revolutionary cultural change and richer and more flexible responses to widely different dramatic requirements. He adopted the performance practices, educational principles and aesthetic values of Western art music while adapting his art to suit the sensibilities of Palestinian politicized taste and maintained a link with the maqam tradition by continuing its ancient line of oral transmission. From 1991 to 1993, Issa composed over 200 instrumental and vocal pieces and one large-scale work titled Kawkab Akhar.

He was appointed director of Birzeit University’s musical group Sanabil in addition to training Al- Funoun Popular Dance Troupe and Sareyyet Ramallah Troupe for Music and Dance. This era was the most experimental, challenging and yet prolific. It laid out conventional and modern compositional devices as abstract tools rather than absolute. His fascination with music towards higher levels of expression and interpretation encouraged him to examine other aspects of sound, and simultaneously broaden his artistic perspective, which was substantiated by the increasing number of questions concerning music making.

In 1994 he moved to Chicago, where he studied music composition at Columbia College Chicago with Gustavo Leone and Athanasios Zervas and later at Roosevelt University with Robert Lombardo and Ilya Levinson. In 1998 he co-founded the Issa Boulos Quartet, performing his original contemporary compositions that ranged from classical Arab compositions to jazz. After completing his Masters in 2000, he spent one year in his hometown where he was active as a composer, educator, ‘udist, and instructor of Western theory, ‘ud, chorus, ensemble and theory of Arab music at the National Conservatory of Music, Ramallah.

Issa has given workshops and lecture-demonstrations at several American institutions and colleges. He is cofounder of Sama Music, leader of the al-Sharq Ensemble, the Boulos Ensemble and member in Lingua Musica, and has recently been appointed director of the University of Chicago Middle East Ensemble. Although he has continued to write instrumental and vocal compositions, Boulos is best known for his theme works: Kawkab Akhar (1993), a large-scale instrumental work that capped his early stylistic development composed during the Palestinian Intifada, which was followed by ‘Arus al-Tira (1994), composed while he was an undergraduate; Samar (1998), and his extended work al-Hallaj (2000) which is a series of composed Sufi poems penetrating the philosophy and tragic ending of Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn Ibn Mansur al-`Hallaj.

His subsequent works include traditional Arabic compositions and arrangements, jazz, and film and theatre scores, notably those for Lysistrata 2000, Catharsis and recently the film The New Americans. In his orchestral composition, Shortly After Life, Boulos used a variety of Western classical compositional techniques; the work is a tribute to his father Ibrahim Boulos.

Boulos’s music still depends extensively on the melodic material of maqam; by treating this material through improvisations and using various musical techniques. His blend of tradition and innovation has forged important musical links between the Arab world and the West. Issa is currently involved with the Arab Classical Music Society (ACMC) that he established in 2003. The Society is launching an archive for Arab classical music and preparing for the release of the first volume of the Anthology of Arab Classical Music. As for his current personal projects, Issa is applying final touches on his new work Reef for kemenche and percussion. It will be released later in the Spring of 2004. http://home.uchicago.edu/~iboulos/ Contact Issa Boulos directly at iboulos@uchicago.edu. Palestine Middle East

Discography

Rif (Nawa Institute, 2007)
Al-Hallaj (Nawa Institute, 2008)
Being Peace (Nawa Institute, 2010)
Shams W Hawa (Nawa Institute, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Abida Parveen

Abida Parveen

Abida Parveen, the queen of Sufi mystic singing spreads the message of love and induces a state of spiritual ecstasy with her Sufi mystic songs. An artist who has been recognized as a rue force in the realm of Sufi music, she proclaims her faith with her entire body. She is considered one of the most prominent contemporary exponents of the great ghazal and kafi musical styles from the Indian subcontinent. Rooted in the intense encounter between sensitivity and spirituality that is Sufism. She never ceases to sing her fiery love for the Divine.

The earliest memories of her childhood are all linked to her passion for music and her desire to sing. Born in 1954 in Larkana, Sindh into a family that maintains close associations with the shrines of Sufi saints. She was imparted her initial training in the art of music from her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider, and later from Ustad Salamat Ali Khan of Sham Chorasia gharana. Her father, whom she refers to as reverently as Baba Sain, was also a singer and had his own small music school where he taught only male pupils. He was devoted to the Sufi poets and that is from where Abida gets her devotional inspiration. For her the Sufi poets of Sindh and Punjab are the ones who speak of the inner truths of the self and in their poetry, where she finds solace and peace. As she was growing up, Abida attended her father’s music school and that was where her foundation in music was laid.

Hyderabad Radio first introduced her in 1977. She is today the most popular and well-known folk and ghazal singer of Pakistan who breathed a new life into ghazal and semi-classical music. She holds an audience of thousands spellbound. Her appearance is a complete reverse of many other stage performers. She begins each number as solemnly as the previous one as the evening progresses, sinking deeper and deeper into her kafi’s and Sufiana kalam of the mystic poets. She is a woman of very few words and asks to be judged only by her music. This folk phenomenon, called Abida Parveen, is deeply religious and profoundly humble.

Abida Parveen is the finest singer of ghazal, geet and sindhi, seraiki and punjabi kafees. Her command of kafi of sufi poets such as Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Hazrat Lal Shabaz Qalandar, Hazrat Sacchal Sarmast from sindh, and Hazrat Baba Bulhe Shah, Hazrat Khawja Farid Ganje Shakar, Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Hazrat Mian Muhammad Buksh, Hazrat Ghulam Farid, Hazrat Pir Mehr Ali Shah and Hazrat Shah Hussain from pujab embellishes her versatility. Apart from sufis of Pakistan, Parveen also sings mystic poetry of the Asian Indian subcontinent, which include sufis such as Hazra Amir Khusrau, Hazrat Nizamudin Auliya, Hazrat Kutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti and Hazrat Moulana Jalaluddin Roomi from Turkey.

Professor G.M. Mekhri of Sind University said that, “Abida Parveen is the spiritual daughter of Great Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. She is the truly blessed voice.” Abida has recorded all the poetry of Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, an 18th century poet and composer who blended folk music and classical raga in a style known as kafi from his book called Shah jo Risalo according to their respective Raags which were also laid down by him.

She has performed almost in all parts of the world and performed before international audiences and placed the name of the country high up I the field of music. Abida Parveen performed in Chicago in 1988. Her fist performance was based on classical and semi-classical art, the second was comprised of ghazals of prominent poets and the third rested on folk singing and different varieties of sindhi music. Her performance was recorded by the renowned organization Hazrat Amir Khusrau Society of Art and Culture, which issued a long play recording of her renderings. After that, she performed in July of 1989 for three hours in a conference in London and was recorded by the BBC for a one hour telecast.

Discography

Live In U.K. Vol 3 (Star Compact Disc, 1994)
Pakistani Sufi Songs (Inedit, 1995)
Are Logo Tumhara Kya (Timeline Records, 1998)
Jahan-E-Khusrau – A Festival Of Amir Khusrau (Times Music, 2001)
Baba Bulleh Shah (Oreade Music, 2002)
Sings Sufi Music (Times Music, 2002)
Hazrat shah Hussain (Times Music, 2002)
Visal (World Village, 2002)
The Sufi Queen (Times Music, 2004)
Heer (ZYX Music, 2004)
Ishq (Accords Croisés, 2005)
Sufi Soul (Saregama, 2005)
Ghalib (Times Music, 2008)
Kabir (Times Music, 2009)
Mast Qalandar (Navras, 2010)
The Best Of Abida Parveen (Music Today, 2011)
Raqs-e-Bismil (Music Today, 2011)
Ho Jamalo (Music Today, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers

Farid Ayaz Qawwal

Farid Ayaz Qawwal and Brothers perform the ecstatic devotional music of Sufi Muslims. The ensemble has gained recognition for both the popular traditional form of qawwali and the more introspective ancient classical qawwali that is seldom heard today. In qawwali, which is similar to gospel in its use of call-and-response and spiritual fervor, the lead singers are accompanied by percussive hand clapping, harmonium, tabla (drums) and a chorus.

Farid Ayaz Qawwal & Brothers is one of Pakistan’s best known ensembles. It has promoted the art of qawwali throughout Pakistan, India, Europe, Iran, the Middle East, and the U.S. The group members specialize in classical qawwali, which they learned from their forefathers. They belong to the Delhi gharana (school) of Ustad Tan Ras Khan Sahib, who was the teacher of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The group sings in many languages including Urdu, Seraiki, Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Bengali and Purbi.

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Artist Profiles: Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Photo by Pamila Matharu, 1999

It’s totally soul music, and I think we can call it devotional music,” said Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “It’s spiritual music from the soul.”

He was talking about Qawwali, the musical component of the mystical tradition of Islam known as Sufism. But for him, even more momentous than serving as a musical ambassador from Pakistan to the United States, there is the mantle he is now assuming.

The legacy of a great qawwali master is not a matter to inherit lightly. Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was personally groomed by his uncle, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, for most of his life. Nusrat, who died in 1997, was considered “the voice from heaven” and the greatest living practitioner of qawwali. But Nusrat had no sons and the qawwali tradition requires that a master choose a successor. Although Nusrat appointed Rahat as his successor during his lifetime, when Rahat was still very young, according to tradition, on the 40th day after the death of the qawwali master, there was an announcement, and most of the qawwali singers in Pakistan and India attended. The head of the master’s family came out and announced Rahat as Nusrat’s successor. When Rahat was born, his father (Nusrat’s younger brother, Farroukh Fateh Ali Khan) washed the baby and brought him to Nusrat who blessed him. Rahat began his vocal training at the age of three, “even with the baby bottle in his mouth, he would remove it to sing each syllable,” said Shafiq Saddiqui, who worked with Nusrat and now works closely with Rahat.

At the age of six he was officially entered into the training of qawwali with Nusrat teaching him ragas, classic vocal training, and at nine, Rahat appeared on stage for the first time, at the anniversary of his grandfather’s death.

With Nusrat’s permission, Rahat gave his first public performance in front of thousands of people. At the age of fifteen he made his first trip outside of Pakistan as Nusrat’s second singer, on a tour of England. From then on, he was with his uncle on all of Nusrat’s worldwide tours.

And so 40 days after Nusrat’s death, according to tradition, Nusrat’s wife recognized Rahat as Nusrat’s successor. Since then, Rahat has been leading the same 10-piece band that Nusrat made famous, and carrying on the family legacy, one that goes back 600 years in their family.

I love qawwali, it’s in my spirit it’s in my soul,” Rahat said. “Qawwali is a music which stays forever, and it is food for the human spirit. Other music sounds good, but it doesn’t stay forever.”

After releasing a dozen solo albums in Pakistan, Rahat decided to bring his music to a western audience. He did not, however, in any way dilute or water down the qawwali tradition. “There is no twist in this traditional music,” he said firmly. “The only change you can say is that whoever is the singer has different vocal chords and that makes a difference and has an impact on the music, but basically it has been running for 700 years and no one ever changed it. Most of the poetry comes from Sufi saints like Rumi, who lived 600 years ago, but even if the works by newer Sufi poets are used, we do not stray far from tradition.”

My family carried the tradition for 700 years and my mission is to explore qawwali and to give the message of peace and love and lovely brotherhood to the world, without regard to race and religion, and that comes through the traditional qawwali. I am also very interested in collaborating with other singers, as well as Western singers. I will definitely do it in the future.”

Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

With two people playing harmoniums and one musician playing a pair of tablas, Rahat’s band conjures waves of ecstatic poetry, his voice rhythmically dancing with the tablas, spiraling ever upward in a gripping display of emotional and spiritual devotion. If you have never heard qawwali before, it is a powerful even life-changing experience, one in which the most sensual human impulses are perfectly united with the purest and most spiritual qualities.

Born and raised in Faisalbad, Pakistan, he could not recall when he was first inspired by qawwali because the music was such an integral part of his life. “When I first heard it, it was my wish to learn this music and become a qawwali singer. I did not go to any school, for there is no such school better than my house, which was a musical institute, I learned everything at home. We were living in a joint family all in one house.”

His relationship to his famous uncle remains a defining factor in Rahat’s life. Having toured with Nusrat from 1985 to 1997, he spent twelve years as a member of Nusrat’s touring band and as many years before that receiving instruction. “First of all, he was my great uncle, and second he adopted me at a very young age as his son and successor. Not only that he was my best friend and my great teacher and I learned from him, from day one until the end of his life. We had not only a father-son and uncle-nephew relationship but he was also a very good friend.”

Still, for Rahat, the burden of inheriting Nusrat’s legacy has been a two-sided sword. “The positive side is that it is an honor for me to be his successor and I enjoy that and I am carrying the message of Nusrat. No one is like Nusrat and even I am not like Nusrat. That voice might not come again for centuries, but I am fulfilling his mission because I learned from him. It really surprises me when expect that I will be doing the same thing he did. I have my own vocal sound and my own styleI learned from him and he also expected me to be a different singer who carries the same message. I hope people will understand this when they listen to me.”

The first glimpse that many Americans got of Rahat was in The Voice from Heaven, a film that explored Nusrat’s legacy. Immediately after his uncle’s death, in the spring of 1998, Rahat performed at his shrine in Lahore, Pakistan, at the largest festival in South Asia. Rahat was the youngest qawwali singer in the history of the 3-day festival and more than 200,000 attended the all-night performance. He performed at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1998, for the Dead Man Walking benefit concert, along with Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.

He returned to the US in August 1999 for eleven concerts including appearances in Central Park and the Hollywood Bowl, as well as Chicago, and Washington, DC. The music remains a form of spiritual practice to Rahat. “I wake up early in the morning every day, around 6 a.m., and start singing special ragas that are very difficult to practice for five or six hours a day. Qawwali is basically a form of prayer. It is a way of explaining to the world the message of those Sufis, through their phrases and poetry, which qawwali expresses through devotional music, it is basically preaching peace and love, but it is also prayer.”

Working with Rick Rubin, who co-founded one of rap’s premier labels (Def Jam), might seem an odd move for a singer of devotional music. Despite the fact that Rick comes from the rock and roll world and Rahat comes from a religious world (he prays five times day, and at the age of 12 he went to Mecca for Haj, a pilgrimage) there was never a big gap to overcome between the two men. “I didn’t feel any gap between Rick and my music,” Rahat said. “I felt him approaching the music with a spiritual attitude. I like Rick very much. I feel like he understands the music in a way only someone who lived with Sufis could understand it. So I am very happy to work with him, because our approaches are so similar, where I go, his mind is always there before me. I am very pleased he produced my record.”

For now though, Rahat remains single-pointedly focused on the message of traditional qawwali. “The qawwali music is not only music, it is a message. It was created by Sufis, and when we compose and practice this music, it stays forever. Other music comes and goes, but qawwali never goes. Once you start listening, it goes in your soul, goes in your spirit, and you become more human. I feel that this music is my duty, to go and give the message of Sufism. My future is that one day I will fulfill the desire of Nusrat to give this message to the world.”

Discography

Janasheen (Sonic Enterprises, 1999)
Aaja Mere Yaar (Sonic Enterprises, 1999)
Rahat (American Recordings, 2001)
The Four Feathers (Sony Classical, 2002)
Kinna Sonna (How Beautiful) – A Live Tribute To Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Navras, 2010)
The Best Of Bollywood & More (Times Music, 2010)

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