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Qawwali, the mystical music of Indian and Pakistani Sufism, is rooted in song forms that are over 700 years old. Qawwali songs are devotional songs that extol Islamic virtues and shower praise upon Allah. Qawwali is intended to affect heightened spirituality through ritualized listening known as Sama. The transcendent nature of the poetic lyrics, in combination with a vivacious musical base and the participatory act of Sama, stirs ecstatic feelings of mystical adoration among both performers and audience members alike. Undoubtedly the most popular qawwali singer of all time was the Pakistani-born Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Six weeks after his death in 1997, nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan assumed the qawwali helm. Rahat took Nusrat's first name in a traditional gesture of admiration of his master, and in so doing was officially recognized as the new leader of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's group.
Born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was selected at birth by his uncle for tutoring in the art of qawwali music. A precocious child, Rahat was singing at the age of three with his uncle and his father Farroukh Fateh Ali Khan, another respected qawwali singer. Rahat began formalized training with his uncle at the age of six. By age 15, Rahat officially joined his uncle's celebrated group.
Since becoming the head of the group, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has performed on a variety of recordings and has sung with Eddie Vedder at the Dead Man Walking Concert put on by Tim Robbins. He and his band continue to entrance world audiences with numerous shows around the globe. Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's self-titled release on American Recordings is his U.S. debut. Recorded in Santa Monica, CA, its four tracks are both emotionally charged and expertly performed. Producer Rick Rubin, of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Beastie Boys fame, boosts Rahat's already potent sounds by cranking up the low end and placing the tabla way up in the mix.
Though Rahat is excited to play with Western pop musicians and lay down tracks in state-of-the-art studios, he is ultimately most concerned with the art of qawwali and its mystically imbued message. As he states, "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."