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Tributes, legacy and influence
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice was otherworldly. For 25 years, his mystical songs transfixed millions. It was not long enough … He performed qawali, which means wise or philosophical utterance, as nobody else of his generation did. His vocal range, talent for improvisation and sheer intensity were unsurpassed.
Jeff Buckley cited Khan as a major influence, saying of him “He’s my Elvis“, and performing the first few minutes of Khan’s hit “Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai” (including vocals) at live concerts. Many other artists have also cited Khan as an influence, such as A. R. Rahman, Sheila Chandra, and Alim Qasimov.
Paul Williams picked a concert performance by Khan for inclusion in his 2000 book The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits: a ‘top-40’ list, in which he devotes a chapter each to what he considers the top 40 artistic achievements of the 20th century in any field (including art, movies, music, fiction, non-fiction, science-fiction).
In 2004, a tribute band called (Brooklyn Qawwali Party) (formerly Brook’s Qawwali Party) was formed in New York City by percussionist Brook Martinez to perform the music of Khan. The 13-piece group still performs mostly instrumental jazz versions of Khan’s qawwalis, using the instruments conventionally associated with jazz rather than those associated with qawwali.
In 2007, electronic music producer and performer Gaudi, after being granted access to back catalog recordings from Rehmat Gramophone House (Khan’s former label in Pakistan), released an album of entirely new songs composed around existing vocals. The album, ‘Dub Qawwali’, was released by Six Degrees Records. It received huge critical acclaim internationally, reaching no. 2 in the iTunes US Chart, no. 4 in the UK and was the no. 1 seller in Amazon.com’s Electronic Music section for a period. It also earned Gaudi a nomination for the BBC’s World Music Awards 2008.