Ustaad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan



For someone who has been in the music industry for over a decade, Rahat Fateh Ali makes no bones about being a super star. This becomes clear as he welcomes me into his office that he likes to call ‘RFAK World’.

Dressed in a kurta shalwar, he makes me feel right at home by being friendly, down-to-earth, decent and downright humble. When he speaks, his voice is sharp and slightly sweet, quite like his singing voice.

Achievements and awards

We begin with his experience of performing at the Noble Peace Prize Award Concert in Oslo, Norway. “I’d easily term it the highlight of my career. It was phenomenal.” He gets even more emotional when I ask him about his feelings on Malala Yousufzai winning the Noble Peace Prize.

“I believe Pakistan was recognised and acknowledged on the global forum through it.” Speaking of awards, on August 14 the President conferred Sitar-i-Imtiaz on Rahat for excellence in classical and semi-classical music for which the investiture ceremony took place on Pakistan Day.

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s arrival in the city for a few performances was like the long-awaited summer showers that refresh Karachi’s dull atmosphere

Back2Love and music

Rahat released his second studio release, Back2Love, last year.

“Like any other creative process, music requires a lot of concentration and time. The album has been the best I have yet to offer.” Back2Love made it to the top of the charts at home, across the border and all over the world. The lead single, ‘Zaroori Tha’ has nearly four million hits on YouTube.

When asked about the connection between music and love, he says, “Choli daman ka saath hai, ji.”

On Bollywood and Indo-Pak ties

Rahat has performed nearly all genres, from classical to semi-classical, pop to rock. So, what exactly is his thing? “It’s classical in every aspect,” he says, defining good music as “Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s singing.”

According to Rahat, international collaborations bring out the merger of music as they provide an artist with a global platform with immense room for improvisation. His favourite collaboration remains with James Horner and Michael Brook. He says that he was also impressed with Queen Latifah at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

Does singing for Bollywood make him change his signature style?

“Not at all. Whatever you listen to is my own style. At times there could be some variation but it is also carried out with my consent.”

He acknowledges the importance of Bollywood in his career and for him it provides a broader avenue for the propagation of music, besides giving him due recognition.

RFAK is a staunch proponent of Indo-Pak peace. For him, music and peace again have a “choli daman ka saath.” The message of peace and goodwill can best be spread through music, he adds. When asked whom does he think his voice suits most in Bollywood, he smiles and names Akshay Kumar.

Hollywood ventures and international collaborations

To date, Rahat has collaborated with Eddie Vedder of the American rock band Pearl Jam. He has contributed to the soundtrack of the 1995 Hollywood film, Dead Man Walking.

In 2002, he worked on the soundtrack of the Shekhar Kapoor-directed film The Four Feathers in collaboration with American composer James Horner. He also played with The Derek Trucks Band on the song Maki Madni for their album, Joyful Noise. In 2006, he sang for another huge hit soundtrack, that of Mel Gibson’s epic Apocalypto.

According to Rahat, international collaborations bring out the merger of music as they provide an artist with a global platform with immense room for improvisation. His favourite collaboration, however, remains with James Horner and Michael Brook. He was also impressed with Queen Latifah at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, adds the singer.

His upcoming US tour would further bring about innovative collaborations, which he promises to share with IoS as and when they materialise.

The music scene in Pakistan

In the recent times, one has witnessed downward trend in the popularity of classical music in our society especially amongst youth. Pop, rock and jazz have taken over mind and hearts. However, Rahat disagrees in principle. “Classical music is a majboori (compulsion) because it is so soulful,” he says, adding. “Do you not see the success of classical music?” He of course has a point which makes me agree to his statement.

He disagrees when the pessimist in me says that Pakistani music is in the doldrums. He believes that the only thing which is found lacking when it comes to Pakistani music is appreciation, “Cherish it now and feel the difference,” he states.

Singing for Lollywood

Pakistan’s film industry seems to be on a rise now with films like Na Maloom Afraad. RFAK also believes that the Lollywood is following an upward trend, which is good for the entertainment industry. Then why doesn’t he sing much for the Lollywood? “When they will make my type of songs, I’ll lend my voice to them,” he says with a sly grin.

Rahat Fateh Ali’s future plans include a full-length tour to the Caribbean Islands and the US. And as for the continuation of his musical legacy, his 12-year-old son, Shahzaman Ali Khan, also has a great interest in music and plans to pursue it as a career, just like his illustrious dad.

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