LAHORE-Every era has its own crop of musicians and when they pass, they become bookmark of that specific era.

The 20th death anniversary of legendary qawwali maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali khan was observed yesterday. He passed away at the age of 48 but his songs are still alive among his fans. Khan was one of the first artistes to popularise qawwali to Western audience.  

The legendary qawwal was born in Faisalabad and was blessed with an extraordinary voice and could perform at a high level of intensity of several hours.

His area of expertise was his efficient qawwali – a mystical genre of music. He gave his first public performance at the age of 16 and soon became the head of the family qawwali party. He blended Eastern and Western musical instruments and achieved fame all over the world. In his prolonged music career, he travelled extensively to perform in a wide range of countries.

The king of qawwali has created a world record of releasing as many as 125 audio albums as a qawwal which include legendary numbers such as ‘Tumey Dil Lagi’, ‘Mere Rashke Qamar’, ‘Mera Piya Ghar Aya and many others.

His father Fateh Ali Khan was a musicologist, vocalist, instrumentalist, and qawwal.

Nusrat had four elder sisters and one younger brother. He hailed from a family with a rich legacy of qawwali music. Two of his uncles, Ustad Mubarik Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, were also famous qawwals.

Initially his father wanted Nusrat to become a doctor or an engineer as he felt that qawwals had ‘low’ social status. Nonetheless, Nusrat received musical training in tabla and vocals.

Khan’s album Intoxicated Spirit was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1997 for best traditional folk album. That same year, his album Night Song was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album, but lost out to The Chieftains’ album Santiago.

Khan received the President of Pakistan’s Award for Pride of Performance for his contribution to Pakistani music in 1987.

In 1995 he was honoured with the Unesco Music Prize and the Grand Prix des Amériques at Montreal World Film Festival.

In 2005, khan received the Legends’ Award at the UK Asian music awards.

Google celebrated Khan’s 67th birthday with a doodle on its homepage for India, Pakistan, Japan among other countries. In August 2010 he was included in CNN’s list of the twenty most iconic musicians from the past fifty years.

Nusrat died in August 1997 leaving a legacy over 125 albums. He left behind a great collection of his recorded singing, which will inspire upcoming singers.