By Reena Kumar
The qawwali tradition has been going strong for 600 years, but Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan reigns supreme as one of the most famous figures of the genre in recent times despite his death 20 years ago.
Now his nephews Rizwan and Muazzam who trained under his leadership, are continuing the Sufi practice where hypnotic vocal repetitions are intended to induce a state of ecstasy.
The brothers, who are backed by traditional instruments including the harmonium and tabla, kick-started their UK tour this week which will see them mark the 20th anniversary of the death of their legendary uncle.
In an interview with Eastern Eye, Muazzam said the spiritual music which spreads a message of love and peace, would continue to be passed on through generations.
He paid tribute to his uncle and said the brothers were determined to keep the family qawwali tradition alive.
Speaking about the tour, Muazzam said: “People will get all the flavours of our great uncle. We will do our best to entertain qawwali lovers as it is a tribute to him.”
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan brought Sufi music to an international stage, and his influence is far reaching.
Qawwali music is a form of Sufi devotional music from the Indian subcontinent in which romantic love is a metaphor for spiritual adoration and mystical enlightenment.
Taking the tradition forward, Rizwan and Muazzam continue to expand the reach of qawwali to new audiences, and have worked with contemporary producers such as Fun-Da-Mental and Neil Sparks.
During the tour on the 70th anniversary year of the formation of Pakistan, the group will perform Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s own compositions, many of which have not been heard before by UK audiences, along with traditional and well-loved qawwali songs.
Muazzam added: “We are all really very excited about our UK tour and looking forward to meeting and performing in front of our fans and qawwali loving audiences. We will be following in the footsteps of our great uncle, he loved performing and meeting his fans in the UK and we will be paying our humble respects to him with a very special show for qawwali fans on the 20th anniversary year since his passing.”
The brothers, whose father also performed with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, have been performing together since the 1990s and have graced the stages at WOMAD festival and The Royal Opera House, developing a devoted global following.
Their soaring voices are backed by a gharana, an ensemble of harmonium and tabla accompanied by rhythmic hand-claps.
They have produced several acclaimed albums with Real World Records and performed with fellow Pakistani singers and musicians at the Coke Studio Pakistan.
The ten-piece band performs in traditional style – sitting on the ground rather than on seats – which they believe brings them closer to god.
See Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali on Saturday March 25 at Harwood Assembly Rooms, Leeds Sunday March 26 at The Sage, Gateshead, Monday March 27 at The Barbican, London and Thursday March 30 at Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham.