Pakistani musician, Nusrat, dies at 49

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The Independent Online
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the cult Pakistani musician and singer who provided the soundtrack for the films Natural Born Killers, Dead Man Walking, The Last Temptation of Christ and Bandit Queen died suddenly in London yesterday.

Nusrat, 49, was admitted to the Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, for emergency treatment as he was travelling through the capital. He had suffered from repeated kidney problems and had been hoping to take up the offer of a transplant operation in Los Angeles as soon as possible, but yesterday at midday his heart failed.

Poignantly, the Sufi-style singer died at the very time many of his compatriots around the world are likely to have been listening to his music as celebrations marking 50 years of Pakistani independence continue.

As news of his death reached Pakistan last night hundreds of fans stopped work and gathered in Lahore to remember him.

His remarkable voice had also become increasingly popular both in Europe and in India, where a new, chic audience had begun to recognise his talents.

The qawwali music Nusrat sang, and which he was largely responsible for introducing to the wider world, was originally religious in function, but he gradually moved away from singing in classical Persian and Urdu into demotic languages like Punjabi and the inclusion of non-religious subject matter.

A classically trained singer and the son of a famous qawwal - a qawwali singer - whose troupe he led for 25 years, Nusrat took his place in the world music scene soon after his first concerts in Britain in 1979.

Farrukh Dhondy, the commissioning editor at Channel 4 responsible for popularising Nusrat in Britain, last night paid tribute to his musical hero.

"I was on the look out for talent from India and Pakistan and this startlingly melodic and haunting rendition of qawwali knocked me out," he said.

He organised Nusrat's first televised concert and described the singer's work with his father's group as just as compelling as anything written by the Beatles.