When Ajay Devgn recalled NFAK’s humility and dedication

October 13 marked the 73rd birth anniversary of master qawwal Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, with celebrities taking to social media to pay tribute to the late musician. Comedian Yasir Hussain posted a throwback video of Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn from an Indian TV show, in which he can be seen recounting a story about Khan’s humility and dedication. Yasir captioned the post, “Nusrat Sahab jaisa artist sadiyon mai paida hota hai [An artist like Nusrat Sahab is born once in decades].”

Devgn narrated the story of the time the qawwal was in India recording his final album, which was for Devgn’s film Kachche Dhaage. “Sahab’s last album was Kachche Dhaage, which was my film,” recalled the actor. “I remember, Nusrat Sahab had travelled from Pakistan and was staying at a hotel. He was there for a month to make music. At the time, he weighed a lot. So, he would ask [lyricist] Anand Bakshi Sahab to come to him since he couldn’t travel by car. Bakshi Sahab felt he was doing this because he had a very big ego. He would ask, ‘Why isn’t he coming here?’”

He continued, “He’d write a song and send it over, and Nusrat Sahab would reject it because he didn’t get the right feel from it. Nusrat Sahab would send a tune and Bakshi Sahab would reject it. This went on for 15 to 20 days, after which Nusrat Sahab had had enough and said, ‘Pick me up and take me to him.’ Bakshi Sahab lived on the first floor, and Nusrat Sahab had seven to eight people carry him upstairs. When Bakshi Sahab saw this, he cried with tears. He apologised, saying that he was the one who had the ego issue. He went back to the hotel with him and wrote the entire album there.” 

The popular qawwal was an icon, whose music resonates in qawwali evenings and in any discussion about the history of Pakistani music, and whose loss continues to be felt. His work continues to be featured in Western and Bollywood productions as well as the local music scene.

He sang in Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Hindi and other languages during his lifetime and also performed in more than 40 countries including the US, UK, Japan, India and Canada and composed songs for films and released multiple solo albums. Khan was also presented with the Pride of Performance Award.

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