Remembering Nusrat 15 Years Later


Hiromi Lorraine Sakata in Outlook India:

Many of us in the Northwest feel a certain privileged connection with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan because of his six-month residency at the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Program from September 1992 to March 1993. Students and staff from across campus registered for his classes, and others from off-campus and even out-of-state came to register for his classes through University Extension, just for the chance to sit with him in small groups to learn qawwali.

Those were heady days for many of us in Seattle, when Nusrat could be seen walking around the block in his Adidas athletic clothes, at a public swimming pool with some of his students, riding one of the Washington State ferries, or shopping at a local Pakistani-Indian grocery store where surprised customers recognized him, spoke to him, and sent him gifts of halaal lamb, rice, etc. His 5-bedroom home in Lake City was always full of friends, students, family, musicians, fans and promoters. Nusrat enjoyed his relative anonymity in Seattle which permitted him to do what he could never dream of doing in Pakistan.

Nusrat’s decision to accept his teaching position at the University of Washington was not an easy one to make. On the negative side was the fact that the position was for Nusrat alone, not for his entire qawwali party. The livelihood of approximately 100 people (families of his ensemble) depended on the performances of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his Party. How could he take six months out of his full performance schedule and still help the members of his ensemble maintain their livelihood? On the positive side was the full health care benefits provided to full-time faculty members. Even his ensemble members could see that Nusrat needed the time to seek special medical attention at a top-rated medical facility.

More here. [Thanks to Raghu Desikan.]