Ustad Fateh Ali Khan passes away

LAHORE - Pride of Pakistan and the foremost Khayal vocalist Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan of Patiala Gharana passed away on Wednesday evening in Islamabad. He was 81 years old.

There is a galaxy of highly acclaimed singers in Patiala Gharana and the deceased was one of the most shining ones. He was younger of the legendary singing duo Amanat Ali and Fateh Ali, who enjoyed a lot of popularity in Pakistan and India and had fan following and disciples in many other countries. The duo were trained in the art of classical singing by their father Akhtar Hussain Khan, who was an eminent singer in the patronage of princely state of Patiala. Ustad Fateh Ali was father of Rustam Fateh Ali and Sultan Ali Khan and uncle of Asad Amanat and Shafqat Amanat. He was elder brother of Ustad Hamid Ali Khan.

They made a glorious debut in classical singing encouraged by influential music lover and musician Pandit Jeevanlal Mattoo. They rose to fame after participating in the All Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta in 1949. They became recognised and established artistes within no time. After partition the family moved to Pakistan and the duo swung back in the realm of music and earned top place among the singers of the time. They inspired a generation of great singers including Salim Raza, Asha Poslay, Akhlaq Ahmed, Shaukat Ali, Rajab Ali, Malika Pukhraj, Ghulam Ali and many others. These all can be seen in PTV programmes like Nikhar clapping and applauding the duo on every alap and antra that they sang. The duo Ustad Amanat and Ustad Fateh drew their inspiration from two elders of their gharana, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan. Ustad Amanat’s singing was in broad sweeps while Ustad Fateh always sang in much lower and gravelly voice delving into the intricacies and complex tans of classical singing. Ustad Fateh like his brother mastered the genres of music like Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Dadra and Ghazal genres of music. He was considered the foremost exponent of Khayal genre of music, a chapter that will be closed after his death. He along with his brother Amanat travelled across the world showcasing the classical music of land in Europe, Canada, USA, UAE and India.

Ustad Fateh Ali Khan did not believe in keeping the art of classical music away from those outside the gharana. He has left behind students in five continents of the world. One of his favourite students Deeyah is from Norway. She is in UK now and winner of Emmy Award. His other student who won international acclaim is Ahmad Wali from Afghanistan. He goes by the name of Ahmed Wali Fateh Ali Khan. Famous nohakhawan Haider Rizvi Alhussaini was also one of his disciples. Ustad Fateh was running a musical academy in Islamabad, which reportedly was being supported by one of his students.

Ustad Fateh and his brother Ustad Amanat were honoured with Pride of Performance award in 1969 for their contribution in promotion of classical music. It is sad to see the whole life of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan. He did his best to promote classical singing but was never encouraged by state. Till date there has been no academy or institution established by government to teach and promote classical music, which is our part of rich cultural heritage. The PTV has never included the genre of classical music when holding its awards at regional or national level. Pakistan’s classical singers perform across the globe and bring accolades for the country. But here in Pakistan they are the most ignored people by the media and state institutions like the art councils established across the country. The art of classical singing is not taught in any of the councils whereas these do promote genres of music, which are not part of our heritage.

Ustad Fateh Ali Khan had reportedly become very weak. He was suffering from infection in lungs. There was a popular perception that he used to sing raags as grammar of classical music in low tones but at the same time his taans were something that music lovers would remember for generations to come. The singing with his brother was like their dialogue with the music itself. With both now gone to their heavenly abode the musical dialogue has finally ended. A chapter of rich musical heritage now closed for ever. May the soul of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan rest in peace and May Allah grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss.

The funeral of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan will be held today at 10 am at Mominpura graveyard on Abbot Road. The body was being brought back from Islamabad on Wednesday night.

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