Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

The Return of "The Voice from Heaven": Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in concert at IndigO2

Organizers have added a London concert to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's UK tour after a flood of requests from music fans, confirming the singer's status as the musical and spiritual successor to his uncle, "The Voice from Heaven", Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

The additional concert stop of the tour - incidentally called "The Voice from Heaven Tour" - will take place at the O2 arena in Greenwich, Southeast London on Sunday 08 September.

“Rahat is one of the only superstars from the East that can generate such emotion and buzz about his music and we are proud to deliver another show,” said Kej Jivraj, director of organizers TCO.

Unlike his usual mega concerts however, this Sunday's event will be a more intimate affair, to be held at the Indigo2, the "little sister" to the vast O2 arena, better to enjoy the talents of one of the finest exponents of the Qawwali tradition alive today. 

It's difficult to believe that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has been wowing audiences for more than a decade and a half.

His current reputation as the new Voice from Heaven however, began well before his uncle Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan even passed away, aged 48 in 1997.

Rahat, 39, - the son of renowned Qawwali musician Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan and grandson of the legendary Ustad Fateh Ali Khan - first showed musical promise at the tender age of 3 before his uncle began teaching him ragas and Sufi poetry at the age of 7.

It is said that from Rahat's birth, the precocious young talent enjoyed a spiritual connection with his uncle Nusrat whose family shared the same home with Rahat and his family.  An insider once said that when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan first sang to Rahat, the "recognition" in the youngster's eyes is said to have bene unmistakeable.

By the time he was 10, he was performing qawwali with Nusrat, studying with him day and night, 7 days a week; a necessity given the very nature of Qawwali, a form of music as old as time itself, it seems, and one whose spiritual beauty has enchanted musicians from east and west.

Rahat's family are said to have been plying their trade for more than 600 years with the eldest son of each successive family required to carry on the tradition.  Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did not have a son, and he did not feel that females had the strength to become qawwali singers. 

Rahat's succession then, was a given from a young age.

When Nusrat was a child, his father, qawwali master Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, wanted him to become a physician rather than a musician.

But Nusrat was irresistibly drawn to music, often hiding outside his father's room to hear him give lessons.  When the elder Khan died, Nusrat was still a teenager, but he was expected to sing at a memorial ceremony 40 days after the passing.

Such was Nusrat's legendary talent that in the month-and-a-bit running up the ceremony, he learned how to sing a classical tribute to Rahat's grandfather; a stunning accomplishment by a man described by his devotees as "Shahen-sha-e-Qawwali", the "King of Kings, the Brightest Star of Qawwali".

As such, following in his uncle's footsteps has been an enormous responsibility, one which the younger Khan has taken in his stride, forging a career that has been marked as much by his mastery of the family tradition as his versatility and range, working in everything from Bollywood to Hollywood and everything in-between.

Rahat once told the Los Angeles Times: "There are many styles of music in qawwali," he says.

"Nusrat chose one style, a style that was right for his voice. I am choosing one that is right for my voice. But what is important is that the goal is the same, the music is the same.

"A single phrase is the central idea of the poetry, and all the music, all the improvisation, flows from that central idea."

What has made Rahat appeal to music fans across the spectrum has been the versatility of Sufi music itself. 

When Qawwali first came to what was then-India from Persia more than a millennium ago, it was spiritual music.  In order to capture the local audiences however, the music blended with local music, creating a hybrid that was more easily accessible to the masses.

Rahat's uncle first brought Sufi music to the West by blending it with Western rhythms and instruments, a policy that his nephew followed years later, collaborating with the likes of Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. 

The tantric, spiritual beauty that underlies Qawwali however, remains and that has what has made Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's appeal so enduring. 

"It's with me 24 hours a day", he says.  "Qawwali is a lifetime career and it never stops."

That immersion in the ancient art of Qawwali will doubtless be on full display this Sunday in southeast London.

For tickets and information, visit www.rahatlondon.com



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