August 23 2016
Donning the mantle of his late uncle, Ustad Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan, has not always been easy, but returning to The O2 in London, represented something of a triumph for the Bollywood playback singer and Qawwali specialist…with just a small gripe…
By Tasha Mathur
YES, THAT’S right folks, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is back and he’s bigger and better than ever before!
It’s the comeback tour that thousands had been waiting for and the sell-out show at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena last weekend was proof of that.
As the 42-year old singer, kicked off the concert with a dedication to his late uncle, the hugely popular, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, we knew we were in for a treat. And also coinciding with Pakistan and India’s Independence Day anniversaries meant that this was truly a party of all castes and creeds, bringing everyone together to celebrate as one.
Since taking a break of approximately two years, audience members were promised something special and unique as Khan’s classics were performed with a modern twist. Rather than the traditional classical instruments, the stage was full of keyboard players, guitarists, a drummer and a saxophonist who added a jazz interpretation on some of Khan’s most popular Bollywood songs such as Aaja Nachle’s “O Re Piya“.
However, while each famous song prompted a cheer from the audience, the constant jazz element seemed to take a little away from the original versions.
With songs like ‘Tenu Samjhawan Ki’ (lovingly dedicated to his wife), holding such natural beauty, one couldn’t help wishing for the traditional and more stripped back version to truly show off Khan’s vocals.
Nevertheless, the endless energy and enthusiasm on stage never dwindled and fans were treated to hit after hit as they marveled at Khan’s purely powerful voice – reassuring everyone that he’s not going anywhere.
During a short costume change, a surprise guest, global music producer, Naughty Boy, took to the stage to exclusively announce an upcoming collaboration between himself and Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to be released later this year.
The second half took on a more traditional mood with a harmonium-playing Khan taking centre stage. Once again, songs such as “Kinna Sona Tenu Rab Ne Banaya” and “Akhiyaan Udeek Diyan” (another homage to his uncle, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) had audiences dancing in the aisles, with many others itching to get on their feet as they sang along.
From singing traditional Qawwalis to modern Bollywood love songs in Urdu, Hindi and Panjabi, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan certainly appealed to absolutely everybody in a true festive performance to celebrate India’s and Pakistan’s freedom and unity with all cultures dancing along to the same tune.
ACV rating: **** (out of five)