Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sang these lines for A.R. Rahman’s album, Vande Mataram, dedicated to India in its 50th year of Independence. But all the outpourings of love from millions of fans worldwide couldn’t heal the legendary qawwal’s own terminally ill body. Ten years ago, as India celebrated its golden jubilee, 48-year-old Nusrat battled for his life in a London hospital. He lost the battle on August 16, one day after India’s Independence day, and two days after his native Pakistan’s.
However, death has only strengthened the intoxicating power of Nusrat’s music. A decade after he passed away, he is the subcontinent’s most internationally famous singer, with a huge fan following and a long chain of imitators. He is in the Guinness Book of Records for having recorded a staggering 125 albums. And, according to the US National Public Radio website, he has sold more albums than Elvis Presley. The singer’s legacy lives on through his nephews Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Rizwan and Muazzam (following in Nusrat’s footsteps, the latter two have collaborated with British musician Peter Gabriel), and his students Salman Ahmad and Naeem Abbas Rufi. Salman went on to found the popular Pakistani rock group, Junoon. Indian Sufi singers Kailash Kher, Hans Raj Hans and Rabbi Shergill all claim Nusrat as their inspiration. Kailash, who is sometimes dubbed Chhota Nusrat, has been approached to sing with Eddie Vedder at a tribute concert for Nusrat.