LAHORE/KARACHI: Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, a distinguished classical singer and one of the most celebrated vocalists belonging to the Patiala Gharana of classical music, died in Islamabad on Wednesday. He was 82.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Ustad Fateh Ali was born in Patiala, India, in 1934. After independence his family moved to Lahore. Ustad Fateh Ali and his older brother Ustad Amanat Ali Khan performed together and attracted the attention of music lovers from the very beginning of their career.

The brothers were trained by their father Akhtar Husain, who was a vocalist in the patronage of the princely state of Patiala. Their grandfather Ali Bakhsh Jarnail too served in the same court and was the founder of the Patiala Gharana.

Ustad Amanat Ali, who sometimes sang solo as a ghazal gaek (singer), died in 1974. His younger brother Ustad Hamid Ali Khan is also a renowned classical and ghazal singer. Amanat Ali’s son, the late Asad Amanat Ali, was another popular singer from the family. Amanat Ali’s other son Shafqat Amanat Ali has chosen a slightly different path for himself. Although classically trained, he is known for singing pop and film songs.

Ustad Fateh Ali, along with his brother Ustad Amanat Ali, performed all across the world. Their classical and semi-classical singing won them countless admirers.

EARLY RECOGNITION: Their talent was recognised at an early stage of their professional lives. In 1945 they appeared for the first time on the big stage in Lahore at a concert sponsored by an influential music connoisseur, Pandit Jeevanlal Matoo. It was their performance at the All Bengal Music Conference in 1949, when Ustad Amanat was 17 and Fateh Ali was 14, that catapulted them to fame. From then on, the duo never looked back.

They went from strength to strength and received a host of awards and accolades, including the Pride of Performance Award in 1969.

As classical vocalists, the brothers had their specialised roles. Amanat Ali Khan had a gifted voice. He embellished his singing in broad sweeps by virtue of the lagao and blossoming in the upper register, while Fateh Ali Khan engaged in intricacies of countless behlawas and complex taans, in a much lower and gravelly voice, drawing inspiration from two seniors of the Patiala Gharana — Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan.

A thumri sung by the two brothers, ‘Kab aao gey’, is considered to be an all-time classic. Amanat Ali Khan composed it. The thumri signified their invaluable contribution to classical music where they presented it in such a way that it became accessible to all segments of music lovers, including those for whom appreciating classical music was a difficult exercise.

Amanat Ali Khan’s death in 1974 shocked Fateh Ali Khan. He suffered depression for two years. Subsequently, he resumed singing and joined his younger brother Hamid Ali Khan and nephew Asad Amanat Ali. They sang thumris, dadras and ghazals and performed all over the world.

In 1992, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan collaborated with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. They released a CD titled ‘Ragas and Sagas’. It was very well received.

Fateh Ali Khan had many students all over the world. One of his favourite students was Deeyah of Norway. She later became an Emmy award-winning filmmaker.

Apart from her, Ahmad Wali of Afghanistan and Haider Rizvi Alhussaini, a famous Nohakhawan, were also his students.

Both the Lahore Arts Council and the Punjab Council of the Arts have expressed their sorrow over his death.

Ustad Fateh Ali died in Islamabad, but he would be laid to rest in Lahore’s Mominpura graveyard on Thursday because his other relatives were buried in that graveyard.

According to Ustad Hamid Ali, the time of his funeral will be decided after arrival of his body in Lahore from Islamabad.

Published in Dawn January 5th, 2017

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