The nephew of the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistani national treasure and Bollywood hitmaker speaks to Rob Garratt at the launch of his latest album.
You played Abu Dhabi in April, Dubai in May, and now you’re here to globally launch your new album Back2Love, as well as the new MixRadio app. What keeps you coming back?
Everybody is spending time here, so why don’t I? [laughs] I like the weather, and my kids like Dubai so much.
You’re one of the few Pakistani artists to crossover to an Indian audience. Why do you think this is?
Music has only one language, there is no boundary to understanding music. India and Pakistan – before 1947 we were only one country, and that’s why my music and Indian music are similar.
Your new album has a romantic theme and commercial sound. Aren’t you neglecting your esteemed heritage singing traditional Qawwali music?
For that kind of audience we are launching another album which is called Just Qawwali [coming out] in September or October, so we’re giving them that kind of stuff.
You started singing when you were three – at what age did you realise music was your calling for life?
At the age of six.
And you first performed live at the age of nine, alongside your uncle Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. What was the greatest lesson he taught you?
He told me ‘don’t forget to practise – every day your vocal chords should be in work’. I learned that and also he said ‘keep listening to all the world’s music – they will [all] give you something’.
Why do you think he chose you, at the age of three, to mentor throughout his life?
This is an unfortunate situation – because I am the only boy in the family, the pure family. So there’s no choice [laughs].
And that family name carries a great heritage. At what age did you first feel comfortable with this responsibility?
A very good question – 2008.
You found fame globally with 2003’s Rahat, produced by Rick Rubin, but you weren’t happy with the result, right?
I wasn’t happy with the result, not at all. I’m not this. I was very [young] and I didn’t realise which way to go.
Would you like to do more work with Western artists?
Of course. I’m planning [to work] with Eddie Vedder and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters’ son [pianist Harry Waters]... [on] upcoming projects.
You worked with Eddie Vedder alongside your uncle on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack in 1995. What was he like?
A very humble person, very to the point. It is hard to connect [musically], but he has already connected with Nusrat’s music.
Still no chance of you branching out into acting?
No, I’m no actor. My mind can’t be changed.
Do you have any message for Time Out’s readers?
I appreciate your readers because they’re reading something really good – the interview was thorough and your questions interesting. And that depicts that you have really good readers – I appreciate you and your audience for that.
Thanks for the kind words. In that case, we can expect you back in Dubai soon?
I want to live here [laughs]. I am joking, I love my country, and I want to live there. But I will be coming to Dubai in the last part of the year.
Back2Love is out now.