Pakistani and Indian expatriates in Riyadh were treated to a rare musical event recently by none other than the legendary Pakistani Qawwali singer, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the world’s most loved and contemporary South Asian artists and playback singers of Bollywood and the Pakistani film industry.
This was the first time Saudi Arabia held such a concert in which Rahat sang some of his popular “qawwali” (a genre of devotional or Sufi poetry) numbers to loud cheers from the audience, some 3,000 of them.
The Pakistani singer – a nephew of late maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — has previously announced plans to hold some 100 qawwali gatherings across the world, including in the Kingdom, adding that he wants this year to be celebrated as the year of qawwali. Other planned venues include the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa, Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, and his native Pakistan.
Rahat has bagged many national and international awards such as Pakistan’s Lux Style Awards, Pakistan Media Award, and International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA Award).
Rahat’s show was sold out in a few days. Many in the crowd had travelled to the Saudi capital from as far as Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia, and even neighbouring United Arab Emirates, to attend the November 28 event.
The concert was organised by the Pakistani Embassy in collaboration with the Ministry of Media.
Famous musicians from all over the world started to regale audiences in the Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom has embarked on a far-reaching drive last year to open up the country and enact various reforms, including allowing musical concerts and other entertainment events to take place and lifting a 35-year ban on cinemas.