Award Citation

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a prominent Pakistani singer famous around the world. He was born to a distinguished family from Jalandhar with a 600 year-long tradition of performing qawwali, Islamic songs of praise. His deceased father and uncles are still remembered as great masters of qawwali. Mr. Nusrat began to seriously pursue a qawwali career only after the death of his father. However, since his debut in 1965 as the lead singer of his group, he has distinguished himself as a qawwal--a singer of qawwali music. He is now known as the "Shahansha-e Qawwali"--the King of Qawwali. Mr. Nusrat continues to perform qawwali in religious rites--the original form in which qawwali is sung--at mausoleums of revered saints in Pakistan, which at the same time giving concerts at more conventional venues. In 1979, he was accorded the rare honor of performing inside one of the most prestigious shrines in the subcontinent, the shrine of Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, India. The superb singing talent and musical skill of this great master of qawwali, along with his strong command of Urdu, Farsi (Persian), and his native language, Punjabi, have enabled him to sing the mystic poetry written in these languages with fluency and expressiveness. He is also famous for his unparalleled repertoire, which extends to several thousands of songs. In appreciation of his excellence, the Government of Pakistan awarded him the President's Pride of Performance in Art in 1987.

In the summer of 1985, Mr. Nusrat performed at the World Music Arts and Dance festival (WOMAD) in London, where he stood out as the most promising singer. After the success of that summer, he began to perform his music without regard to genre or tradition. His various experimentations, such as the use of scat-like singing improvisation, bought a fresh breeze into the traditional world of qawwali. This new openness led to the popularization of Sufi music across both geographical and musical boundaries. His concerts in Paris in 1985 and 1988 were received with great enthusiasm as his amazing vocal performances produced a craze for his music throughout Europe. His first visit to Japan took place in 1987, at the invitation of the Japan Foundation. His participation in seminars and his performances at the 5th Asian Traditional Performing Art Festival and subsequent concerts in Japan have earned him a steadily increasing number of fans in this country. He has also released several CDs in Japan, and performed in a number of successful large-scale concerts all over the world.

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's accomplishments have contributed both to the succession and advancement of the qawwali tradition, and to the popularization of South Asia's outstanding traditional music culture around the world. Moreover, he has brought innovation into the sphere of the qawwali by taking advantage of his artistic gifts and flexibility to transcend the rules imposed by tradition. These achievements, taken together, have had an immeasurable impact on cultural exchange between the East and the West; led to the enhancement of both cultures, and thus make Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan particularly worthy of receiving the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes.