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He’s a triple threat – singer, actor, musician – and he does it in Urdu.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (RFAK), who has been delighting standing-room-only audiences around the world lately, will offer a concert at Queens College’s Colden Auditorium on Sunday, May 14, at 7 p.m. (He’s actually on a tribute tour honoring his famous triple threat uncle, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (NFAK.)

This Pakistani megastar specializes in Qawwali, a devotional music of the Sufis, a mystical branch of Islam. He usually does sit-down performances on a stool with saxophone, guitar, tabla, keyboard, drums, and base guitar in the background. He prefers the unplugged sound to showcase his melodic vocals.

Tickets run from $39 to $259.

A household name throughout South Asia, RFAK comes from a family that has performed traditional Qawwali music for an estimated 600 years. His uncle chose him as a purveyor of the culture and starting tutoring him in the genre when he was three years old. He made his first public appearance at age nine, before joining NFAK’s traveling band.

The 43-year-old native of Pakistan’s Faisalabad also works on Bollywood and Hollywood movies. For example, he contributed to the soundtracks for the films “Dead Man Walking” (1995) and Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” (2006). He also makes regular appearances on Pakistani TV, once being a judge on a show similar to “America’s Got Talent.”

Though sung primarily in Urdu (the national language of Pakistan), Qawwali is a fusion of musical traditions from India, Iran, Turkey, and the Arab World. The Arabic word “Qual” roughly translates as “utterance of the prophet.”

Songs are usually poems or odes to devotion and longing for the Divine and they can be 75-minutes long. Some praise Mohammed. Some lament a death. Others expound on love. An accompanying group, called a “party,” usually consists of at least eight male musicians who play instruments and hand-clap. Women were excluded from playing traditional Muslim music for centuries, but there are a few female artists who have gained acceptance recently.

Photos: RFAK World


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