On Sunday 14th August, King of Qawalli Rahat Fateh Ali Khan graced the stage of the London O2 for a second time with a selection of popular Bollywood hits and evergreen traditional songs from his collection.
The show began with a montage, showing the audience how far RFAK had come from singing alongside his uncle, the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the age of 10, to performing a huge number of shows worldwide and making numerous songs for Bollywood films. It was then that RFAK came onto the stage adorned in a glitzy black and gold jacket. With such a build up, it would have been great to see more of an entrance.
Designed with a deliberate split, the first half of the show saw RFAK entertain the crowd with the more commercial film songs. With the exception of Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, the set was a roaring success with RFAK’s faultless vocals fantastically complemented with a hugely talented set of musicians. Special kudos goes to the saxophonist, although due to sound levels, the sax sometimes overpowered everything else. Don’t get me wrong: the saxophonist was amazing, but by the fourth song, it did feel like he overstayed his welcome. RFAK’s renditions of O Re Piya and his tribute to his uncle with Tu Na Jaane Aas Paas Hai Khudha are particularly worth mentioning, which simply melted the heart.
After an uncomfortable interval where presenter Noreen Khan interviewed –what felt like – an unprepared Naughty Boy about his next album, RFAK returned to the stage dressed in a salwar kameez, equally as glitzy as what he had before, and a backup of several Qawalli singers. As impressive as the first half was, the remainder of the show was in a league of its own. Kicking off the set with Dagabaaz Re, RFAK mesmerised the audience and had them gripped all the way to a fantastic finale with Mast Qalander that only a person without a soul wouldn’t have been clapping along to. Fusing classic Qawalli numbers with a touch of Jazz, RFAK literally had people dancing down the aisles, whether adorning a turban or a hijab, possessed with the spirit of his music.
With next year being the 20th anniversary since the death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, it will be interesting to see what selection RFAK brings back. But with the gig he played last week, he has set the bar seriously high for himself.