Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has been commemorated on his 67th birth anniversary with an ugly Google doodle that makes him look like an overgrown cereal-fed baby. We have a better tribute in mind to the great qawwal, who started singing at the age of 16 and amassed a substantial body of work by the time of his death in 1997.
Pakistani writer and filmmaker Farjad Nabi’s Nusrat Has Left the Building… But When maps in 21 minutes Khan’s journey from homegrown talent to the country’s most well-known singer.
Nabi evokes the master through his early renditions, animation, and clips from music videos and concerts. The short film suggests that Khan’s early genius lay in his ability to reach the ears and hearts of ordinary Pakistanis, but the music lost some of its purity after he became a global pop culture icon.
The splicing together of images of a circus show and one of Khan’s public performances says it all. What survives is the music, beautifully chosen and placed over poetic vignettes of Lahore.