Concert Review: Fateh all over The O2

By Smita Sarkar from London

smita sarkar

Smita Sarkar

Not too often does the marriage of Bollywood and Classical Punjabi music work out. Not too often does the melody of a saxophone go with devotional Qawwali. But then, not too often does one get to hear Rahat Fateh Ai Khan under the great dome of The O2.

And, for all the life that he breathed into The O2 – what one remembers most is the strong sense of Earth that he breathes into the mehfil. The Earth that is only produced by a heavenly combination of talent, tehzeeb and tradition.

He and his band of music magicians started the evening with an homage to the great man through the evergreen Koi To Hai Jo Nizaam-E-Hasti.

Wishing the sub-continent a Happy Independence Day, the great man then showed why he is Bollywood’s go-to man for high impact songs. His voice effortlessly danced across the octaves, the power of his lungs put public address systems to shame and his fingers surfed over the harmonium keys as a packed The O2 audience was treated to a rare of medley of musical gems.

The first half of the evening was dedicated to contemporary film songs – and one was left marvelled at the number of hits of the last decade which are attributed to the Ustaad. Not just the likes of Main Tainu Samjhawan Ki, Surili Ankhiyonwali, Teri Yaad Saath Hai but also the western melody of Dil Toh Bachha Hai Ji take on new significance under his tender loving care.

Raahat fateh Ali Khan

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan performing at The O2 in London on Indian and Pakistani Independence Day, August 14, 2016

The second half saw Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan go back to his Qawwali roots. Out went the suit and in came the Sherwani – the harmonium made its appearance and Ustaadji’s famous accompanying musicians emerged from the wings. But, what was surprising was not who came in, but the ones who remained. For the first time, an overflowing crowd at The O2 heard Qawwali accompanied by the saxophone, drums and the synthesiser.

Ustaadji reassured his fans that he is going to distribute all his gems (Yeh saare gaane yahin pe rakh ke jaana hai, kuch leke nahin jaana hai) and he was true to his word.

All the requests were catered to and the maestro, despite struggling with an irritating earpiece, doled out classics like Udeek Diya and Dam Mast kalandar.

The three and half hours vanished in a second and it was time for the Ustaad to sing his good byes with Tujhe Dekh Dekh Sona.

As Ustaad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan introduced his wonderful musician stalwarts including his brother HIjaat Ali Khan and others like Rashid Ali khan, Amir Ali, Imran Akhtar, Suleman Ali and Tanveer Husain – one is left wondering at the humility of the man and how fortunate we, mere mortals, are.


Here are some more pictures from the concert and the mirth that surrounded it.

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