A great British Sufi connection
HIGHER POWER: Shahid Abbas Khan
HOW SHAHID ABBAS KHAN FOUND HIS SOULFUL VOICE
TERRIFICALLY talented singer Shahid Abbas Khan is a truly gifted treasure and has a Sufi singing style rarely seen in British Asian music.
Like his idol Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, he has seamlessly blended his extraordinary vocal ability rooted in ancient tradition with contemporary genres such as commercial Bollywood and connected with crossgenerational audiences.
Not surprisingly, the gifted singer is at his best on stage and has delivered countless live performances, both as a solo artist and with brilliant band Kaykay & Co.
Eastern Eye caught up with Shahid Abbas Khan to find out more about the unique singer, his legendary inspiration and the secret behind his powerful voice.
What first connected you to music?
Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was my first connection to music. I heard his voice when I was
three years old and that was where my musical journey began. I, of course, had no idea at
that age where this would take me, but over time a hobby evolved into something meaningful and a singing career that has gifted me so much. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan without a doubt was my musical influence growing up and still is.
Musically, what has been the high point for you so far?
One of my high points musically was an opportunity to perform in Buckingham Palace in 2010. It was the only time I wrote and composed my own song, and performed it with Prince Harry as a guest. I had many amazing mentors who helped and encouraged me. But whenever I get to be live in front of an audience it is a high for me like no other.
You are at your best live. How much does being on stage mean to you?
Performing live is my most joyous experience. The ability to express what I do, bring joy and inspiration to others, and evolve myself can only be experienced for me personally when I am singing live.
The recent Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tribute concert, still available on YouTube, was one of the finest streamed concerts by any British act during lockdown. What was it like being a part of that with Kaykay & Co?
That Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tribute show was one of the best concerts of my life. Singing the wonderful songs of my idol and paying a small humble tribute to him with my little capacity meant the world to me. To be on stage with great singers and musicians was a feeling like no other.
What do you think makes Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan such a special artist?
His personality as well his talent and otherworldly gift made Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan special. He was the epitome of simplicity, love and spiritual heights in human form. I never met him in person but just seeing him on-screen created a presence and energy of the highest form.
Which Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan songs do you enjoy singing the most?
Some of my favourite songs of Khan Saab would be Allah Hoo because it was the first qawwali I heard as a three-year-old, which first connected me to singing, and Sanware because of the expression and control of vocal dynamics. Also Kinna Sohna for the lyrics and Khan Saab’s vocal range, which really get me into a different zone. The scope to improvise in these songs is amazing. Ultimately, I love anything he has sung and enjoy singing it.
How do you feel being part of the super group Kaykay & Co music act?
I feel so grateful, blessed and humbled to be a part of Kaykay & Co. Every single person in the group is unique, talented, humble and amazing. I have learnt and continue to learn so much from each and every person in Kaykay & Co. Kaykay (Chauhan) is an inspiration, a teacher, and one of the most creative and amazing musicians I have ever met. They are all also my dearest and closest friends.
How does being on stage with other artists compare to solo performances?
Being on stage with other artists is amazing because of the richness of sounds that is created by the vast variety of voices and instruments. They come together to create a greater, richer sound and experience of music for everyone. Solo is for me simply practice and self-evaluation to grow.
How do you generate so much power in your voice?
Practice, practice and more practice. Regular practice, staying healthy mentally and physically is in my opinion what keeps my voice so
powerful. The best advice I ever got was to always do my riyaz (practice).
What can we expect next from you?
I am looking forward to performing more shows, virtual and live, when lockdown restrictions are lifted. I also have some new music with Kaykay and some other new tracks over the course of the next year, which I am looking forward to.
What music dominates your own playlist?
Currently at this stage of my life, my playlist consists of a bit of everything. A bit of Nusrat, classical, old and new Bollywood, and even some English stuff that I like.
What inspires you?
Singing inspires me to grow, unite with everyone, spread joy and empower others to grow.
Why do you love music?
I love music because it eliminates separation and creates oneness between all people. It is for me pure love.