Obituary: Amjad Farid Sabri
The Sabri brothers have a colossal stature in the world of Qawwali known for their roaring voices and their use of the world ‘Allah’ in their performances which became their signature style. They had migrated to Pakistan after partition in 1947 and were closely connected to the Chishti order of Sufism and were referred to as the ‘Roving Ambassadors’ for Pakistan.
The Sabri Brothers were the ones who introduced Qawwali in the West when they performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 1975. They made a number of soulful performances around the world and gave beautiful Qawwali hits for us to cherish forever. They revolutionised Qawaali giving it a mass appeal whereas previously it was only performed on divine occasions and religious events.
Amjad Sabri followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle to enthrall audiences with the melodious voice and mysticism enshrined in Qawwali. He was initiated into classical music by his father at a young age. He recalls those days when he was under the tutelage of his father.
“The hardest part was being awakened at 4:00 AM. Most riyaz is done in Raag Bhairon and this is an early morning raag. My mother would urge our father to let us sleep but he would still wake us up. Even if we had slept after midnight, he would get us out of bed, instruct us to make wuzu, perform tahajjud prayers, and then take out the baja. And he was correct in doing so because if a raag is rendered at the correct time, the performer himself enjoys it to the fullest”
Later Amjad Sabri took on the mantle and wearing beads just like his father, he went on to popularise the Qawaalis of his father which includes Bhar do jholi meri, Azaan-i-Bilal, Tajdar-e-Haram, Khawaja ki Dewani and Chaap tilak.
The 40-year-old Sabri was popular with the younger crowds as well and had left an indelible mark on the world of Qawwali in Pakistan. The voice was silenced in a brazen gun attack in broad daylight today, but the memories and legacy left behind will be cherished for years to come.