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Amjad Sabri: A tribute to a qawaali legend of colossal proportions

Amjad Sabri: A tribute to a qawaali legend of colossal proportions

By Shershah Ahmed: Karachi may have silenced the man, but his legacy and his deeds will live on forever in the hearts of qawaali and Sufi music lover everywhere. Amjad Sabri’s legacy, starting at the tender age of 12 when he performed live for the first time, resonates even stronger with his passing. Living up to the high standards set by his legendary father Ghulam Farid Sabri, and Uncle Maqbool Ahmad Sabri was no easy feat yet Amjad Sabri handled it with ease that was apparent considering he was a child prodigy at the art of qawaali.


Early Life

Born on the 23rd of December 1970, Amjad Sabri began his lessons in the art of qawaali music at the age of 9 from his father Ghulam Farid Sabri. Once in an interview, he had described how his father used to train him when he was a little boy;

“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,” he had said. “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.”

An all-encompassing career

A radiant career followed, most recently of which the Sabri brothers were catapulted into global recognition by becoming the first exponents of Sufi qawwalis in the West, when they performed in front of packed crowd in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Since then, he has been enchanting audiences with his heartfelt renditions of Sufi kalaams, both at home and abroad. What was perhaps his biggest recent achievement was morphing the classical forms of qawaali to make them a bit more accessible for the youth today, as qawaali had been until recently considered a lost art. Last year Atif Aslam had performed a rendition of the qawwali, Tajdar-e-Haram, that was made famous by Amjad’s father and uncle

He presented the work of his father and uncle in a new light, which aided the younger generation connect to qawwali, something which had not happened earlier. ‘Tajdar-E-Haram’, ‘Mera Koyi Nahi Teray Siwa’ and ‘Bhar Do Jholi‘ were some of the works of the prominent Sabri family which were performed in a different but unique way by Amjad Sabri, and it is both shocking and sad at how Pakistan and indeed the world has lost such a brilliantly talented individual. In recent work, what will now most certainly be a tribute to his legacy, Amjad Sabri had recorded his debut performance in Coke Studio season 9, with another renowned artist of great fame; Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to perform the famous qawaali ‘Aj Rang Hai’.


In remembrance of a beloved icon

Apart from his un-paralleled musical legacy, his closest friends and family describe him as a kind and gentle man, who loved life and everything in it. His influential personality is evident by the amount of tributes that poured in after his untimely demise, and the amount of people that attended his funeral. People from all over Pakistan, and indeed the world have expressed their shock, outrage and remembrance of the man who has touched so many hearts, and may the Lord Almighty bless him and grant him eternal peace, amen.