Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Passing: Maqbool Ahmad Sabri Qawwal

Maqbool Ahmad Sabri Qawwal
1941 - 2011

Another colossus of music passed away about a month ago. Unlike Jagjit Singh, the Grand Duke of the Ghazal, this passing was not widely noted by music bloggers and western media but undoubtedly represents a much  greater loss to South Asian music.

Maqbool Ahmad Sabri, of the famous Sabri Brothers qawwali group died in South Africa on September 21st, where he had gone to seek medical treatment. He was 70 years old and had not sung for several months.  It is sad and ironic that the demise of the mighty voice of qawwali came with the softest of whispers in the world press.

I first heard the Sabri Brothers when they visited the States in the mid 70s. They played at Carnegie Hall and are credited with being the ones who introduced western audiences to traditional qawwali.  I loved them because they had long hair and connected me with a land I missed. For years when you heard the word ‘qawwali’ you automatically said, Sabri Brothers. The two words were synonymous.

In their steps would come others like Aziz Mian that other great purveyor of traditional naat qawwali.  And following behind him the giant Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who popularised and blended qawwali with contemporary sounds and western sensibilities to raise the form to an internationally loved and lucrative style. 

The Sabri Brothers stayed on the true path (which is not to cast aspersions upon contemporary Qawwali) delighting, exciting and enthralling audiences who wanted the sort of qawwali that originated around the mazars of the Sufi saints and the mosques.
Maqbool Ahmad was the younger of the two brothers. He was born in East Punjab and like so many millions of other Muslims fled west in 1947 when the British partitioned India and went home. His family, poor but musically inclined, settled in Karachi.  Maqbool and his older brother Ghulam Farid were still not yet out of their teens when they formed their singing group and began performing at urs in Sindh and Punjab.
Beginning in 1958 with their first recording for EMI Pakistan (Mera Koi Nahin Hai) they began a long and very successful career of recording and performing. The first to blaze the qawwali trail outside of South Asia they became international stars but always returned to their beloved Pakistan.
In honor of the great man the Washerman’s Dog tonight presents a rare collection of ghazals recorded in India on one his (70’s?) tours. I will be posting more Sabri Brothers soon but this record is all about Maqbool Ahmad and his lovely lovely voice.  Thank you Janab for all the passion for all the power and all the glory all these years.

            Track Listing:
            01 Ke Ghungroo Toot Gaye
     02 Abke Saal Poonam Men
    03 Teri Baaten Sunane Aaye
    04 Din Ek Sitam Ek Sitam Raat Karo Ho
Listen here.


Rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

Thanks for this, Ajnabi-ji~

kokolo said...

Sad news, again.