Thursday, June 23, 2016

No notes tonight

It was not Amjad Sabri, who was the colossus of the famed Sabri clan — a family that chewed betel leaves and made magical music — but his father Ghulam Farid Sabri. Direct descendants of Mian Tansen — a Navaratna in the royal court of the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud-din Muhammed Akbar — they belonged to the Sabriya silsila of Sufism. Humble people who conquered the world with a simple harmonium and the power of their vocals. The Sabri brothers universalised Qawali — an energetic rendition in which words spiral high above all those assembled, like a whirlwind, to gently tap on the doors of heaven.

Amjad certainly carried forward the illustrious legacy of his extremely talented father and forefathers. Although less commercially-inclined than his contemporary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sabri carried within his heavyset form a deep-seated love for God and His messenger. He would sing paeans to the Lord in a baritone that had no match, over and over again. He burst into a song as if the whole world was his. That is the thing with Sufis. They transcend the realm of love, which the forces of hate can never fathom.

With his murder, the last of the great Sabris has been silenced forever. The mystic notes are gone. They say that Sufi kalaam is akin to the chirrup of birds in a jungle; the jungle being a metaphor for the temporal. Rumi wrote nearly 750 years ago, ‘Sing like the birds that sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.’ Tragic that we should witness birdsongs being erased right in front of our eyes.