Renowned qawwal Maqbool Ahmed Sabri — popular for the masterpieces “Tajdar-e-Haram”, “Bhar Do Jholi Meri”, “Aye hain Tere Dar Par” — passed away in South Africa on Wednesday due to cardiac arrest. The legendary singer, who was being treated in a hospital in South Africa for two months, had been suffering from heart problems and diabetes.
Although Maqbool’s qawwal party included many members of the Sabri family, the group was mainly led by Maqbool and his brother Ghulam Farid Sabri. The versatile singer not only sang qawwalis but also earned a niche for himself as a ghazal and geet singer.
Born in a low-income family in the city of Kalyana, India, in 1941, Maqbool received his early education from his father Ustad Inayat Sen Sabri, who trained his sons in qawwali and North Indian classical music. He then formed his own qawwali group at the young age of 11 and later in 1958, Maqbool, along with his late brother Ghulam Farid Sabri, released their first recording of Urdu qawwali “Mera Koi Nahin Hai” under the EMI Pakistan label. This marked the beginning of the Sabri Brothers’ road to fame.
The brothers had an international appeal and were one of the first ones to introduce qawwalis to the West when they performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1975.
The loss of Maqbool is felt by the entire nation and especially by his followers and juniors in the music industry.
“I was in the seventh grade when I had just learnt to play the keyboard and one day a family member introduced me to Maqbool Sabri. Despite my nervousness and hesitation, the legendary singer said to me, ‘Please get your baja (keyboard) and start playing with me’. To date, that moment gives me inspiration to work harder,” says Ahsan Bari, upcoming music producer and a faculty member at Neem Tree School of Music. “Even if you couldn’t understand the language, his style of singing was good enough to bring you the message clearly; only legends can do that.”
Meanwhile, Khalid Khan, renowned bass player and also a member of former band Aaroh, now looks to Maqbool’s nephew, Amjad Sabri, to fill the void. “I have grown up listening to Sabri Sahab and his demise is a loss to world music more than Pakistani music. All eyes are on Amjad Sabri to carry the true form of qawwali music to the next generation.”
Pop singer Abbas Ali Khan says, “Qawwali, in its true form, will be lost, as modern day artists have commercialised Sufi music so much that it fails to exist in its true form. It was only people like Maqbool Sahab who had the ability to give a new life to Sufi poetry.”
Meanwhile, singer Mohsin Raza Khan, popularly known as Bunny, compares the late qawwal to another legend; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “The Sabri brothers were the trendsetters of qawwali in the world; even Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan came very late. One thing that everyone can learn from Maqbool Sahab’s life is that sheer hard work can take you places. Maqbool Sabri was a mascot of Pakistani culture in the global community and with his departure we have lost a representative,” laments Bunny, who also looks to Amjad to carry this legacy forward.
Feeling the pressure and burden that has fallen on him, Amjad is seeking support and prayers from his fans so he can live up to the high expectations which have been set. “I know the burden is very heavy; both in terms of his demise and the job he has left for me. I request fans all over the world to pray for Maqbool Sahab’s peaceful journey and also that God gives me the strength to carry on from where he left.”
(With additional information from Daily Express)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2011.
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