In loving memory of Sabeen Mahmud

Saami Brothers to pay homage to late activist with a qawwali night at Frere Hall

Rauf clarified that his efforts to remember Sabeen should not be misinterpreted as an attempt to cash in on her name. PHOTO: FAISAL SAYANI/PUBLICITY

KARACHI: The arts and culture community of Karachi was jolted by the untimely death of Sabeen Mahmud, founder of The Second Floor (T2F). Following her death, many artists have taken keen interest in preserving her legacy and the qawwal group Saami Brothers has been at the forefront of this aspiration. The group, which shared a rapport with Sabeen, has announced that it will pay homage to the departed soul with a qawwali night on May 22 at Frere Hall in Karachi.

The Saami Brothers comprises four siblings – Rauf, Urooj, Azeem and Ahmed – sons of legendary khayaal singer Naseeruddin Saami, who received the President’s Pride of Performance Award in 2007. Of their performance on Friday, Rauf said he has earmarked two numbers, Manam Mehwe Jamalay Oo and Guftam Ke Raoshan Az Qamar, which were Sabeen’s personal favourites. “Sabeen used to enjoy these two qawwalis the most … every individual has favourites, which make them feel like they’ve been teleported somewhere else,” Rauf told The Express Tribune.

He reminisced about the fond memories the group shared with Sabeen, saying she was “one of the most humble and gentle” people he has ever come across. He lauded her for playing a prominent role in reviving the qawwali culture in the city. “She helped qawwali reach a point where people started listening to it once again. Through T2F, she helped give qawwals a permanent platform to perform,” he said. “I was performing the night she died and I remember that not only was I unable to sing, but I also couldn’t move my legs. That’s how traumatised I was.”

The qawwal recalled how, prior to their debut performance at T2F in June last year, the brothers were mainly known as exponents of khayaal, a form of raag popularised by Hazrat Ameer Khusro. On being encouraged by Sabeen and the attendees, they were able to perform three additional shows in the next few days.

Despite choosing to perform a show in memory of the activist, Rauf clarified that his efforts should not be misinterpreted as an attempt to cash in on her name. He added it would be difficult to perform in the memory of a friend he had lost but he is up to the task. “Although my association with Sabeen through my work as a qawwal lasted only for a few years, I’ve known her personally for more than 10 years. I could’ve waited and performed something at T2F, but I didn’t want to delay it any longer,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015.

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