Who better than renowned qawwal Amjad Fareed Sabri, the flag-bearer of the Sabri clan, to comment on the recent reproduction of his father Ghulam Fareed Sabri and uncle Maqbool Ahmed Sabri’s iconic works for mass consumption? In its first episode of season 8, Coke Studio featured Atif Aslam ‘revisiting’ the magnum opus of Sabri brothers Tajdare Haram as an accolade to the duo. “The people behind Coke Studio sought my permission to pay tribute to abbajee’s kalaam,” he said.
Up until now, the track has racked up over 2.5 million plays across different internet platforms within days. While Atif received flak over his rather flippant attempt at the classic, Amjad isn’t entirely unimpressed.
“I really like how the music was arranged. Atif didn’t do badly. I wish he could have worked on his diction a little more,” he maintained, adding that spinning around the original poetry was also not one of the best ideas.
Amjad was of the view that there is no harm in changing any form of classical music, particularly qawwali, according to modern needs. “As long as the essence remains untouched, there is no harm.”
But as he commented on how far one should go to revitalise a classic, he reminisced about how pivotal it was for his abbajee to pay attention to detail.
“It was Friday afternoon and I was waiting for my turn on the microphone at the mosque in our neighbourhood in Lalukhet. It was a ritual to let children recite eulogies after the congregational prayers,” he shared. “Everyone present there knew my father, so they all made way for me when it was my turn on the pulpit. I had stayed up all night to practice and was more than confident. It all ended in praises. I hurried home and found out that abbajee was already up.”
Atif performing the song at Coke Studio 8
He took a pause and went on to say, “With no forewarning, he beat me to a pulp. I couldn’t figure out why he was doing that until he said, ‘There is something wrong with your lungs. You can’t be my son’. My recital had fallen on his ears, thanks to the loudspeaker. This is how particular he was about the modalities of reciting his kalaams.”
Despite this, he proclaimed his father would be happy seeing the new generation own his message and propagate it. “After every decade or so, the audience yearns for music created in the past. The element of nostalgia is vivid.” The Sabri scion said what has continuously attracted the masses towards his father’s works is his uncompromising emphasis on fundamentals. “Strings should have ensured the particularities of qawwali singing remain intact.”
Unlike many, Amjad likened the notion that Pakistani musicians of the day have begun drawing inspiration from the past, but feared commercial motives will stifle creative freedom. Referring to the iconic qawwali Bhar Do Jholi that was reproduced without permission in Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Amjad said, “This is exactly what’s wrong with the Adnan Sami version. It is disgusting and disrespectful towards the legacy of the Sabri brothers.” Drawing a parallel between Atif and Adnan’s attempts, he said that while the former is an honest accolade to his father and uncle, the latter reeks of ridicule and levity.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2015.