Love and brotherhood through music: Sabri brothers

In a trance Sabri brothers Haji Amin Sabri and Haji Farid Sabri perform during the Hyderabad Arts Festival at Charminar   | Photo Credit: Photo: G. Ramakrishna

Hours before the Jaipur-bound Sabri brothers Farid Sabri and Amin Sabri, get ready to perform for the three-month long Hyderabad Arts Festival at Charminar, their qawwali troupe is getting ready for a sound-check.

The tabla has the right rhythm, so does the harmonium. They duo is quite familiar with the City of Pearls and remember performing for numerous events in the past. However, their tryst with historical venues goes a long way as they recollect with a special fondness of performing at Nagarjunsagar and the Chowmahalla Palace.

Nothing much has changed in Hyderabad over the years, they believe. The two speak in unison to simplify the statement as they add, “It’s a place that has preserved its Urdu language and Sufi traditions well. There are audiences belonging to various age-groups here. Hyderabad ke log bahut aastha rakthe hai. Qawwali music is bound to flourish at a place like this.” Sabri brothers say, it’s okay to intermingle a lot of different cultures in music and in our lifestyles. However, they remind, being true to one’s roots is what pays rich dividends in the long run.

The key to the music of Sabri brothers that has reached out to international circuits as well as the local ones in all these decades is adapting to audience’s tastes, across venues. “We try capturing the pulse of the audience wherever we perform. Live performances are very satisfying. It’s always a challenge to know if they want to listen to Sufiana or Aashiana. Sometimes, as they get restless, films songs are the best fillers,” they reveal.

They’re aware of the different styles that exist within Qawwali but say that the Indian spin lends the form a lovely melodic turn. “When you talk about love in ‘Hindustani mousiqui’, things get all the more beautiful,” the Sabri brothers explain. For all the classicality they exude, they’re surprisingly open to the variations that films contribute to the form. “We need to accept films are a medium that provide fame. But for the audiences who’re in front of us, concerts have limited reach,” they say. The Sabri brothers justify it, “Even to the places in the Gulf or Australia or US we go to perform for the first time, the crowds come to us and compliment about Der Na Ho Jaye, we sang with Lata ji in Henna and also the Sirf Tum number, Ek mulaqat zaruri hain sanam. Film gaane toh karodon sunte hai (Crores of people listen to film songs). We had an identity before we even performed at the venues.”

How are they managing to sustain the essence of the Qawwali form over generations (who took on the legacy from their forefathers Mohd Saeed Sabri, Abdul Majeed Qawwal Jaipuri) successfully? They answer that it’s really not about blood or genes. “Music is very easily available to crowds today. They download a song, try their best to emulate the original singer and recreate it without lending soul to it. What we did was to understand the innate reason of the form, respect the creators and do our job with love. Imaandari to the form, is the key. Only when they do this, the god-given gift in a musician touches the heart of the people,” the Sabri brothers reply and call it ‘ Allah ka shukar’.

The two don’t turn a blind eye to the reducing popularity of the form among the younger generation. “There needs to be a platform that encourages and rewards Qawwali musicians. Among a lot of musicians who get awards each year, how many of them are qawwals?” They convince us that they’re not playing the victim-card as they ask, “It’s a form that promotes brotherhood, purifies the soul and brings people together. When it unites so many souls and spreads happiness, can’t you expect anything from the Government?”

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 12:50:54 AM |

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