Amjad Sabri: The void remains

On June 22, Pakistan’s qawwali legend Amjad Sabri was shot dead in a target killing case in Karachi. While his absence left a huge void in the music industry, it was even more shocking for many who knew him personally. On his death anniversary, the musicians remember the legendary qawwal. “He was a very dear friend, always fun-loving and energetic,” Fuzon member Imran Momina, commonly known as Emu, told The Express Tribune. In loving memory: Ghulam Farid Sabri's 23rd death anniversary observed He remembered working with Sabri on his qawwali album 17 years ago and said, “He was always respectful of other artists. He was very candid as well, being who he was in public and in private. He would always be friendly with others. I was in San Francisco last year when I got the news of his death and was completely shocked. When you remember such legends as friends, it’s even more heartbreaking.” He added that the void Sabri left, just like after Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s death, will never be filled. Renowned sitarist Ustad Nafees Ahmed also said that Sabri was a “very normal person.” He said, “He would tell jokes, sing with us.” According to him, just like Nusrat, Amjad was in a league of his own and was irreplaceable. “You can’t replace him. There’s obviously a gap and you have to choose the next person to bring to the fore from the talent available. And there’s a very small chance that we will find a replacement of Amjad Sabri. Take Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for example. Although his main contribution has been in film music, it was several years after Nusrat’s death that he rose and was ready.” Amjad Sabri's final prayer Arts Council president Ahmed Shah also compared his stature to that of Nusrat. He also spoke of his immense contribution to music, saying, “Amjad Sabri was instrumental in popularising qawwali in the youth. His death left a sudden vacuum despite the presence of many big qawwals in the country, just like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s death did. He was as popular in India as he was here.” Shah also believed that no one could fill Sabri’s shoes as of yet. “His children have potential but they are quite young. It will take time, perhaps five to eight years till we see them rise to the occasion and continue his legacy. This society is not a pro-art or culture society so there’s dilemma of things not being institutionalised. So, we will have to wait and see.” First death anniversary: 8 performances by Amjad Sabri that'll leave you spellbound The young Hamza Akram Qawwal felt it a bit too close as well. “It has been one year and I still can’t believe it. He was the king of Ramazan transmissions and now there’s a vacuum left by him. It’s still a shock. Even this Ramazan, when I change the channels, I wish I would come across him on TV, cracking jokes and reciting naats.” He said he didn’t see anyone who was capable of replacing Sabri yet. “There is no one to replace someone of his stature yet. I hope his children do it someday when they grow up. But right now, it’s impossible to see one.” Have something to add in the story? Share it in the comments below. 

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