It was 2 am and I called him.
“Ali Bhai…kahan hain”
My reply: “Janat bhe gawara hai mager meray leyea”
His answer: “Ai Katib e Taqdeer Madina likh dai”
That was how most of our conversations started, almost always! With one of us saying the first verse of a Sher from a Qawali and the other one sang the second verse back. If you made a mistake, dinner on you. For obvious reasons, it was always me who ended up buying.
I first met him as a young man in 1991 when he had come to Los Angeles as part of a US tour with the Sabri Qawals.
I was invited at a friends place that they were performing. In the whee hours of the night, when they started taking requests…I sent in mine.
Haji sahib called out in the echoing mic, “yeah Zaidi sahib kon hain”. I raised my hand.
“Yeah Qawali aap nay kahan sun li?”
I said I have a CD.
“Namumkin see bath hai” he said
“Acha aik shart hogi…aap CD ki copy daingay?”
Of course I said, sounding surprised!
Why would he want a copy of his own CD I thought to my self?
Little did I know that the CD I had picked up from a used books & music shop on the funky Melrose Ave in West Hollywood was produced by none other than Peter Gabriel’s REAL WORLD.
The same company that had launched another Pakistani legend Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahib in the 80’s..and for some odd reason the Sabri brothers did not have a copy of this CD.
Next morning they came to my place in Santa Monica for breakfast. I had ordered NIHARI. We ate but then I had the pleasure of sitting and listening to records and records of Sabri Qawal with none other than the great Ghulam FARID Sabir himself and the young Amjad Sabri…for 3 hours…what else could a Qawali lover have asked for?
That day Haji Sahib as I would address him, promised me that whenever I get married his gift would be a program at my house. Haji Sahib passed away in 94 a year before I got married. But Amjad was man enough to convince his Chacha the legendary Maqbool Sabri, to fulfill his fathers promise made to young man. And there they were on May 5, 1995; a full night of Qawali at our place. A memorable night I will remember till my last breath.
Amjad was ever ready to perform. Be it a dinner we once hosted on the beach with born fires and Amjad Sabri Qawal or an SKMT fundraising trip across the US.
I never saw Amjad Sabri frown. He was always smiling. He always seemed at inner peace with himself. Once, I got upset with him for singing an Indian song at a Mehndi, He just smiled back and said “Ali Bhai Kishore ki yaad bhee arahee thee of farmaish bhee”
Amjad Sabri used to perform Qawali where ever he was invited. From 9-0 to Bilawal house, even in jail for Saulat Mirza. He was always spreading the message of love.
All day it’s been a like a bad nightmare that doesn’t go away. I just feel like picking up the phone and calling him to hear him say Ali Bhai…and then a Sher…
But it’s not going to happen anymore!
Qismat me meri chaeen say gena likh de!
Dobay na kabhi mera safina likh de!
Maula Ne likh dia meray dost
You embraced Shahadat today!
It is my Iman that your gruesome murder will actually be the beginning of a fast & drastic end to those who have played havoc with the lives of so many!
Not Enough done!
There is a God & he will deliver justice.
Rest in peace #AmjadSabri
You will never be forgotten brother.