Today, one of the greatest voices in the Subcontinent was silenced

Published: June 22, 2016

He continued a family legacy and made qawwali relevant for those whose ears gravitated towards pop music from the west. PHOTO: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT

When ‘unidentified gunmen’ riddled Amjad Sabri’s car with bullets, the brutal killers probably didn’t even stop for a second to think that they are about to silence one of the greatest voices in the subcontinent. 

To lose him, and that too at the young age of 39, is difficult to digest; especially if you are one of the fortunate souls who had been a part of the mesmerised audience that hung onto every note during one of his powerhouse performances.

He may have come from a legacy of great Qawwals, but Amjad was the Sabri that my generation most identified with. Sure, there were others while we were growing up and, our parents may have even taken us to see a performance or two, but sadly most of our ears were not cultured enough at the time.

He continued a family legacy and made qawwali relevant for those whose ears gravitated towards pop music from the west. Hearing his troop, whether on television or live, tuned the musical sense of those born in the 80s, 90s and even 00s.

With time one learnt to appreciate the magic of a Sabri Qawwali, its uniqueness and the ability of a man to send individuals and all those surrounding them into a state of ecstasy. I remember a lump in my throat halfway through the first time I heard Bhar De Jholi. As the composition went on, tears started welling up and the waterworks flew unabashedly by the time it came to an end.

When people hear of the death of a great man, the initial reaction is always of shock – and it lasts a while. However, as soon as news of this tragic incident spread around my workplace, the initial jolt felt was almost instantly followed by a kind of sorrow that is difficult to explain.

Here was a man whose mission in life was to bring people closer to God through his words. To this day, the signature Sabri words of Bhar de jholi meri ya Shah-e-Madina, laut kar mien na jaoon ga khaali, fills me with hope on a deeply personal level.

But what good is hope in front of ‘unidentified gunmen’ who never take into consideration the consequences their action have on victims’ families, and in this case, society as a whole. One can only speculate whether this was a militant attack or personal one. Regardless, the brutal slaying has left a void that is impossible to fill for thousands, if not millions, of Qawwaali fans across the Subcontinent.

A tragedy of this magnitude only further instills a sense of hopelessness that many feel when living in a country where the value of human life is just a little more than the cost of a bullet. It would perhaps be safe to say that Pakistan is one of those countries.

As little snippets from his most famous works continue to play on handheld devices in my office, one can only hope that Sabri’s proverbial jholi is never empty. I know ours is a lot lighter after this.

To honour his life’s work, let’s revel in his most treasured songs and respect the legacy that he has left behind.

1. Bhar do jholi

2. Tajdar-e-Haram

3. Man Kunto Maula

4. Sare La Makan

5. Ali ke saath hai Zehra ki shaadi

6. Khwaja ki deewani

7. Ali mera dil mere jaan Ali

8. Savree Savree

9. Ya Sahib Al Jamal

10. Mera koi naheen hai teray siwa

Fahhd Husain

Fahhd Husain

A sub-editor at the Peshawar Desk of The Express Tribune. He tweets at @fahhdhusain (

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