Qawwali on wheels — taking Sabri to the streets
Karachi The onset of monsoon may have washed off the narrow lanes of Liaquatabad of dirt, but no one knows the number of monsoons it would take to wash off Qawwal Amjad Sabri’s blood from the area’s streets where he was brutally gunned down in broad daylight, just weeks ago. However, comprising of enthusiastic graduates of the University of Karachi, a group called Kumak, in a bid to never let the country forget that riveting voice, silenced by savages on that one street, decided to keep Sabri’s legacy alive by going around the entire city on a truck blaring his famous qawwalis.
Gathering at the eateries lined up on main Hasan Square, the group of around 15 young men and women took turns to get on a truck which already had two speakers placed on it. As one shouted out the playlist others sang along, clapping hands in unison. Usually whizzing past other vehicles, this truck moved at a steady pace, complementing Sabri’s ‘Jab Waqt Naza’ as it stopped near Tariq Road which was cordoned off for heavy traffic for the last days of Ramzan. Switching the route to Noorani Kabab House, the noise of the cook making kata-kat harmonised with ‘Bhar Do Jholi.’ Bikers waved at all those aboard acknowledging the purpose of the drive.
“This was a multi-purpose initiative; Kumak decided to pay tribute to the deceased as soon as the news of his unexpected demise was aired. We wanted to take his qawwalis to all areas of the city,” explained Haya Fatima Iqbal, a member of the group. The celebrations were than taken to Gurumandir where the group made a stopover where they were met with many inquisitive people who were keen to know what purpose women had on a truck.
After Paan and tea were passed on to everyone, the truck geared up to head to Liaquatabad where Sabri lived and ultimately passed away. In an attempt to add to the aura of qawwali, Gajras – flower bracelets – were also distributed, filling the air with a pleasant scent as speakers boomed with ‘Shikwa – Jawab-e-Shikwa’ in Sabri’s deep voice. Honouring the late Sabri brothers – Amjad Sabri’s father and uncle – the truck entered the premises of Liaqauatabad. With the speakers blaring ‘Tajdaar-e-Haram’ sung by Sabri, the truck passed through the spot where he was gunned down. Not the first qawwali initiative taken to pay homage to the late artiste, it was yet distinctive to see that the areas chosen by the group were otherwise conveniently ignored when it came to art.
“We could have chosen one location and paid a tribute as well but that would have meant catering to just one particular area and certain kind of people only. But that wouldn’t have generated a conversation like this one did, with every passerby enjoying the music,” said Haya. “The main idea is to bring Sabri’s qawwali and his message of peace and tolerance to every nook and corner of this city; restricting such a powerful call for harmony and co-existence will only serve to widen the existing schisms tearing away at Karachi’s metropolitan soul,” she stressed, adding, that the country was still to learn how to react to such haunting news often topping our news headlines.
“We didn’t want an amazing voice to fade away so easily so we amplified it! It is just as simple as that,” said Tauseef Mallick, another member of the group. With only a few minutes left for Sehri, the resilient youngsters jumped off the truck at Hasan Square, where they reached via Nazimabad, but the speakers were yet to be switched off leading the few Maalish Walas to clink their oil bottles to the beat of ‘Bhar Do Jholi’ which became the final piece of the night. As all looked at the sky to gauge whether there would be more rain or not, it was safe to assume that the weather would be cloudy with a chance of qawwali.