Monday, December 17

Sabri Brothers to perform traditional Sufi music

Wednesday, November 6, 1996


Qawwali group to play tonight at Veterans Wadsworth TheaterBy
Karla Kelsey

Daily Bruin Contributor

The rhythmic passion of Qawwali music provides a doorway to
lessons that can only be learned by inspirational experience.
Pakistan’s Sabri Brothers are masters of this spiritual music of
the mystic Sufi sect of Islam. By weaving entrancing rhythms with
devotional lyrics, the Sabri Brothers seek to provide a bridge to
the divine.

"If people find it great it is through the blessing of God,"
says Haji Maqbool Ahmed Sabri through a translator about his
group’s message.

Wednesday, the intensity of the Sabri Brothers’ music will sweep
through the aisles of the Veterans Wadsworth Theater when the group
performs songs from India’s oldest traditions.

Qawwali dates back to the 12th century. Stories trace its roots
to oral traditions that originated in India and tell of Hazrat
Moinuddin Chisit, a great Sufi saint, who brought the message of
Islam into the hearts of people by singing praises of Allah.

Qawwali music is based on performance, and improvisation is an
important element. A solo vocalist and a four or five member chorus
weave lyrics with the music of a reed organ (called a harmonium)
and percussion. Drum beats seek to beat with the hearts of the
audience to deliver a religious message reminding them of God.

Qawwali lyrics have grown from a religious heritage. Down
through time they have come to include many diverse sources. They
draw on great Sufi saints, anonymous folk contributors, devotional
poems and sonnets.

Founded by brothers Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri and Haji Maqbool
Ahmed Sabri, the Sabri Brothers come from a long line of honorable
Indian musicians. The Sabris immigrated to Pakistan from India as
children and began their careers when they were only five and seven
years old.

Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri passed away in 1994 but his brother
continues their musical tradition along with the other members of
the group that bear the Sabri brothers’ name. The group is now
treasured as one of Qawwali’s most famous practitioners.

In 1974, Qawwali and the Sabri Brothers were introduced to the
West. The Sabri Brothers’ music is said to move people into trances
and spinning dances by creating a powerful atmosphere that is felt
by all members of the audience regardless of cultural barriers.

Although the lyrics are sung in non-western languages, they
believe that language of music and the name of Allah are both
universal. "Praises of the Lord are given and if anyone appreciates
it and likes what they hear ­ even those that don’t understand
­ they still get great things out of it, a great reward,"
Sabri says.

Modern times have ushered Qawwali into secular society and a
controversy has arisen about secular influences. The Bombay film
industry has created a crossover form of Qawwali that stresses the
romantic, mystical tones of the lyrics. And unlike the
traditionally based Sabri Brothers, some Qawwals have incorporated
elements of pop and collaborations with Western rock musicians into
their music.

"It is fine. People are using different roads into Qawwali,"
Sabri says. "But the original, orthodox Qawwali wouldn’t like what
is happening." In fact, many Sufis do not recognize these forms of
music as devotional.

"The Sabri Brothers’ music is not secular. They don’t mix it
with the secular. It is very important for them to maintain the
tradition of Sufi music and they will maintain it," says Eva
Skalla, spokeswoman for the group. "The much more pop-like sounds
means a lot of Sufis won’t go listen to it."

Tonight, as with each performance, the Sabri Brothers will do
their part in continuing the Qawwali tradition. "There is a
continuous tradition of Qawwals before the Sabri Brothers, and
there will be a continuous tradition after," Skalla says. "This
music has always been sung around shrines and the Sabri Brothers
have brought it into the mainstream. They maintain it within the
tradition and do not stray."

MUSIC: The Sabri Brothers perform Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. at
the Veterans Wadsworth Theater. TIX: $22, $9 for students. For more
info, call 825-2101.

UCLA Center for the Performing Arts

The Sabri Brothers will perform at the Veterans Wadsworth

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