What Exactly Did We Lose when Amjad Sabri Was Taken From Us?


Examining the history of qawwali in Pakistan shows us how his loss is more devastating than you think it is.

It is reductive to explain this rich intellectual debate in a few lines, and one must be careful not to ascribe present-day understanding to that time. To the contemporary eye, Aziz Mian’s esoteric poetry and singing style would represent a ‘liberal’ attitude in contrast to the ‘conservative’ views and styles of the Sabri Brothers. However, that would be to misunderstand the context.


The sense of loss for Amjad Sabri was reflected in the fortnightly charts, which saw a surge of Amjad Sabri’s track, as mourning fans turned to his voice.


Three of his songs come in the charts, with ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ at 3, ‘Mere Khwaja Piya’ at 7 and ‘Ali Kay Saath Hai’ at 13.

Read the full article by Ahmer Naqvi here: Dawn – Amjad Sabri.

On the Production of CS 8’s Tajdar-e-Haram

Hasan Ansari for Express Tribune:

But it has been revealed what became the biggest hit of season 8 was in fact not produced by Strings duo Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Atif revealed, “Tajdar-e-Haram was actually produced by songwriter Shiraz Uppal.” Atif had initially planned to keep the track for himself and had Shiraz arrange the music. “When Coke Studio approached me, I thought why not perform it on the show,” he added. He shared he brought Shiraz on-board to give the producer a feel of Coke Studio.

When approached for a comment, Shiraz said Atif is his long-time collaborator. “He had approached me because he wanted to do a modern version of the qawwali. We took the CD to Coke Studio where he performed the same version.” It’s interesting to note that neither was Shiraz’s name mentioned in the song credits nor did he appear in the BTS clip that showcases the song-making process.

There are two concerns here: what role did Strings play in this recording? And was Shiraz Uppal denied a credit that he deserved?

First, on Strings’ role: Recordings often start in one place, end in another. They start with one band, end with others playing on it. Collaborations work in different ways, and Coke Studio itself is testament to that. Some songs are brought in by artists and modified, others suggested to artists and worked on together, sometimes entire songs composed by the house band and a singer called in to front them. In each case the Producers of Coke Studio retain the final responsibility of tying each song together, and of tying each song to the whole theme of the season. So that Shiraz Uppal was the original producer on this version of the song before it came to Coke Studio I don’t think takes away anything from Strings. Ultimately it is likely that they were involved, if anything as commentators and curators, though the final facts here are not necessarily known. This discussion is relevant given recent news that Strings will likely lead a collection of producers on Coke Studio 9, similar to the model employed with Coke Studio @ MTV (a.k.a. Coke Studio India). All in all, I think this is not as big a deal as it seems. There is potential to burn the producers at the stake, and criticisms of the production of Seasons 7 and 8 aside, I don’t think this deserves to be one.

Second, on crediting Shiraz Uppal: Unfortunately even after this story it’s a little unclear what role each producer played. That said, with Coke Studio’s recent emphasis on crediting heavily — many videos start with text crediting the original singers and composers of the song, even video montages and thank you notes — giving some credit to Shiraz Uppal may have been warranted and a nice gesture. But this seems erroneous, not malicious (if incorrect at all). It is good that we are talking about these things, but it should only help the industry improve, not bring anyone down.

Junoon 25 to feature many great artists

The Express Tribune in an article on Salman Ahmad:

The release of Rhythm in February coincides with the 25th anniversary of Junoon’s music. Salman’s plans for the year include another local film project, alongside Ali Zafar and Humayun Saeed. There is also a new, silver jubilee album being recorded at producer Shahi Hasan’s studio, as part of the Junoon 25 celebrations. “The album features special guests like Ali Zafar, Strings, Outlandish, Peter Gabriel, Morten Harket, Shubha Mudgal, Sunidhi and more,” shared Salman. “It has some of Junoon’s golden hits as well. I am also in talks with AR Rahman — let’s see what happens.”

As is common in the case with stories on Junoon, the article focuses on whether the band will reunite. As great as that will be, there is something to be said about being able to enjoy bands in the time they were together, and being okay with their eventual ends. Most bands stop working together eventually. Most people switch jobs. It’s how we live. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we’re tired, other times we just want to move on. But it doesn’t make our time together any less meaningful.

Regardless of what Brian, Ali and Salman choose to do in the future, their time together, along with their many collaborators (Nusrat Hussain, Fifi Haroon, Samina Ahmad, Sabir Zafar and more) will always be special to us. And while it is heartwarming to see them together when they are so, the solo careers of Junoon’s members have given us many great gems. Arguably it is music that we wouldn’t have received had Junoon remained together.

In fact had Junoon continued to play it is likely that Ali Azmat may never have needed to build a band of his own, a band that would play on Klashinfolk, comprising Omran, Mannu and Gumby, a band that would then form the underpinning of Coke Studio. You can extract countless narratives like this from the end of Junoon.

Point being that as much as I like Junoon in the form that we remember it, I like to see musicians play. And I like to see them at peace with themselves, and if the end of Junoon’s traditional lineup gave them that, that is what they, and we, needed.

Zahra Salahuddin interviews Babar Sheikh from Dusk

Great profile of the metal band in Dawn:

When it comes to heavy metal or extreme music, the ’90s were a special time as a lot was changing, Babar recalls. While mainstream bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Judas Priest existed, at the same time there was an underground metal scene erupting the world over — including in Pakistan.

The article is written on the occasion of the release of Dusk’s latest single, which itself is commemoration of the band’s 20th Anniversary:

The band’s links to Karachi’s music scene are extremely diverse. Both in terms of the number of Karachi’s stalwarts that have played with the band, and the number of acts the band’s members have been involved in.

Quite special also are the band’s collaborations with other metal acts from across the world, releasing records together with bands from Singapore, India & Japan.

In all of this lies a deep love for metal. Often at the fringes of most musical tastes, what is heartwarming about metal in Dusk’s case is not just whether it makes for easy listening all the time, but that it is played with such love. You get a sense of the band’s connection with the music when you listen to Babar Sheikh talk to Patari about the band and about the context in which they played:

If you’re new to Dusk, like me, you can get a feel for their music using our new Popular Tracks feature on Dusk’s page.

Review Roundup for Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh

There was lots of deserved hype about the album. Here’s a collection of our favorite reviews for the album so far:

Zahra Salahuddin for Dawn:

It’s understandable that the band deals with the pressure to make a mark with this album, but there’s only so many times one can listen to a similar style. It was as though they wanted to play it safe with this one and give the fans what they have always wanted to hear from Noori, rather than experimenting with something different.

Our very own Aymen Rizwan for The Nation:

I was probably one of the most excited fans ahead of the album’s launch. And I’m really glad that amidst the dying Pakistani music industry Noori has released a full studio album. It doesn’t disappoint, it’s just that the amount of new songs really leaves you wanting more.

Resident contributor Zeerak Ahmed writes another one for Dawn:

Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh had to sound triumphant. For what it’s worth, Noori could have put out any album and many of their fans would still have swooned. Such is their following. But for the sanctity of the promise they made us in 2003, and for a renewed belief that Noori was what they set out to be, and what we made them to be, there was no other way but for the album to attempt to reaffirm our and their faith.

Patari DOC Ahmer Naqvi was MCing Noori’s pre-release tour of Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh. You can hear some of his interviews with the band alongside live performances of the new song in our BGBS preview series.

Ahmer also wrote a piece on his experiences with the band for The Friday Times:

The wave finally hits my legs, and my view of the band starts to change. At this moment, I still have to decide how I feel about their new album or their music in general, but I am able to observe one aspect of their craft up close. Despite all these years and how much this country has changed, Noori still understands the excruciating art of connecting, viscerally, with a Pakistani audience. Everything else aside, that is no mean feat.

Zohaib Kazi’s Album & Graphic Novel Coming This Month

Dawn’s Images:

The album will be launched in December this year. Published by Markings, the album will bring forward popular artistes like Zoe Viccaji, Omran Shafique, Abbas Ali Khan and Kazi himself.

The animated video has been looked after by Kamal Khan and the project spanned over four years with some of the frames hand-drawn digitally.

Sneak peek of the video:

How I feel about this:


Zohaib Kazi’s music, perhaps along with Janoobi Khargosh, is near the top of the charts if you order them by quality to lack-of-knownness ratio.

The demos we have off the album are already some of my favorite recent songs:

Arshad Mahmud is Launching a Record Label

The Express Tribune on MoUSICi: 

Elaborating on the model, he explained that audience these days mostly comprise of youngsters. “Eighty to 90% of our music would be catering to the popular choice but we also want to have music for the remaining audiences,” stated the music producer.

Works for me. We wish them the best, and look forward to the possibility of working with MoUSICi.

The Tribune quotes Mahmud:

“Most of the music being made by musicians these days is either a remixed or cover version of classic songs. Musicians like Vital Signs and Nazia & Zoheb made a name by doing original songs and not remixes,” Mahmud told The Express Tribune.

I’m not sure if this is quite true, but a lot of original music isn’t receiving the airtime it used to. So you have to go looking for it. The death of the music channel, the inhospitable nature of the FM stations, probably both a big part of this.