The legendary qawwal’s parting gift

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KARACHI: The untimely death of Amjad Sabri has left many of his fans and contemporaries heartbroken and shattered.

Only a few weeks before he was gunned down in broad daylight, the Sabri scion had prepared for his fans what has now become his parting gift: a much-anticipated Coke Studio debut.

In what will now most likely be dedicated to his loving memory, the collaboration will see him team up with another renowned qawwal and playback singer Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. In the show, Amjad will be seen singing the famous qawwali Aj Rang Hai, which has been previously performed by Hadiqa Kiani on the show’s Rohail Hyatt-produced fifth season in 2012.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a Coke Studio 9 production crew member said, “Both Amjad Sabri and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have collaborated on a qawwali.”

As Strings experiment with a multiple-producer approach this year, the qawwali has been produced by Shani Arshad. According to the source, the duo of Rahat and Amjad had lengthy meetings with the producer prior to the recording for the show. “Unlike majority of the artistes, Amjad and Rahat did not require multiple takes to nail the track. They recorded the song in one go instead.”

Even the house band underwent slight changes for the song with the qawwal parties of both the vocalists replacing majority of the show’s session musicians.

“Rahat and Amjad both had two to three people from their qawwal parties alongside them whereas the tabla player also belonged to Amjad’s group,” stated the crew member.

While Shani will be seen playing the keyboard, guitarist Imran Akhoond and bassist Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar are also part of the collaboration.

Talking to The Express Tribune following Amjad’s death, Shani had expressed grief over the murder. “To me his death comes as an even greater shock because I had only recently worked with him on the qawwali for Coke Studio,” he said.

Not willing to give away more information about the song, he said, “I think it will be a fitting tribute for Amjad Sabri and a great surprise for his fans as he’s done a remarkable job on the single.”

Amjad’s appearance on the show would serve as a curtain call on the qawwal’s illustrious career that spanned across nearly four different decades. Aj Rang Hai would be Sabri’s sole appearance in the ninth edition of Coke Studio.

Speaking about the recording in May, Amjad had stated, “About 40 years ago, my father and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan read this kalaam at a dargah in Karachi and 40 years later, Rahat and I are reading it again [on Coke Studio Season 9].”

Last year Atif Aslam had performed a rendition of the qawwali, Tajdar-e-Haram, that was made famous by Amjad’s father and uncle.

“The tragic death of Amjad Sabri is a huge national loss. In spite of his great success nationally and internationally, he was a gentle and humble person, treasured and respected by everyone who met him,” Strings said in a statement.

“We’ve always believed in collaborations because this is how the industry grows. It was a challenging task and our guidance was required throughout the process, but today we are extremely satisfied that we took this initiative.”

The six producers part of the show’s lineup include Shiraz Uppal, Noori, Faakhir, Shuja Haider, Jaffer Zaidi and Shani while Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia will be taking the positions of executive producers.

Indian vocalist Shilpa Rao and upcoming Pakistani singer Nirmal Roy will also be part of the show that will hit screens on August 14.

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