Sabri brothers. The hallowed Sabri Brothers who have such reputation that a Pir at the dargah or the pilgrim at the mazaar both shed tears of ecstatic rapture in the praise of divine love.
Well I quite cannot bet on all of the above when I saw the ‘lesser’ brothers playing at Blue Frog on the Father of the Nation’s dry day, sorry birthday. At the counter we were warned by the familiar faces rather pensively – “It’s a qawwali night & no booze today. Tomorrow is Neuromotor…Trance DJ” What a response!
But that was something we knew and risked for. A rare occasion I should say after all, ‘coz when will I ever get a chance watching traditional Sufi qawwali at one of the prime live nightspots in Bombay. And just as we were ushered in, we could hear the wail of ‘Chaap Tilak’ one of the most revered songs by Amir Khusro written in praise of his Guru and divine love Nizamuddin Aulia. (For the uninitiated – no he wasn’t gay!)
They started off with a good note playing to a scant audience. I remember one inebriated bourgeois uncle with two very hot un-Sufi bourgeois aunties in flowing split skirts entering getting into the show with ‘wah wah’ on their lips. They occupied one of the front seats near the stage. And I thought maybe I can just ignore them and go on with the show and get transported into Sufi realm without a drop of alcohol or a strain of high. But followed was shocking…as the night unfolded!
Qawwali singers generally interact with audiences to make way for an exciting evening and these ‘lesser Sabri Brothers’ – I call them lesser because these folks were nowhere close to the real Sabris. I remember someone asking me – Safri Duo?? you went for Safri Duo@Blue Frog? I thought that was real silly coming from a silly cow of a DJ.
Well immediately after 2 Sufi tracks – Khwaja ki Diwani and others, the brothers thought maybe they were not ‘offering’ their best to the audience; hence they started with some mild classic numbers which were still a bit of a shock for a purist like me. After that it was total havoc. They started addressing the venue as ‘maikhana’(bar) and playfully addressing the audience as ‘sharabis’(drunks) and with smitten smiles at whatever remaining people were taking in the fiasco. Post that they belted out-and-out crass songs like ‘Tum to thahere pardesi’, ‘Khallibali Khalliballi’ and ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Sharabi’ – all this happening again on a dry day. Intermittent cheeky slew of ‘shayaris’ followed directed again to the unsuspecting crowd…wait, not crowd but to few sound men, waiters, staff, one inebriated bourgeois uncle with two very hot un-Sufi bourgeois aunties in flowing split skirts with ‘wah wah’ on their lips and the unfortunate us (coz my neo-classical sitar playing friend wouldn’t leave as it would be a sign of insult to the ‘revered’ musicians).
Arz kiya hain… (the ‘hain’ should painfully echo in your ears)
Hum toh gaye thay Blue Frog meh Sufi mazay lootne,
Magar Sabri ne humhi ko loot kar saaf kar diya.
Adaab & Amen.