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Sabri Brothers & Ensemble: Qawwali

The Sabri Brothers & Ensemble, Qawwali (Nonesuch Explorer 72080; 52:28), is, a classic reissue which tells part of the story of Qawwali’s Western link. Laying claim to this suddenly popular musical tradition is understandable, especially for a group like the Sabri Brothers, who were here first, in a way. This album was originally recorded in the United States in 1978, on the landmark Nonesuch Explorer Series. The ensemble led by brothers Ghulam Farid and Maqbool Ahmed Sabri performed in the states to rave reviews 20 years ago, but without breaking out of the realm of world music esoterica.

It was only Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who opened the floodgates of appreciation, now focusing attention on this other popular Qawwali group, if a little belated-Ghulam Farid Sabri died in 1994, though the group continues as such. The brothers are in full flower here, each acting as vocalist and harmonium player, in an ecstatic ensemble fabric that we’ve come to know and love.

Originally Published