Ghulam Farid Sabri

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Ghulam Farid Sabri
Background information
Kalyana, Punjab, British India
Died5 April 1994(1994-04-05) (aged 63–64)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
GenresQawwali, Ghazal, Sufi music
InstrumentsVocals, harmonium
Years active1946–1994
TitleHazrat Aalam Shah Warsi
AwardsPride of Performance in 1978

Ghulam Farid Sabri (1930 – 5 April 1994) was a renowned qawwali singer, and a prominent member of the Sabri Brothers, a well-known qawwali group in Pakistan in the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s. Sabri Brothers were honoured with the Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan in 1978.[1] He was also a Sufi mystic connected to the Chishti Order.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Kalyana, a village in the district of Rohtak in Punjab, British India in 1930. His family's musical lineage stretches back several centuries, to the age of the Mughal emperors. His family claims direct descent from Mian Tansen, the legendary musician of the court of Akbar the Great, the Mughal emperor. Mehboob Baksh Ranji Ali Rang, his paternal grandfather, was a master musician of his time; Baqar Hussein Khan, his maternal grandfather, was a unique sitarist. His family belongs to the Sabriyya order of Sufism, hence the surname Sabri.

Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri was raised in Gwalior. In his youth, he wanted to turn away from the world and live in the wilderness. However, his mother's stern rebuke turned him back to his responsibilities. At the age of six, Ghulam Farid commenced his formal instruction in music under his father, Inayat Hussain Sabri. Ghulam Farid Sabri was instructed in North Indian classical music and Qawwali. He was also instructed in the playing of the harmonium And Tabla. Before Starting To Learn Music, Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri Along with his Father Visited The Shrine Of Sufi Saint Khwja Ghaus Muhammad Gwaliori In Gwalior To Seek Blessings.

Ghulam Farid Sabri initially learnt music from his father Ustad Inayat Hussain Sabri and many other musical teachers (Ustad) in Gwalior. Later, Ghulam Farid Sabri and his younger brothers Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, And Kamaal Ahmed Sabri furthered their knowledge of music under Ustad Fatehdin Khan, Ustad Ramzan Khan, Ustad Kallan Khan, Ustad Latafat Hussein Khan Rampuri, And their spiritual master Hazrat Hairat Ali Shah Warsi.

Migration to Pakistan[edit]

Following the independence of Pakistan in 1947, his family was uprooted from their native town and was transported to a refugee camp in Karachi, Pakistan. Conditions in the camp were woeful, food was scarce and expensive, and the rewards for hard work were barely enough to sustain life. Malnutrition was rife and brought with it scourges of tuberculosis and dysentery. Ghulam Farid found a job by carrying bundles of bricks for the government house building or by breaking rocks to build roads. At night, almost single-handedly, he built his own house, brick by brick, to shelter his family. Eventually, he became ill. Worn out, he was told by a physician that due to the condition of his lungs, he would never again have the strength to sing. In despair, he went to his father for advice and the advice he was given was uncompromisingly tough. Every night for the next two years, he would have to sit in the middle of the camp for four to five hours making zikr. All those days he bore the scars of beatings with wood sticks and stones thrown by his tired, sleepless neighbours and brawls he was in, when they were determined to stop him; but he would not be deterred and, as time went by, his lungs grew stronger and his magnificent voice was formed. Soon, Ghulam Farid started to mix with a small group of people who appreciated Qawwali.


Ghulam Farid Sabri along with his brothers Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, Kamal Ahmed Sabri, & Mehmood Ghaznavi Sabri Performing As Sabri Brothers In India, 1977
Ghulam Farid Sabri & Maqbool Ahmed Sabri performing at The WOMAD Festival in 1989
Ghulam Farid Sabri Leading The Sabri Brothers in Nottingham, 1991
Sabri Brothers performing at SAARC Festival concert Held in Bhopal, 1992

His first public performance was at the annual Urs festival of the Sufi saint Mubarak Shah Sahab in Kalyana in 1946. Before his family migrated to Pakistan in 1947, he had joined Ustad Kallan Khan's Qawwali party in India. In Pakistan, a wealthy businessman approached him and offered him a partnership in a nightclub, yet Ghulam Farid's reply was that he only wanted to sing Qawwali, and he rejected the offer. Later in 1956, Ghulam Farid joined his younger brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri's Qawwali ensemble which was earlier known as Bacha Qawwal Party, after Ghulam Farid Sabri joined and became the leader of the group they were initially known as Ghulam Farid Sabri Qawwal & Party as Maqbool Ahmed Sabri withdrew his name due to love and respect for Ghulam Farid Sabri. Later, after insistence from his well wishers Maqbool Ahmed Sabri gave his name as a co - lead singer of the ensemble and they started to become known as Ghulam Farid Sabri - Maqbool Ahmed Sabri Qawwal & Party, later the group became to be known as The Sabri Brothers. They became widely acclaimed for their singing. Their first recording, released in 1958 under the EMI Pakistan label, was a popular hit called Mera Koi Nahi Hai Tere Siwa. Their Qawwalis are very popular worldwide even till today. Their greatest hit Qawwalis include Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad, Tajdar-e-Haram, O Sharabi Chord De Peena , Khwaja Ki Deewani, and Sar E La Makan Se Talab Hui They have sung many Qawwalis in Persian like Nami Danam Che Manzil Boodh, Chashm-e-Mast-e-Ajabe, etc. of Amir Khusro and also Man Kunto Maula and Rang of Amir Khusro. They have also sung a Kalaam of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan which is in four languages—Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Hindi.

Ghulam Farid was also a poet and wrote some famous qawwalis which were sung by him and his brothers, including Aawe Mahi and Auliyao'n Ke Maula Imam Aaye Hai

Personal life[edit]

Ghulam Farid Sabri loved his younger brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri the most among all his companions as they spent most of their time together. Ghulam Farid Sabri was married to Asghari Begum around the age of 18, He was survived by his wife, five sons, Sarwat Farid Sabri, Azmat Farid Sabri, Amjad Farid Sabri, Asmat Farid Sabri and Talha Farid Sabri, and six daughters. Ghulam Farid Sabri possessed a deep and powerful voice and presented the wajad energy during his performances. He was acknowledged as a deeply religious man, yet a warm, simple man with a great sense of humour, who was devoted to his family and friends. Shortly before his death, he began growing a beard. Ghulam Farid Sabri had been initiated into the Warsiyya order of Sufism by Hazrat Ambar Ali Shah Warsi. The name bestowed upon Ghulam Farid was Alam Shah Warsi.

Ghulam Farid Sabri lived in the heavily congested and overpopulated Pakistani suburb of Liaquatabad, Karachi. At night, Ghulam Farid Sabri used to lay on his bed listening to the sounds of surrounding lanes and alleyways. His sleep was minimal and his night was filled with constant zikr, made using his 1000 bead tasbih. He wore this tasbih around his neck during recordings and live performances.

Ghulam Farid Sabri initiated his sons into classical music at a young age. One of his younger sons, Amjad Farid Sabri, once recalled: "The hardest part was being awakened at 4:00 AM. Most riyaz is done in Raag Bhairon and this is an early morning raag. My mother would urge our father to let us sleep but he would still wake us up. Even if we had slept after midnight, he would get us out of bed, instruct us to make wuzu, perform tahajjud prayers, and then take out the baja. And he was correct in doing so because if a raag is rendered at the correct time, the performer himself enjoys it to the fullest".


The night before he died, Ghulam Farid Sabri and Sabri Brothers were about to tour Germany later that week. His appearances in Britain and the United States set a pattern and began to build an audience for what has now come to be known as 'World Music'.[2] Ghulam Farid Sabri died on 5 April 1994 in Liaquatabad, Karachi following a massive heart attack. He died en route to a hospital and beside him was his beloved younger brother, Maqbool Ahmed Sabri. He died in arms of his younger brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri. His funeral was attended by approximately 40,000 mourners. He was buried at Paposh Qabristan, in nearby Nazimabad. His modest white grave is situated near his father's grave. His legacy was carried on by his younger brothers Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, Mehmood Ghaznavi Sabri, Kamal Ahmed Sabri who performed as the leading and senior members of The Sabri Brothers after his death, Later, Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri's son Amjad Sabri also took forward to carry on Ghulam Farid's legacy and the Qawwali tradition while his other students and relatives too inherit his legacy by performing Qawwali.

On 21 September 2011, his younger brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri died due to cardiac arrest and was buried near his grave

On 22 June 2016, (In Ramadan) his son Amjad Sabri was shot dead in Karachi, and was buried near his grave

On 3 October 2018, his son Azmat Farid Sabri died

On 27 May 2020, Ghulam Farid Sabri's wife Asghari Begum died.[3]

Qawwalis featured in films[edit]

Several of their qawwalis were featured in the films.

  • Mera Koi Nahin Hai Teray Siwa appeared in the 1965 film Ishq-e-Habib,
  • Mohabbat Karne Walo Hum Mohabbat Iss Ko Kehtain Hain in the 1970 film Chand Suraj,
  • Aaye Hain Tere Dar Pe Tau Kucch Le Kay Jaaen Gay in the 1972 film Ilzam,
  • Baba Farid Sarkar in 1974 punjabi film Sasta Khoon Mehenga Paani,
  • Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad in the 1975 film Bin Badal Barsaat,
  • Teri Nazr-e-Karam in the 1976 film Sachaii,
  • Aftab-e-Risalat in the 1977 Indian film Sultan-e-Hind,
  • Mamoor Horha Hhai in the 1977 film Dayar-e-Paighambran
  • Tajdar-e-Haram in the 1982 film Sahaaray.

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ Sheikh, M. A. (26 April 2012). Who's Who: Music in Pakistan. Xlibris Corporation. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-4691-9159-1. Retrieved 12 April 2016. (Ghulam Farid Sabri, Pride of Performance award info on Google Books website)
  2. ^ "Obituary: Ghulam Farid Sabri". The Independent. 19 May 1994. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
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