No News is Bad News. Join the SA Current Press Club.

Sanford Allen 

best show evar template

click to enlarge 20070130_195753_2_storyjpg
It was an odd event: A well-traveled group of Sufi devotional musicians playing a hastily publicized show at a Catholic school. My wife learned of the Sabri Brothers’ gig at St. Mary’s Hall  only a few days prior, having heard an announcement about it at a Bollywood movie screening.

For the uninitiated, the Sabri Brothers perform qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufi Muslims of India and Pakistan. The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was the highest-profile practitioner of the art, but the venerable Sabris run a close second.

The earthy yet divine songs of the qawwali tradition tend to begin with slow, meditative passages then wind into an uptempo frenzy of handclaps and fervent vocal improvisations, the singers’ voices sometimes darting several octaves in a single passage.

Even on record, it’s stirring, emotionally charged music. But live, in the hands of the Sabri Brothers, it was more raw and intense than I could have imagined. Completely hypnotic. Consuming.

Though elderly and somewhat frail, the two brothers (a third passed away long ago) unleashed a masterful performance that had the smallish crowd beaming with smiles, crying out after favorite verses, throwing money onstage in appreciation.

Like our culture’s Blind Willie Johnson, Mahalia Jackson, or the Stanley Brothers, this was church music of the best kind: Music that casts aside dogma and brings people together over a common sense of spiritual longing. I didn’t understand a word, but I didn’t need to. Sometimes the music is the message.


Sanford Allen is the singer-guitarist for blues-punk trio Boxcar Satan.  

click to enlarge 20070130_164802_2_storyjpg

San Antonio Current works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of San Antonio and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep San Antonio's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 23, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2020 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation