“I’m a singer at heart,” Sabir reflected. “I can’t imagine not singing, and there are definitely ideas and songs in my head that I have to put into a recording.”
Now this musician is out with his first album, The Gathering, a collaborative project that reflects Sabir’s diverse background and New York experiences. More than a gathering of talented artists, Sabir’s songs feature a medley of instruments, including the tabla, bansuri, bola, standup bass and at least five little hand drums. The genre is loosely folk pop, but there are elements of world music, rap and Bollywood. “I’m not afraid to get diverse in my styles,” he said. Sabir grew up in Karachi, Pakistan listening to legendary South Asian musicians like Lata Mangeshkar and Sabri Brothers.
His mom would sing at shows and his uncle is a producer. “We’d have live performances literally in our backyard,” he said. Surprisingly, Sabir didn’t receive any formal training at home. “I don’t think the arts are encouraged enough in South Asian culture, and I think that should change,” he explained.
“My pursuit of music just happened on its own.” Sabir moved to New York around the time Norah Jones released Come Away With Me. He was impressed by Jones’ organic sounds, in a period of “overly processed” music. “I realized that there is room for artists that use simple instrumentation,” Sabir said. “The songs are what they are. And they’re beautiful and they’re simple.”
Living in a city full of struggling musicians, as well as happening jazz clubs and venues like The Living Room, it took a while for Sabir to establish himself. “I’ve played open mics to like two people, one person.” he recalled. “That’s when I was first starting out. And that one person might’ve been asleep even.” People recognized Sabir’s talent, and encouraged him to pursue an album. With the help of fans and friends, he raised about $6,000 through an online campaign. The process was a substantial commitment, and “had to fall into place like a perfect puzzle,” Sabir confided. “Now I can say I walked away knowing that I have done everything in order to make it the best that it can be.”
Produced by two “powerfully creative producers” Malcolm Burn and Bryan Pugh, The Gathering took nearly two years to complete. Artists include Jared Engel on bass; Dov Igel, guitar; and Deep Singh, playing the tabla and sitar. Some have worked with major figures like David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris. Looking forward, Sabir said, “I don’t need to sit there with my guitar and say I’m only folk or I’m only this. So I want to keep open and experiment and see where else I want to go with this.” After a short pause, he added, “And I want to open up for Norah Jones.” For more information about Adnan Sabir, his new album and what he’s up to now, visit his Facebook page. “Sunday Song”