Naseer Ahmed Khan Warsi narrates word by word how the Warsi family have been maintaining the 900-year-old qawwali tradition generation by generation:
BLESSING’S of HAZRAT NIZAMUDDIN AULIYA –
“Qawwali is believed to have originated from Khwaja Mohinuddin Chishti. Our ancestors, Miyan Dargahi and Miyan Nizahi wahan ke khidmadgaar the; mazar ko dekhte the, jhadoo-pochha lagate the. After Mohinuddin Chishti passed away, they shifted to Delhi. There they met Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, another Sufi saint of the Chishti order. The father-son duo, Darghai and Nizahi, one blind and the other deaf and dumb, was walking by the river when Nizamuddin, who was on the other bank heard a mellifluous voice. He asked his disciples to bring the singer to him. Magar beech mein toh nadiya beh rahi thi! Tab Nizamuddin Auliya ne kahan, nadiyan se kaho Nizamuddin bula rahe hai. Toh nadiyan ne rasta de diya pani mein. After Miyan Dargahi and Miyan Nizahi came to Nizamuddin saab, unhone apna thook chataya gunga-behra ko, aur miraculously he found his voice. Not only did he find his voice, he became a proficient singer as well. And thus, they became the disciples of Nizamuddin Auliya. They were trained by Hazrat Amir Khusro himself and were a part of the ‘Qawwal Bachche’. Since then, the tradition of qawwali has been running in our family. It’s been 900 years now; we are carrying the legacy forward generation after generation,” says Naseer, in one breath.
MUGHAL COURT TO THE NIZAM’S of HYDERABAD –
It was the Revolt of 1857 that brought the qawwals to Hyderabad. “In 1857 when Mughal emperor Bhadur Shah Zafar was arrested, our ancestor, Miyan Taanras Khan Sahab, who was one of the treasured navaratnas of his court, was arrested along with him. But then, the British released him realising that he was only a court musician and had nothing to do with the sepoy mutiny. Miyan Taanras Khan Sahab wrote a letter to his nephew in Hyderabad: ‘Main yahan gunga-behra ho gaya hoon, Dilli lut gayi, puri ujadh gayi. Na koi gaane wala hai, na koi sunne wala….’ Miyan Taanras Khan Sahab and Mohammed Siddiq Khan Sahab, his nephew, were called from Delhi to Hyderabad and were appointed royal singers in the court of Mir Mehboob Ali Badshah. Since then, Hyderabad became our home,” narrates elder brother Nazeer.
Served Dargah Yousufain for over a century –
“Yeh gurudebon ke hazri ka parampara sadiyo se chalta jaraha hai. When in Delhi, humare purkhon Hazrath Nizamuddin Dargahmein hazri dete the. Siddiq Khan Sahab was the permanent qawwal of Hazrath Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. After we shifted to Hyderabad, har Thursday hum Dargah Yousufain mein hazri dete hai. Yousuf Baba Sharif Baba is one of the disciples of Nizamuddin Auliya… Humare pardada gaate the, dada gaate the, walid saab (Zaheer Ahmed Khan) gaaye hai, hum bhi gaate hai,” said Naseer while talking about the Warsi family’s 100-odd-year-old association with the Dargah Yousufain in Nampally.
Growing up in a family with such rich tradition has enriched them, say the Warsi brothers. “We were initially trained under our grandfather, Padmashri Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi, who was the first qawwal to be honoured with the title, and later by our walid. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, Allah Rakha Khan Sahab, Birju Maharaj jaise bade bade kalakaron ka ghar mein aana jana rehta tha. They had great respect for my grandfather. Aur jab saab aate the ghar mein mehfil bas jata tha. Due to the musical atmosphere in our house, Qawwali came naturally to us. We are keeping that tradition alive and our children will carry forward the legacy too,” concluded Nazeer.