Amjad Khan Warsi and Asad Khan Warsi from Hyderabad, better known as the ‘Ahmed Brothers’ for their sublime rendition of qawwali music, have come a long way since they first started singing in their grandfathers lap years ago.
“Our grandfather Padma Shri late Ustad Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi used to playfully teach us the basic nuances of music. It used to be a session full of music, love and fun. As we grew older, we took lessons from our father Ustad Zaheer Ahmed Khan Warsi. After coming back from school, our father used to insist on at least three hours of training whenever he would be at home, free from concert engagements. This used to be very vigorous training and we not only learnt singing, but also the art of playing the harmonium and the tabla,” says Amjad,
These young performers have a family legacy of qawwali performances dating back around 800 years, ever since their forefathers first served Hazrat Khwaja Garib Nawaz of the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. “It was Mahbub Ali Pasha, the then Nizam of Hyderabad who first invited our great grandfather Ustad Mohd. Siddiq Khan from Delhi to give a performance in Hyderabad. Since then, many generations have been trained within the family and it has been a constant endeavour to uphold this precious legacy of qawwali. We sing the songs (kalams) of many Sufi saints like Hazrat Amir Khusrau, Moulana Rumi and Shams Tabrizi,” says Asad.
Interestingly, many of the songs they sing are originally written in Farsi (Persian) or Arabic language. Asad shares, “Even today, we sometimes sing in the original language for a few families of Hyderabad. Sometimes, we also go to the extent of explaining the meaning of the song in detail. This helps us convey the message of humanity and friendship, which all Sufi songs preach.”
The brothers are very happy about the present recognition for qawwals. Explains Asad, “With qawwali music making its way into Bollywood, our style of rendition is highly appreciated and supported. Songs like Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Kun Faya Kun by music director and composer A.R. Rahman have given good visibility to the qawwali singing among the masses world over. There are also many occasions where people of foreign origin do not understand the lyrics. But they connect with the melody and rhythm of our renditions and go into a different world all together. Such is the power of this music!”