Qawwali, the classical Sufi style of music has been prevalent in the Indian society since the days of the Great Mughal era. A real treat to the ears, this form of classical music was a favourite of all Islamic rulers who have proceeded over the throne of power in the nation. Although largely thrown into the wilderness in between, Qawwali style of music is once more finding a strong foothold in the society thanks to the intervention of Sufia Ikaram. When it comes to this truly raw form of sufi musical perception, one need not look further than the Bandanawazi Qawwal family residing in the old city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh who were once famous musicians in the court of the Nizams of the Deccan region.
One of the living descendants of this famous band of people is Ateeq Hussein Khan Bandanawazi. Born in 1980 in Hyderabad to this family of classical Sufiana qawwals, he belongs to the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana of musicians. Besides learning Qawwali from his father Ustad Iqbal Hussein Khan Bandanawazi from a very early age, he also picked up various forms of classical music like Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, Tarana and Bhajan. He participated along with his father in various classical programs and has a very striking resemblance to his voice and style. He has received great accolades from various newspapers in a multitude of languages for his outstanding performances and contribution towards the promotion of classical Qawwali Sufi music in the nation and the world. His Qawwali group, known as Bandanawazi Qawwal, has toured and performed with him all over the world and at some noteworthy events such as the Delhi Commonwealth Games and Urdu Heritage Festival. Some of his memorable performances were at the International Sufi Festival in Turkey and Sacred Musical Festival organized by the erstwhile Dalai Lama Organization. His group received the Central Zone Award from the Maharashtra Art and Cultural Department in 1998. The great grandson of Inayat Hussein Khan, Ateeq Hussein Khan is a regular performer on AIR Hyderabad programmes. He is the living person who has been entrusted with the task of carrying forward the legacy of the Sahaswan Gharana of Sufi music. Largely acknowledged for his style of music and his resemblance to his father in style and voice intonation, he is considered to be the right ambassador for the cause of retaining the value of Sufi classical music and Qawwali on the whole.
Iqbal Hussein Khan Bandanawazi, father of Ateeq Hussein, was another great Sufi Maestro Qawwal of Hyderabad who passed away as recently as 2010. Born in Gwalior to the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana, he had been associated with the All India Radio Aakashvani first as an artist and then as a jury member for many years. He also learned Qawwali from his father Ustad Qurban Hussein Khan and was the lead singer of the group also known as Bandanawazi Qawwal. He had also received the Sangeet Prabhakar Award besides being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Urdu Academy of Andhra Pradesh.
Ustad Qurban Hussein Khan was the son of Ustad Inayat Hussein Khanís second wife Hanifa Begum who was the daughter of Badaun Gharana Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Ustad Qurban Hussein Khan was the Raj Durbari Gayak of Gwalior and was bestowed upon the title of Faqr-e-Hind by the Nizam of Hyderabad. He was well versed in several forms of classical singing and fathered six daughters and a son. His grandson continues to carry forward the legacy of the great Sufi band of musicians in the form of the Bandanawazi Qawwal group.
The Sahaswan khandan or family is said to have descended from two brothers, Karim Bux and Rahim Bux who were believed to be exponents of the Dhrupad tradition. Ustad Mushtaq Husseinís father was the son of the first, while Ustad Inayat Husseinís father was the third son of the second. Ustad Nissar Hussein Khan's grandfather, Ustad Haider Khan was the son of Rahim Bux's first son, Ali Bux.
The story of the Rampur Sahaswan Khayal Gharana began with Ustad Inayat Hussein Khan, son of Ustad Mehboob Khan who was a Khayal singer and veena player of the Rampur court. He taught his younger sons Ali Hussein and Mohammed Hussein how to play the veena and they were later employed in the Rampur court as veena players. Ustad Inayat Hussein Khanís second wife gave birth to two sons Ustad Meherban Hussein Khan and Ustad Qurban Hussein Khan who later on became a world famous veena player and Gwalior Raj Durbari Gayak respectively. Mehboob Khan is also said to have performed Khayal in a simple style while maintaining an emphasis on tappa-style tans. This is a clear indication of his affiliation towards the Gwalior Khayal Gharana who introduced and patronised this form of tappa style music. His first child, a daughter, was married to the aforementioned Ustad Haider Khan.
Inayat Hussein was found to be an extremely skilled singer in his early age and was sent to a professional court singer for further training after only some basic introductions by his father at home. Being the founder of the Gharana who hailed from Sahaswan and learned and trained in Rampur, the Gharana subsequently became known as the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana.
Padmabhushan Nissar Khan was one of the last gharanedar Ustad belonging to the Hindustani classical music cult. He was born in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh in 1906 and had training in Sufi classical music at the early age of five years under the supervision of his famous grandfather Ustad Haider Khan who was the cousin of another famous Ustad Inayat Hussein Khan. Inayat Hussein Khan in turn owed his knowledge and training to the rababiya Bahadur Hussein of the Senoia Gharana who had his taranas largely popularised by Nissar Hussein. However, Nissar Hussein had a major part of his training from his father Fida Hussein Khan and was held a revelation after his first recital at the age of 11 years that earned him a scholarship from the Maharaja of Baroda. His father was also appointed the court musician which enabled him to train his son as hard as possible for the subsequent years. By the time he was all of 18 years old, he had attained such amount of confidence that the Maharaja of Baroda appointed him the court singer, a post that he made his very own for as long as three decades. Having received all his training within the family circle itself, he was inspired the masterful sitar playing by Ustad Imdad Khan and intended to try his hand at the same. Nissar Husseinís Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana was also largely enriched owing to his contacts with musicians hailing from the Gwalior and Agra Gharana. By the 1940s, Ustad Nissar Hussein had managed to make a name for himself as a broadcaster and concert-artiste. After leaving Baroda, he settled down in his birth place of Badaun for a quiet life of teaching. He would also perform locally and act as a broadcaster for AIR. His ideas about an artistís life and trade were of a very definite view and he always maintained that only an artist with an upright character who has the potential to lead a clan is considered a really high class musician.
Padma Shri Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi will bring alive the period when the art form was at its peak. The legendary qawwal will always be remembered for his Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana style (one of the purest forms of qawwalis that was passed on since Hazrat Amir Khusroís time).
The long-living legacy of the Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana continues to be led by Ateeq Hussein Khan Bandanawazi and his troop of followers in the Bandanawazi Qawwal group. The nation hopes that for decades to come, we are continued to be treated to this exotic and romantically beautiful style of classical Sufi music in the form of qawwals.