Malayalam ghazal maestro Umbayee passes away


Veteran ghazal singer Umbayee passed away at Aluva in Kerala on Wednesday following prolonged illeness.

He was 70. The singer was suffering from lung cancer.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed heartfelt grief and condolences over the demise of singer Umbayee. ”Umbayee’s soulful rendition of ghazals had brought immense joy to his listeners. His demise is a loss to music lovers and Kerala society.”

Umbayee was born in Mattanchery near Kochi. His real name was PA Ibrahim. As a child, Umbayee did not have a supportive environment towards music. His father was vehemently opposed to his son being inclined to music. Ultimately Umbayee failed in his exams thereby ending the school life. Seeing his son distracted by music, father packed Ibrahim off to Mumbai where his (Umbayee’s) uncle was a seaman and made him a trainee electrician. Being sent to Bombay was a decision which changed his life. He met Ustad Munawar Ali Khan who accepted Ibrahim as his disciple. Ibrahim studied music from Ustad for about 7 years without any interruption.

Umbayee used to sing in a hotel for years during his initial periods of life. A waiter in the hotel influenced Umbayee to meet Venu V. Desom. It was after this meeting Umbayee’s first album ‘Pranamam’ came out. Also he worked as a laundry Manager. Umbayee used to play Tabla for Mehboob.

Umbayee used to say “Mattancherry was a melting pot of music. There was music all around. You only had to find it.”

Similar to the youth at the times, Ibrahim’s inspiration had been Mehboob, who was a natural and enigmatic singer. During those times most of the legendary Hindustani musicians visited Mattancherry. Ibrahim used to be doing odd jobs in Abdul Khader Vakil’s house where those musicians stayed. He listened to their discussions and music. According to Umbayee “That was the beginning”.

Once he got a chance to listen to Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Alla Rakha ‘live’ at Mattancherry. After which Ibrahim understood what he was capable of other than playing Tabla. He realised “There was so much to learn.What I was doing was childish”.


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