The prominent Mayalalam Ghazal singer and composer Umbayee passed away last week, on the 1st of August. Born in Mattancherry, he said that “Mattancherry was a melting pot of music. There was music all around. You only had to find it.”

Abdul Aziz, a member of the Mehboob Memorial Orchestra and friend of the late musician has shared images and an anecdote with us. They are our partners in the Arts & Medicine programme,  a weekly programme that seeks to promote community engagement and unity through live music.
1950 – 2018
During the 1970s he was known a “Tabalist Umbai”, and used to accompany Junior Mehboob – a popular and aspiring talent brought into the limelight by H. Mehboob Himself. Umbai used to sing “Mannedey” Sahab’s film songs in musical gatherings of friends and near ones. The voice match was apt, although Tabalist Umbai had no tabla of his own. He also had a passion to play harmonium and always wanted to learn it.
One evening I met Umbai with a friend, while they were going to Pattalam – the birth place of Mehboob in Fort Kochi. I joined them and headed to “People’s League”, a popular reading room, library and and cultural centre under the care of Communist Marxist Party. They had tablas and harmoniums and used to organise musical fetes. Umbai’s aim was to spend few hours there, and shed his stress (which he never shared with friends). We got into clashes with the person in- charge there, which made Umbai furious. Fortunately, when we were walking in the area one day, we him Sri Hussain (now the MMO Secretary) and K. Aboo (Late Patreon MM) and Aboo offered full financial support to buy a harmonium. And that is how “Red Young Arts Group”, popularly knows as RAG emerged – the first ghazal group of Kerala. Now it is knowm as Mehboob Memorial Orcherstra, with Umbai as the main force behind the organisation. The talent emerged from the lanes of Fort Kochi, and the rest is history.”