Ayube Ahamad Khan, MS, AA, better known as Ayube Hamid, former Programme Manager and Sales and Marketing Manager of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation, died on January 21, aged 82.
Ayube Hamid was the best known, longest-serving and most versatile broadcaster this country has known. He recalled, nevertheless, that the most memorable moments of his life were spent not before the microphones in Demerara but 14,000 km away in Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Already over seventy years old, he had travelled to India to trace his lineage in the little village of Somdut. Making the journey not as a tourist or a broadcaster but as a pilgrim to the home of his ancestors, it was a shot in the dark. He had come upon a copy of an immigration certificate which showed that his grandfather – Majohar Khan – was born in the village of Somdut in Meerut District and had boarded the ship Plassey on August 22, 1882 to come to British Guiana as an indentured labourer. In Somdut, he was lucky to meet the physically frail but mentally alert, 110-year-old Hurma Khan – the son of his great grandfather’s brother – who virtually verified the link and confirmed their relationship. Ayube Hamid was convinced that “it was the Almighty” who guided him and enabled him to undertake that successful and satisfying quest!
Ayube Hamid was intensely proud of his heritage and his religion. Born Ayube Ahamad Khan in Danielstown Village on the Essequibo Coast on September 20, 1926, he worshipped at the community masjid and learnt some Arabic and Urdu at lessons at the madrassa. Later in life, he would consider himself lucky but would also lament the lack of language training for younger Muslims.
He attended the St Agnes Primary School and, at the age of 11, won the Essequibo County scholarship to attend Queen’s College, at that time located on Brickdam in Georgetown. Serving in the QC Cadet Corps instilled a lifelong love of discipline. After leaving QC, he had hoped to study medicine but, unable to afford the cost of foreign travel and tuition, worked instead at the Demerara Bauxite Company’s geophysical surveys section for two years. He then joined the Department of Agriculture and was selected for a training course in food processing in Jamaica where he spent eight months and earned a certificate in canning technology.
Unsatisfied with that line of work, he responded to an advertisement for broadcasters by the colony’s first, and at that time sole, local station – ZFY. Selected for the job, April 1, 1954 was the first day of the rest of his life. In those pre-television days, Guyana’s real media celebrities were the radio announcers. Radio, from the arrival of ZFY, was implanted in the public mind as a significant source of entertainment, education and information. For most rural and hinterland communities beyond the reach of daily newspapers, radio meant music, messages and news.
Ayube Khan joined the radio station as a news announcer but he was to find that there was already another, better known, Khan in the company – the programme director, Rafiq Khan. To avoid confusion, it was decided that the newcomer would be called ‘Ayube Hamid.’ And so the name stuck! Love of broadcasting also stuck and would remain irrepressible for the rest of his life. This was not surprising. Radio had a powerful appeal and bright young students from Queen’s College and Bishops High School – including Hugh Cholmondeley, Victor Insanally,
Eileen Pooran, Ronald Sanders and Clairmont Taitt − mesmerized by the magic of the microphone, would follow in his footsteps and learn the lore of broadcasting from his lips.
Apart from reading the news, Ayube Hamid also played music and conducted interviews. But in those early days, the musical albums from the Indian sub-continent were written mostly in Urdu and Hindustani. This was no problem. His knowledge of the Urdu and Arabic languages learnt in his classes at the madrassa, and his excellent enunciation of the English language learnt at Queen’s, gave him a distinct advantage over other announcers. Audiences came to love this authenticity and familiarity with the genre. A year after being employed, he had passed his probation and was set for promotion. Programme director Rafiq Khan then set him on course for a career in broadcasting. Ayube Hamid replaced Mohamed Akbar as the host of Indian Memory Album – introducing it with the signature Sahani Raat – the programme and melody that were to define his broadcasting career.
As the years went by, he broadened his taste for various types of music and was known for his programmes which included Country: Eastern and Western; Indi Sahani Shyaam; Indian Memory Album; Radio Fusion; Treasury of Music and Songs; Concert Hour and the televised, Ayube Hamid show. Chutney music, however, never seemed to move him. At the time of his death, Hamid was still working like a man half his age, producing four programmes a week for radio, his clear, strong voice still “as strong as ever” as his younger colleagues and wards would say of him.
His natural talent, versatility and easy manner endeared him to wide audiences and numerous organisations. Inevitably, he became the first choice to fill the role of master of ceremonies on many memorable occasions, including concerts by visiting celebrities such as Kishore, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Mohamed Rafi and Mukesh. He would often be called upon to lead the programme at major Indian cultural festivals.
At Broadcasting House, he watched the hoardings change while the radio monopoly remained, decade in decade out, from the days of the British Guiana United Broadcasting Company Ltd — broadcasting under a franchise from the government and with the name Radio Demerara — through to the state-owned Guyana Broadcasting Corporation and the National Communications Network before retiring only to become an independent promoter and producer. Serious about work, punctilious about punctuality, meticulous about pronunciation and fastidious about preparation before going on air, he was an anachronism amidst the collapsing broadcasting standards he saw around him.
Next to broadcasting, Ayube Hamid loved culture which for him meant Islam, Indian heritage and music, perhaps seeing no distinctions among them. At the age of 17, he had become a trustee of the historic Queenstown Jama Masjid, built in 1895, and remained so until his death. He was instrumental in introducing the popular Islamic quasida competition to Guyana. He was one of the founders of the Gandhi Youth Organisation, and a prominent member of the Indian Commemoration Trust. He was credited with influencing public attitudes to Indian music and culture of which he said “the passing of the years from indentureship has not, and will not, obliterate the love and sense of cultural belonging to this Guyanese cultural form. It is my fervent wish that we should teach the community, and ourselves in general, the language, and so appreciate what we hear in Indian songs.”
The Guyana Cultural Association (of New York) presented him with an award in 2003 for popularising Indian and steelband music and the Indian Arrival Committee recognised his contribution to broadcasting and conferred one of its achievements awards on him in 2006. There were others. He was awarded the national honours of Medal of Service in 1986, and Golden Arrow of Achievement in 1997, “for long and dedicated service of a consistently high standard as a broadcast journalist and for service in the social, cultural and religious fields.”
Ayube Hamid married Jinette, who died in 1994, and is survived by Safiyya, their only child.