Amidst the noisy traffic in Ramkote, there is a shop which emanates melody. As we make our way to Mahboob Ali Tabla shop near the Ramkote cross roads, we find Mohd. Shoukath listening to the tabla sound intently. In one corner of the shop is his employee of 30 years Madhaar busy sewing while his sons Mohd Shahbaz and Mohd Shazeeb are playing a tabla as they casually chat. On a wall is an old black and white photograph of Hyderabad’s renowned tabla player Ustad Shaik Dawood.
Shoukath has been repairing different percussion instruments like tabla, dholak, congo, bongo, mridangam, pakhawaj and dholki; .making and repairing percussion instruments has been a family legacy. “We had our shop in Afzalgunj earlier and after my father passed away, we moved to Ramkote,” recalls Shaukath. He remembers a music lover from US called David who came to the Afzalgunj shop to learn tabla repairing around 15 years ago.
Besides repairing, Shoukath also makes tablas. “The sound from these instruments is natural and melodious. Can electronic instruments ever be so melodious?” he questions. Having being in the music business for decades, Shaukath knows a thing and two about sur and taal. “Not everybody can make a tabla. When artistes come here to buy the instrument, they play it and look happy with the sound,” he says. Though it takes a week to make one tabla, he says it is the most satisfying job.
Did he never wish that his children should learn to play the tabla? “We don’t have so much time to spare. Managing the shop itself keeps us occupied,” he explains.
Shahbaz and Shazeeb have grown up listening to the sounds of tabla since their birth and support their father in the shop. The shop that has been in Ramkote for 10 years now has seen the area’s transformation. The street is now buzzing with traffic all through the day; “Maheshwari and Parameshwari were the landmark theatres which have given way to Big Bazaar. Everything has changed so much here,” say the sons.
Shaukath who has three sons and a daughter, looks back at life with satisfaction.
“I feel blessed that I make instruments which artistes play. At the end of the day, I am able to have a happy meal and sleep peacefully.”