Could you please forward me your recent write ups on  Khusshali Bankro, Golo Saleh  and Mamsen Khokoni?



Every old timer Zanzibari, wherever he or she may be, yearns for those good old days of Zanzibar. We Khoja Ithnashries in particular tend to recall several memorable occasions of the past and one event that obviously comes to mind is Khushali Bankro. It had an attraction of its own. On the eve of khushali bankro there would be buzz of excitement all around. The long pavement outside the imambara was the famous Barzaa Imamwaro and alongside it the road that would be transformed into khushali bankro (spread over with wooden benches and folding wooden chairs) on the eventful khushali of prophet and imams. Khushali bankro was always held on the second night of the khushali. Its celebration dated back to the late 1930s pioneered by youths like Mamsen Khokoni ( Mohamedhusain Ahmed), Golo Saleh (Gulamhusain Saleh), Akbar Jessa and others who made the preparations starting from the afternoon placing wooden benches & folding wooden chairs, erecting stage and fixing coloured electric bulbs which brightly lit the place. The veteran elder Abdulla Bhimji functioned as electrician.                      

There were as many as 50 rows of wooden benches and chairs stretching from the ladies imambara entrance or Mohamedhusain Virjee’s (Mamdhu Bi) barafu stall to the old School Fez or Taki (Kara) Daactar’s dispensing shop/home off Kiponda Road. Bankro is the Gujarati word for the mobile thick wooden bench long enough for five to six adult seating. The children and youths rushed to occupy their places. There were children galore and they came in with their fathers or followed their elder brothers. They put on their best cloths. Some dressed in Arab attire; others donned police inspector uniform or sailor uniform. The atmosphere was very lively indeed. The function started at about 9 pm and lasted an hour or so. It commenced with the recitation of Qoran by Maalim Abdulrasul Bandali or Murtaza Abdulrasul Bandali followed by kasida by youths (prominent among them were Murtaza Bandali, Kassamali Chandu, Ashiq Kermali and Husain Bandali). Then there was a brief lecture by one of the mullas and finally munajat.  The elderly people and Jamaat leaders were seated in front of the stage on comfortable chairs. The recitation resounded on microphones amid the cheering noise created by the children throughout the function. They eagerly awaited the gift which was presented to them towards the end (a box of Maxfactor powder, hair pin, pencil and eraser, purse, wallet, comb etc) along with the distribution of sweets or confectionary.   

In the earlier days khushali bankro was also held in the Hurumzi gully where Rashid Manek, Khamis Damji and Khaku Rajpar families resided. They were the organizers of the Hurumzi khushali bankro along with other Hurumzi families like Saleh Alarakhia, Bandali Hasham (Bhandha), Remu Thakro (Bapa Nana who also provided service to the Junni imambara kitchen along with Gulla Dawood), Abdulla Hameer, Kasam Manji (Sukari Mawe), Jaffer Hirji (Jafu Saruji) and others.  

Ah for those days of khushali bankro in Zanzibar!



In the annals of Zanzibar Khoja Ithnashri history the name ‘Golo Saleh’ (Gulamhusain) gets inscribed with golden letters. He was born to the family of Saleh Allarakhia (Saleh Madawa) whose spices/herbal medicine shop in one corner of Vaddi Bhajar (Hurumzi) was a household word. Such was its impact that to date shops dealing in herbal medicines in Zanzibar are referred to as ‘Saleh Madawa’. 

Interestingly Ithnashri zealots of yesteryears in Zanzibar nicknamed their sons ‘Golo’ out of fervency and devotion to their Imams. Incidentally Gulamhusainbhai was born on the day of 10th Muharram (Ashura). His devotion to azadari and pioneering feats in the services of the community were some of the contributory factors to the popular acclaim Zanzibar had attained as the staunchest in the Khoja World. No doubt the name ‘Golo Saleh’ remains synonymous with Zanzibar’s spectacular Matam Njiani (Julus), Khushali Bankro, Husain Day and any community related event since the days of 1930s. The scene wherein the ‘Zuljanah’ in all its majesty was being brought out to the accompaniment of Golo Saleh has had an everlasting impression of Zanzibar julus on old timers.  

His presence at the Night School Fez where he was a ‘maalim’ exuded discipline and made him role model for the youths.  Mostly seen in coat and red tarboosh cap he projected an imposing personality. Recording majlis/marshia/nauha was a passion with him and his shelf stacked with his collection of tap spools. The visits to Zanzibar by Allama Rashid Turabi, Abbas Rizvi and several others had an overwhelming effect on the islanders and Gulamhusainbhai covered on his tap recorder all their majlises which were later relayed at the Taziakhana amid huge gathering.                                                 

Sadly Gulamhusainbhai remains no more. In his 80s he passed away on Thursday, the 24th of June (10th Rajab), 2010.




Perhaps the mainlanders will remember Mohamedhusain Hassanali Ahmed as an old timer reciting  ‘Ya Husain na bewatan…’  at the kabrastan on the Ashura day or being brought  to the mosque or mehfil in a wheel chair hardly realizing that in his hey days he was the very epitome of Zanzibar Khoja Ithnashries’ zealousness.  

The Zanzibaris had penchant for calling people by way of nick and that made Mohamedhusain Mamsen Khokoni as he resided in the Khokoni corner of Malindi. Since childhood he exuded great confidence and even adjudged Zanzibar’s best scout in the British colonial days that won him a gold medal. He along with Golo Saleh (the late Gulamhusain Saleh who incidentally passed away exactly a year back) formed the community’s most imposing personalities. Their names remain associated with Zanzibar’s spectacular Matam Njiani (julus), khushali bankro or Husain Day since the days of 1930s. 

He was one of the most ardent azadar. First Muharram onwards he would attire himself in black till the twelfth and always availed himself of his leave during the 12 days to devote it to azadari, even whilst with NBC in Daressalaam  where he was a Security Officer in the Administrative Services Department of NBC and resided on the top floor of the famous City Drive Building. 

One of Mohamedhusain’s most distinguished features was his extraordinarily powerful voice. His rendering of kalema during a funeral procession in Zanzibar generated tremendous emotions and the scene still etches on the memory. His recitation of ‘jab akhri rukhsatse Husain ae haramme…’and Ya Husain na bewatan….’ to this day remain unmatched.  In saf matam his presence was striking. The late Husain Sultan who coincidentally passed away just a month back had the knack for emulating his mentor when the saf matam climaxed with the rendition of ‘çhalie Madina…’ or the final stanza ‘ruswaio ….’. Sadly both remain no more.  

How could we ever forget Mohamedhusain’s soulful ‘kehte hai Zainulaba leke alam ayah u, utho Rasule Khuda leke alam ayah u…’ resounding through the Kiponda vicinity in the return leg of the Chehlum julus en route from kabrastan to imambara as the sun would set in the Zanzibar of by gone days and the emotions of the devotees raised at fever pitch. Ah for those days of Zanzibar

Mohamedhusainbhai, aged 86, passed away on Thursday, the 9th of June (6th Rajab), 2011.





Last updated October 2011 Copyright © Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved