Haniff Mohammed was born to Esaha and Kaliman Mohammed in 1933. He is the only member of his family who showed an interest in music. He took an instinctive delight in Hindi film songs. His guru, Pandit Mahase, first heard him at a Tilak– pre-wedding ceremony– at Akbar trace in Avocat and invited the 17-year-old to visit him. Haniff turned up then next day at the pandit’s home and was initiated into Indian Classical Music with a Soorsatti Pooja.
Haniff recalled, “my Guru composed two songs for me which I studied carefully. After that I would visit him late in the evenings and walked back home around midnight. He taught me pronunciation, timimg, the varieties of classical singing and gave me many insights into this music He is currently ailing, but his memory is good, recently he composed two thumris for me on Hanooman.”
Haniff won his first competition at Quarry Village Mandir at 20 years of age. Since then, he went on to win 22 B Class competitions.
He then graduated to A Class competitions in which he was quite active until the mid-eighties when interest in this type of singing started to lose its popular appeal.
His latest appearence at a competition was at NCIC-sponsored annual competition held at Himalaya Club, where he won the championship that year. He was always popular with the patrons and always a serious contender for top prizes.
Haniff had many memorableperformances. He recalled the “shoot out” with acclaimed melody King Isaac Yankaran: “Singing against Yank was never an easy affair. The man was just too sweet, he could charm anybody. Oncewe had this big show in Globe Cinema, Port of Spain. It was organised by Moen. It was a packed cinema. yank had more supporters than I did, but I received a great apprciation from the crowd. The great KB Singh, whom I admired greatly, was supporting me. It is a cherished memory.