Najmal Babu was a link to a glorious musical past
With the demise of Najmal Babu on Tuesday, a musical era has come to an end.
As the son of Kozhikode Abdul Khader and nephew of M.S. Baburaj, it was no wonder that Najmal chose singing as career. It was his uncle (aunt’s husband) Baburaj who instilled in him the ambition to be a singer. Under his tutelage, Najmal debuted at the age of 10 in Mumbai and made a mark of his own being part of the Hutton’s Orchestra in the 60s and travelling far and wide with his father and uncle who were legendry figures in the musical history of Kerala. For the people of Kozhikode, Najmal was their link to a glorious past when Baburaj, Rafi, and Chanchal ruled. Many high-pitched songs of Mohammed Rafi, which were usually avoided by local singers, were child’s play for Najmal, who moulded his voice to suit the mood.
Njan Padanorthoru Madhuritha Gaanam, a song based on Tagore’s Geethanjali composed by K. Raghavan, who died a week ago, was Najmal’s favourite song. His admirers demanded that he sing that particular song, which was originally sung by his father during the birth centenary celebrations of Tagore.
But life was hard for him. Despite his ancestry and having established as a singer at a very young age, Najmal had to “flee” to the Gulf to earn a living. But he came back, and 10 years later, resumed his career as a singer and enthralled Kozhikode with his newfound flair in ghazals. He set up a ghazal troupe with his brother and conducted stage programmes across the world in his golden era.
Though he had sung many film songs on stage, Najmal mostly stayed away from cinema. His only appearance was through a re-rendition of his favourite song in the movie Gulmohar.
But tragedy struck suddenly. The death of his brother and later his daughter in an accident was tough on him. A kidney ailment added to his woes. Najmal spent all his life’s savings for the treatment and had a kidney transplant. He had come back on stage in 2009 but did not stay for long. The disease returned and this time there was no recovery. He was undergoing treatment at a private hospital here for the last few days and was discharged on Tuesday.
He breathed his last at his home at Vengara at the age of 65. The body was kept for the public to pay homage at the town hall here on Wednesday and was buried at the khabarsthan in Kannanparambu.