Kozhikode Abdul Khader: Remembering the Music Maestro

Kozhikode, the cultural capital of Malabar, has a rich cultural heritage which is adorned by gifted musicians, artists, thinkers, activists and many more. Kozhikode Abdul Khader, with his musical genius and hundreds of evergreen songs, is undoubtedly a glowing gem among them.

His songs ‘engane nee marakkum kuyile’, ‘Njanpaadanorthoru madhurithagaanam..’, ‘Tharakamirulilmaayukayo..’ and ‘Thankakinakkalhridayeveeshum..’ are indeed milestones in our musical history.

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Abdul Khader was born into a musical family on July 19, 1915. His parents were Andrews and Manini who migrated to Kozhikode from Manglore. Named Lesli at birth, he later converted to Islam while on a brief stay at Burma. He began his musical journey with the church choir and soon turned his attention to Hindusthani music – mehfils and ghazals.

A legend in the field, Abdul Khader represented the musical culture of a generation. His nostalgic songs were very well received by his audience. His admiration for the music master Saigal led him to Mumbai where he performed on various stages. Bombay Chronicle called him ‘Kerala Saigal’.

Abdul Khader’s return to Kozhikode following his son’s death opened a new door to his music career. He was associated with M S Baburaj, K Raghavan Master and poet P Bhsaskaran in those days and out of this collective was born several classic songs. Though his songs were quite popular, this timeless singer was never enticed by the cine world.


In addition to being a mesmerizing singer, Abdul Khader was also a fine actor and organizer. He was also a pioneer of the drama forum named ‘Pradeep Productions’. His roles in P J Antony’s ‘Manushyan’, T MuhammedKoya’s ‘Kudukkukal’, MuhammedYousuf’s ‘KandambechaKottu’ and Ahuan Sebastian’s ‘Upasana’ were quite spellbinding. He was also a fan of cricket, football and pigeon rearing. He demise on February 13, 1977 is an unparalleled loss to ghazal lovers.

Some artists are forgotten by the society when their creations gradually lose the lead. But some remain immortal in the hearts of people even after they are long gone. Kozhikode Abdul Khader among others like him who molded our musical sensibilities, are not merely contributors to art in our society, but pointers to our rich cultural history and tradition.

Kozhikode, known for its love for art and artistes, seems to have forgotten the legendry singer, who carried the city’s name with him.

The concluding ceremony of the birth centenary celebrations of Kozhikode Abdul Khader struck a sore note among the music lovers who cared to attend with the glaring emptiness both on and off the dais. “There are many artistes who lived the fag end of their lives in misery. But what is truly miserable is when society forgets their contributions,” said writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair who inaugurated the programme.

The writer presented the Abdul Khader birth centenary award to playback singer G. Venugopal.