The year was 1980. Thirty-first July had just fluttered off the face of the calendar. The time was 3.15 a.m. Actor Shammi Kapoor and his wife were just returning from a religious discourse in Brindavan-temple, when an obviously distressed man stopped them in their tracks and said, "Shammi-saab, aap ki aawaz chali gayi!"
(Mr.Shammi Kapoor, you have lost your voice!) Bewildered Shammi realized the significance of that statement a moment later- when that person uttered the next sentence- "Rafi-saab is dead! You have lost your voice!"
Mohammed Rafi was not just Shammi Kapoor's voice; he was the voice of an entire magical era. A voice which not only sang many exquisite tunes but also launched and shaped the careers of many legendary screen personalities.
Born in a small town in Punjab called Sultan Singh Kotla, near Amritsar on December 24, 1924, Mohammed Rafi grew up admiring the thirties- superstar singer K.L.Saigal. A doting, music-loving elder brother Hamid was the real catalyst in young Rafi's grooming as a singer. Hamid placed Rafi under the tutelage of a noted classical singer Ustad Wahid Khan and also made him a radio-star at the age of thirteen. To the incredulous villagers, Hamidbhai would often boast that his brother would one day even outshine Saigal!
Then somehow managing to get a recommendation letter from composer Naushad's father, Hamid took Rafi to Mumbai to meet the famous composer. In Naushad's 1944- soundtrack Pahle Aap, Rafi sang his first film-song Hindostan Ke Hum Hain, Hindostan Hamara Hai. In Naushad's music, Rafi even got a chance to sing a few lines in Saigal's song Mere Sapnon Ki Rani Ruhi Ruhi Ruhi from Shahjahan (1946) and again it was Naushad's Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki in Dulari (1949) which really established Rafi's singing identity.
Over the next three-and-a half decades Mohammed Rafi went on to become perhaps the most influential male playback singer in Hindi film music. An exceptional range and malleability made Rafi's voice a dream voice. Soft and mellow in one instant to robust and forceful the next- Rafi could switch gears effortlessly. Add to that his ability to come up with just the right vocal expression and emotion for the screen- character he was singing for and Rafi became the byword in versatility. From Shankar-Jaikishan to Laxmikant-Pyarelal and from O.P.Nayyar to R.D.Burman, Rafi could do perfect justice to any composer's tune.
A supremely soulful Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki, a coolly carefree Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, an intensely lovelorn Yaad Na Jaaye Beete Dinon Ki, a thought-provoking Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai, a hopelessly romantic Khoya Khoya Chaand, a classically erudite Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re, a wild-n-wacky Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe, a crazily comic Sar Jo Tera Chakraye and a movingly patriotic Kar Chale Hum Fida Jaano Tan Saathiyo- all these diverse songs serve as perfect examples of Rafi's mind-blowing ability to switch genres with aplomb.
Rafi would pick up the subtle nuances of the screen character and present them through his songs with such unerring precision that you could close your eyes and still identify whether it was Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar or Johny Walker who was singing the song on the screen. When I was interviewing her, the one and only Lata Mangeshkar had gushed over this unparalleled range of Rafi's voice and had aptly described it as 'the gift of God'! How else can you describe such out of this world talent?
Religious, humble and soft-spoken- in private life, Rafi was completely different from his all-conquering singing image. I still remember one of his interviews on BBC and he spoke in such low tones one had to really strain their ears to pick up his answers. In fact, so reticent was he answering questions about his achievements, one could easily doubt his showbiz credentials!
Advent of seventies saw him lose the top throne to Kishore Kumar- the very person for whom he had provided playback in earlier songs like Man Mora Bawra and Ajab Hai Dastan Teri Aye Zindagi. Perhaps overexposure in the sixties where one could just hear his voice everywhere- from heroes to character actors to comedians was the reason for this decline. Even in this down- phase, Rafi could come up with super-hit songs like Chaand Mera Dil, Darde Dil Darde Jigar and Parda hai Parda.
When the cruel clutches of fate snatched him on that fateful thirty-first July twenty-five years ago, Rafi had already left an indelible mark on Indian popular music and a rich legacy of many a memorable song.
The last song sung by Rafi was in the film 'Aas paas'. The poignant lyrics of that song perfectly echo the sentiments of millions of music-lovers all over the world -
Tere milne ki aas hai dost
Shaam phir kyon udaas hai dost,
Maheki maheki fija yeh kaheti hai
Tu kahin aaspaas hai dost,
Tu kahin aaspaas hai dost !!
Contrary to a popularly quoted figure of 27000 songs, Rafi sang around 5000 songs in his career.
Edited by Barnali - 16 years ago
This article is featured on Rediff.
What does one write about the great Mohammed Rafi? I run the risk of penning meaningless platitudes in an attempt to do so. His mellifluous voice worked wonders for many songs and for more than 30 years. His playback singing enhanced the careers of many a star like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, and Biswajeet, to name only a few.
Rafi's ability to generate the complete range of emotions and draw the listener into the song, mood, and character remains unsurpassed. All of this was accomplished without resorting to antics like yodelling.
Mukesh had the pathos. Talat Mehmood had the delicate tremor. Kishore Kumar had zany songs as well as gravitas. Rafi had all of the above plus an extra something, or, as the French would put it, je ne sais quois.
Just a cursory glance at Rafi's repertoire shows us his mind-boggling versatility. Who else could have sung songs of the patriotic (Kar chale hum fida, Haqeeqat), romantic (Aye husn zara jaag, Mere Mehboob), bidaai (Babul ki duwaein, Neel Kamal), melancholic (Yaad na jaaye, Dil Ek Mandir), philosophical (Yeh mahlon yeh takhton yeh tajon ki duniya, Pyaasa), devotional (Duniya na bhaye, Basant Bahar), classical (Nache mann mora, Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen), and qawwali (Na to carvaan ki talash, Barsaat Ki Raat) genres with so much fervour and effortless ease?
This effortlessness is perhaps his unique quality. Other than heavy classical songs, I have not heard a Rafi song where he struggles through an octave or to convey the nuance of the song exactly as intended by the lyricist. Indeed, there isn't a genre of Hindi film music that is not embellished by him.
The 1950s and early1960s were unquestionably the golden age of Hindi film music. The 1950s particularly so because of the simplicity, lightness, and melody of the compositions. Diverse composers like Shankar-Jaikishen, S D Burman, C Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, Sajjad Hussain, Madan Mohan, and Naushad infused a sense of variety into the music.
There were great lyrics for composers to work on. The stars of Hindi cinema stayed at their peak till about the mid- to late-1960s. Therefore, it isn't surprising that Rafi's golden age lasted till the replacement of melody by rhythm or the decline of fine composers and actors for whom Rafi sang, such as Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, and Dev Anand.
The Kishore Kumar-Rajesh Khanna combination took the industry by storm with Aradhana. This pushed Rafi into the back row. But he delivered a few hits in the 1970s with songs for Laila-Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sargam, and Karz.
Some readers may be surprised to find Dev Anand mentioned above. The popular mythology of Hindi cinema puts forth the view that Kishore Kumar was the voice of Dev Anand. This is disputable. Rafi's songs for Dev Anand in movies like Nau Do Gyarah, CID, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, Asli Naqli, Love Marriage, Gambler, Hum Dono, Kala Bazaar, Kala Paani, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne and Guide are of extremely high quality.
Guide, in fact, is a very interesting example from the point of view of comparing Kishore Kumar and Rafi's singing for Dev Anand. If Kishore had a Gata rahe mera dil, Rafi had three solos: Din dhal jaye, Tere mere sapne, and Kya se kya ho gaya. It is interesting to note that S D Burman chose Rafi for three pivotal songs in the movie, which have a heavy dose of pathos and drama.
I became a devoted Rafi fan quite by accident. I was in class VII. My father bought a new Philips cassette player. My brother was already a Rafi admirer. He bought an HMV cassette with Rafi's solos. At that time, I was fascinated by Kishore Kumar's yodelling and his songs for Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. But my fascination for Kishore diminished quite rapidly as I listed to Rafi gems like Aise toh na dekho (Teen Deviyan, S D Burman), Aaye bahar (Rajhath, Shankar-Jaikishen), Hai duniya usiki (Kashmir Ki Kali, O P Nayyar).
Making a list of Rafi's songs is no easy task. There are literally hundreds of songs of his that I adore. But years of being a hardcore Rafi fan helped me to discover some real gems in his large body of work that are not often heard, yet showcase his remarkable talent and are of exquisite quality.
Here are a few:
|Tera husn rahe mera ishq rahe||Do Dil||Hemant Kumar|
|Kabhi na kabhi||Sharabi||Madan Mohan|
|Yeh hasrat thi||Nausherwan-e-Adil||C Ramchandra|
|Carvaan guzar gaya||Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal||Roshan|
|Mohabbat zinda rehti hai||Genghis Khan||Hansraj Behl|
|Us paar is deewar ke jo rehte hain||Saiyyan||Sajjad Hussain|
|Tujhe kya sunaoon main dilruba||Aakhri Dao||Madan Mohan|
|Meri kahani bhoolne wale||Deedar||Naushad|
|Kahan ja rahe the||Love Marriage||Shankar Jaikishen|
|Hum tum jisse kehta hai||Kagaz Ke Phool||S D Burman|
For the purists, Mohammed Rafi may not have been the most technically gifted singer. Indeed, many talk about Talat Mehmood, Mukesh, and even Kishore Kumar as better singers than Rafi. Without denigrating these other greats, I would invite fellow fans of Hindi cine music to rediscover Rafi's versatility.
For fans of Kishore's energetic and bubbly songs, I present a fitting riposte by Rafi. Lal lal gaal from Mr X, and She ne khela he se aaj cricket match, the crazy cricket number from Love Marriage.
For admirers of Talat Mehmood's dulcet voice, I present Meri mehboob from Ghazal and the beautifully picturised Apni to har aah from Kala Bazaar.
Mohammed RafiListen to Rafi as he matches Mukesh's pathos in Gham-e-hasti from Vallah Kya Baat Hai and Jinhe naaz hai from Pyaasa.
During my early years, listening to Chhayageet, Aap Ki Farmaish and Bela Ke Phool every evening on Vividh Bharati was like a religious ritual. Listening to radio has perhaps nurtured several generations of Hindi film music buffs. The present generation, however, seems to prefer remixes.
On July 31, 1980, Rafi passed on, leaving behind thousands of songs and millions of mourning listeners. Perhaps the coming generations will appreciate and savour the richness of his music for years to come.
There will never be another Mohammed Rafi. His song in Dil Ek Mandir says it all: Jaane waale kabhi nahi aate. Jaane wale ki yaad aati hai. [Those who go away never return. But their memory stays with us forever.]
An article on Rafisaab by Syed Badrul Ahsan as it appeared in NEW AGE, Dhaka (Bangladesh) - mohanflora.
If you have heard Mohammad Rafi, if you recall his songs, you do not need much more to convince yourself that his was an age of glory. He was the glory and the age was his. Think of the duet he sings with Lata Mangeshkar, Kabhi Raat Din Hum Door They / Din Raat Ka Ab Saath Hai, and you will have all those feelings of pristine passion rise up in your soul. People like you, like me, grew up listening to some of the best songs around us. Expand the idea a little, and what you have is the feeling, the knowledge that we have all been part of a world where cultural diversity has meant an enhancement of our sensibilities. Yes, we are speaking of the Indian subcontinent, of India as we knew it in the days before the division of the land. For all the political segmentation of the land, we have remained conscious of the common heritage we as a people, all the way from the mountain passes of the North-West Frontier through the plains of the Deccan to the beaches of Cox's Bazaar, have been heir to.
It is within such an ambience that we recall the times of Mohammad Rafi. Remember that he has been dead for a quarter of a century and yet you know that he lives in the deepest recesses of your mind. There was in him the pain that came of knowledge of tragedy. In songs like Tootey Hue Khwabon Ne / Hum Ko Ye Sikhaya Hai, you have emerging before you, in the manner of the pale moon on a cold winter night, all the heartache that you have gone through. You hum the song and then find yourself moving into a new phase of expressive sadness through the inimitable Yaad Na Jaye Beete Dino Ki. It is Rajendra Kumar and Meena Kumari you glimpse in the old mirror of memory. It could well be someone you miss, a lover who remains out of reach. When you hear Rafi sing, it is a broken soul going through its own distinctive purgation of feelings somewhere deep inside you. The emotions that come in Rafi's sad music often elevate themselves to a higher plane of feeling. His pain is transferred to Guru Dutt, who in turn injects the feeling into us. The song that we hear is Kahan Hain / Kahan Hain Muhafiz Khudi Ke / Jinhe Naz Hai Hind Par Wo Kahan Hai.
You move, soon, from the patriotic to the spiritual. How many songs have you heard, in all of the languages that you know, that possess the sublimity of Parwardigar-e-Alam Tera Hi Hai Sahara / Tere Siwa Jahan Mein Koi Nahin Hamara? That is where Rafi's essence lies embedded. There was versatility in the man, there were in him qualities that are truly rare in artistes in these times of the banal and the inconsequential. He could be flippant and yet he could be dead serious in his romantic expression of love. If the 1960s song, Kanto Mein Phansa Anchal / Zulfon Mein Phansa Yeh Dil / Hai Ho Gayee Mushkil, made us feel like men just stepping out of our teens and into initial love, the 1950s number, Mohabbat Choome Jinke Haath / Jawani Paon Parhe Din Rath / Suney Phir Haye Wo Kis Ki Baat took us through a process of graduation in studies of the heart. The poetry, rich and sensuous in its quality, was the work of men who observed the world in terms of verse. In the delivery of the poetry, it was the melody in Rafi that carried the day. The Bahadur Shah Zafar ghazal, Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon / Na Kisi Ke Dil Ka Qarar Hoon, only added a new dimension to Rafi's songs. He was the singer and yet he was more than that. He became the emperor, imprisoned and lonely in the strangeness of foreign territory. But Rafi as emperor could quickly evolve into Rafi the revolutionary, depicted in the image of Dilip Kumar proclaiming before the multitudes, Apni Azadi Pe Hum Sar Jhuka Sakte Nahin. Move on, move on, until you spot Rafi reaching out to the little child enmeshed in her birthday celebrations. In Ayee Hain Baharen Mitey Zulm O Sitam / Pyar Ka Zamana Aya Door Hue Gham / Ram Ki Lila Rang Layee / Shyam Ne Bansi Bajayee, there is a purity of spirit that comes through the trembling sentiments of an avuncular soul. You could go back home and sing the song to your children, to all the children you accost on the way home.
There are few in our generation who will easily forget the songs Rafi sang for the movie Aan. Yes, Dil Mein Chhupa Ke Pyar Ka Toofan will always be there, but try recalling that slower number, Takra Gaya Tumse Dil Hi To Hai / Roye Na Ye Kyun Ghayel Hi To Hai. You will then remember once again, after all these years of passing from youth into middle age, the pleasure that once came of your being in love with women who did not quite understand the ache in your wildly beating heart. And that, by the way, is the cruelty the world has generally dealt its lovers. Which is when we can only sing a song like Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya / Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Urhata Chala Gaya. But not all love promises to be a fleeting, tragic beating of the drums at night. There are those that keep alive the spirit of youth, as if for ever. How else would you explain the permanent scars that have been left on your being by such Rafi numbers as Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Hi Rang Hain or Aaj Ki Raat Ye Kaisi Raat / Ke Humko Neend Nahi Aati? Or there is the song that Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore share, Diwana Hua Badal / Sawan Ki Ghata Chhai / Ye Dekh Ke Dil Jhuma / Li Pyar Ne Angrhai. Or there is that fabulous point in love when Dev Anand and Sadhana croon, as twilight descends around them and the town lights loom in the distance, Abhi Na Jao Chhorh Kar / Ke Dil Abhi Bhara Nahin.
There, ladies and gerntlemen, is Mohammad Rafi for you. He created and then inhabited, all by himself, a whole world. The ability in him to transform himself into a voice suiting the moment, the sheer zeal to make men on the screen come level with him through his music was a quality that remains unmatched to this day. He lived in an era when giants —- Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Manna De —- made their own, singular contributions to the world of song. And yet Rafi stayed ahead of them, for there was in him the extraordinary capability of singing songs that lifted the heart to deeper levels of tragedy, as in Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Halaat Pe Rona Aya, or to push it into deeper stages of pregnant passion, as in Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya / Baithe Baithe Jeene Ka Sahara Ho Gaya.
We could go on and on talking of Rafi and singing his songs. No one who understands the culture of this subcontinent can ignore the impact Rafi has had on our lives. He forced us to think of music as food we could not do without. He informed us, through the deep tenor of romance in his voice, that it was necessary to fall in love, to lose the women we thought we could take along with us on a journey to the ends of the universe. We lose, yes. All the love, all the poetry we compose dissipates into nothingness as night falls. Yet in the brightness of a gathering twilight we sing Chalo Dildar Chalo / Chand Ke Par Chalo.
No journey could be more resonant with meaning than a timeless travel through the starry spaces of creation. And, of course, through the valley of music.
(Mohammad Rafi died on 31 July 1980)
July 31 will never be the same again for Mohd Rafi's innumerable fans the world over. For on this day in 1980, Rafi Saab as he was fondly called, left us for ever, succumbing to a massive heart attach at age 56. And Tu Kahin Aas Paas Hai Dost, from Aas Paas became the last recorded song of the legend.
The fateful day, as Rafi left the recording studio for his home one last time, he gently turned to Laxmikant-Pyarelal and said Main chaloon? Few moments later Rafi repeated To main chalta hoon. This surprised the composers, as Rafi had never bid them farewell in this manner before.
The words proved to be prophetic. Mohd. Rafi left us forever the same evening at 7.30 p.m leaving behind a golden legacy of immortal songs, for every mood and for every occasion.
In a recent tribute to the legend, Lata Mangeshkar said, Singers like Rafi aren't born every day.
Nobody can sing like Rafi, said the never ageing Rekha after recording the immortal number, Din dhal jaye, raat na jaye from Guide, in her own voice for her upcoming film.
Born in Sultan Singh Kotla, a small town near Amritsar on Dec 24, 1924, Rafi grew up admiring K.L.Saigal, whose singing style freely mingled with Rafi's earlier songs. Realizing Rafi's passion, his elder brother Hamid placed the young Rafi under the tutelage of classical singer Ustad Wahid Khan. Mohd. Rafi duly became a radio star at age 13 and his first recording, a duet with Zeenat Begum, was for the Punjabi film Gul Baloch.
Thereafter, Rafi came to Mumbai, armed with a letter from composer Naushad's father. In 1944, Naushad used Rafi's untested but promising volcas in the film Pehle Aap in which he crooned those memorable lines Hindustan Ke Hum Hai, Hindustan Hamare Hai
In a short time Mohd. Rafi was to become the voice of Hindustan. National recognition came from the hit number Yahan badla wafa ka, bewafai Ke Siwa Kya Hai, a composition by Feroz Nizami.
A young nation's passion and mood to surge ahead found expression in the immortal lyrics of great lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh, and many others. Music wizards of this golden era like Naushad, O.P.Nayyar, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Khayyam, Laxmikant-Pyarelal wove magical tunes around mesmerising lyrics. And the vocals that made these immortal were those of the incomparable master of the trade, the inimitable Mohd. Rafi.
Over the next three decades, Rafi's versatile voice resounded through the lips of heroes and other Hindi film characters, whom Rafi could easily impersonate. From Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Shashi and Rishi Kapoor, to Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Johnny Walker and Kishore Kumar - Mohd Rafi play backed for all of them.
A tee totaler and family man to the core, Rafi is the shining example of a singer who lit the way and blazed the trail for numerous aspiring singers, from Mahendra Kapoor to Anwar, Shabir Kumar right down to Sonu Nigam. Music director Uday Majumedar, of Buniyaad fame, says, Rafi would never cancel a recording even when struck with a sore throat or illness since he rightly believed in not depriving the musicians of their day's earnings.
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