Tribute to Mohammed Rafi
By Aparna Sridhar
Abbas Culturals organised a show at the Kamaraj Arangam last evening, a tribute to Mohammad Rafi. Orchestra was by UK Murali. The immortal songs of Rafi were sung by Anil Bajpai, a talented singer of Rafi songs, who had been specially invited from Mumbai for this purpose. The guest singer for the evening was Chandan, from Chennai. There were also three female singers who gave duet support and also delivered a couple of solos. A very big show, very well –attended and professionally conducted. Kamarajar Arangam is a huge auditorium, and quite the right place for such cultural shows.
It was a wonderfully satisfying evening. Worth every minute spent there, sitting, listening to some great music being turned out by thorough professionals who were both talented and capable and blessed with beautiful voices. The show opened with a prayer by female singers Akhila and others singing a song from the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Well- rendered. There was no looking back after that. The artistes delivered songs one after the other, each one a veritable gem. Obviously the songs had been chosen with great care and passion and it showed. All were well-known songs and the audience could identify with the singers and their songs. The audience connect was terrific and their enjoyment of the music so enthusiastic and whole-hearted that the singers, feeling very encouraged and charged, gave out their very best. All in all, a very successful show and a veritable musical feast.
Anil Bajpai has a beautiful voice, very facile and well-trained. His voice sounds very much like Rafi’s and he uses it to his advantage. He is already very well-known and performs in stage shows regularly. I had not heard him before and it was a pleasant surprise to listen to him sing. He has perfect pitch (something a lot of singers sadly lack), a smooth and rich voice that resembles Rafi’s and a very good sense of music, and not least, a great talent for singing Rafi songs. Hailing from Gwalior, he has been performing for some years now in several cities and also Singapore, Dubai etc. Technically competent and understanding the nuances of Rafi’s songs, Anil Bajpai was a pleasure to listen to. The audience was completely won over by his singing, right from the first song. His confident, smiling and pleasant way of singing and melodious voice endeared the audience to him. A great performance by Anil Bajpai. He had chosen his songs carefully, with an eye to their popularity. Bahaaron Phool Barsao flowed out beautifully, a soft romantic song. Badan Pe Sitare had the audience clapping with him in tandem and Kya Hua Tera Vaada had them tongue-tied, listening enraptured, as they were reminded strongly of Rafi’s beautiful rendering of the song. Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, Aap Yuhin Agar, Yuhin Tum mujhse Baat Karte Ho, Kaun Hai Jo Sapnon Mein Aaya, Sau Baar Janam Lenge, Sarpar Topi Laal, Chup Gaye Saare Nazaare …..beautiful lilting melodies that thrilled the audience. Anil Bajpai knows how to attract audiences and does it well. He is very good when it comes to soft romantic numbers, fast and jolly songs and other foot-tapping numbers of Rafi. His light-hearted way of rendering such songs is a joy to hear. But then, there is another side to Rafi’s songs too. The morose, sad, slow and more emotional and deep songs that need a lot of feeling to be injected into the rendering, a maturity to be shown, which of course he will gain in time. He has tremendous potential.
The singers were well-distributed throughout the show, so that no one singer dominated, and as a result, there was much variety to be enjoyed. There were even female solos and Teri Ankhon Ke siva and Ehsaan tera hoga were sung. In as much as I would like to say that the female singers were brilliant, I have to stop short and say they could have been better. But they did a pretty good job given their limitations.
The guest singer for the evening, specially invited by UK Murali himself was Chandan. Chandan has been singing in such shows for years and is no stranger to star-studded cultural programmes. Having performed in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and other places, he is a Rafi devotee and a brilliant singer blessed with a mesmerising, powerful, melodious and versatile voice that sounds uncannily like Rafi’s. He is known to live and breathe and think Rafi. Such is his love for Mohammed Rafi and his music. He sang just six songs but each one was a gem, by way of composition as well as by singing. And the impact of a mere 6 songs was that of an entire evening’s show. These 6 beautiful songs cast a spell over the audience. Chandan’s USP is that he loses himself in Rafi’s music when he sings. He forgets everything else. Only the song matters. And it shows. Each song is delivered with such perfection, such sweetness and authenticity that it is like a wonderful work of art. It becomes obvious, when he starts to sing, that music is not some light-hearted pastime for him. It is a way of life for him. Period. And so, he gains the willing and eager respect, admiration and fierce loyalty and love of the audience. They recognise him for what he is. A perfect singer. Of Rafi songs. When he sang the first lines of Teri Pyaari Pyaari Surat Ko, his voice reached out to the audience confidently, and liltingly. They listened enraptured, and swayed to Chandan’s magical voice. Main Kahin Kavi na Banjaaun came after a while and even before Chandan could lift the mike to sing the first line, the audience was whooping, whistling and clapping frenziedly. Aa jare Aa zara, Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe, Akele Akele Kahaan Jaa Rahe Ho and Aji aisa Mauka Phir Kahaan came at regular intervals. Akele Akele is a difficult number and starts on a high note and suddenly dips to a low note without warning. Chandan dealt with it in his inimitable way, superbly. Such was his rendering of the song that the audience wanted an encore. In fact, the audience wanted an encore after every song. While Chandan was in the midst of his rendering “Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe”, some Rafi fan came up to the stage and slipped a token amount in the hands of Chandan and touched his feet. I could see that Chandan was pleasantly embarrassed and was caught unawares! Steeped in music with a life-long passion for Rafi’s songs, Chandan enthralled the audience with his lovely selection of songs. It was a fitting tribute to Chandan when someone in the audience mentioned to me, “he sings exactly like Rafi and does not change the originality of the song which is why I adore him and I can hear the words of the songs clearly and his songs and voice touch my heart”. Chandan’s style of singing and the emotions he puts into his rendering convinces me of the fact that he would do full justice to songs like Kabhi Khud Pe, Man Re Tu Kaahe, Kaise Kategi Zindagi, Ae Husn Zara and many many other equally soulful songs.
UK Murali’s orchestra is good, competent and organised. UK Murali himself, being so accomplished and multi-talented and a very good singer himself is testimony to the fact that his shows are all well-conducted and a resounding success. A big thank you to UK Murali for this delightful evening. A true tribute to Mohammed Rafi.