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A Letter to Raju Bharatan: On Rock ’n Roll

from P. Haldar

Mohd Rafi and Jaikishan
Mohd Rafi and Jaikishan

Mr. Bharatan,

I read your recent article “Pancham Revisited” in Hindustan Times (January 4, 2008). The article starts with the following statements about Pancham:

“He scored for 331 films in 32 years. How does his Kishore Kumar song-tally compare with Asha Bhosle’s? Where Kishore sang 558 songs for him (227 solo, 245 duets), Asha rendered 840 of his compositions (406 solo, 338 duets).”

Considering that Kishore and Asha sang hundreds of songs under Pancham’s baton and the fact that they were his favourite singers, I was expecting you to continue in that vein, probably offering insights into the qualitative differences between the two, and the chemistry that they shared with him. Unfortunately, however – but somewhat along expected lines – you bring in Rafi to the discussion, which was totally unnecessary. Reproduced below are some excerpts from your article:

"But I’d rehearsed Rafi so often for Dada that I could go along with him so far, no further. It was so tough to get Rafi to amend something you’d already taught him!

"Take my breakthrough Asha-Rafi Teesri Manzil duet – Aa jaa aa jaa.

“Rafi wasn’t able to grasp the nuances of Aa jaa aa jaa at all! How Rafi struggled as Asha so exemplarily stretched the crucial Aaha-ha aa jaa aaha-ha aa jaa notes. Give me Kishore any time – he would’ve latched on to it in a trice.

"Only I know how I got Rafi to do Tum ne mujhe dekhaa!

"With OP, remember, Rafi was on his home Punjabi ground. I don’t agree I was more patient with Kishore, not so patient with Rafi. No matter how patient I was with Rafi, he slipped into the same vocal error – time and again.”

Mr. Bharatan, why do you write such garbage? Do you have the interview on tape? If not, people might ignore what you write, thinking that you have become senile or hallucinatory. Or worse still, readers might think that you have problems telling the truth, that you adorn your articles with your jaundiced viewpoints to make a quick buck. Most Rafians actually feel that way, but what I was surprised to find is that several RDent fanatics feel the same way too.

Since you mentioned Pancham’s experiences with Rafi in Aa jaa aa jaa, let me state a few facts. I have heard Rafi sing this trendsetting duet live on stage several times. And every time he sang, he would leave us breathless. He could sing such songs in his sleep.

Mohd rafi with R. D. Burman and Asha Bhosle
Mohd rafi with R. D. Burman and Asha Bhosle

After Rafi passed away, Amin Sayani had interviewed Pancham and several other composers. This is what I recall what Pancham had said. He had approached Rafi a little apprehensively for singing the Yamma yamma duet for Shaan along with him: “Rafi saab, aap hamare saath gaayenge?” Pancham was a little hesitant because he knew that Rafi would have to adapt to his scale, but Rafi immediately acquiesced. Pancham then went on to say something along the following lines: “Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle – har singer ka ek range hota hai – lekin Rafi saab ka range kamaal tha”. Do you notice any mark of disrespect towards the legendary singer? Yes, Kishore was his favourite singer, but Pancham still recorded over 100 songs with Rafi. If Rafi had not passed away prematurely, the chances are that the number would have crossed 200.

If you are suffering from senility, let me request you listen to Yamma yamma yamma. No, I am not talking about the yummy duet from Shaan, which Rafi delivered so well with Pancham. The song I am talking about is from the period when Shakti Samanta used to travel to several exotic destinations on the wings of Rafi’s voice, much before Dada blessed him with Safal hogi teri aradhana. This one happens to be set in Chinatown, with Asha on Helen and Rafi on Shammi. Listen to Shammi carefully, because you may not be able to recognise His Master’s Voice:

Yamma Yamma Yamma Tu Parwana Main Shamma

It is a well-known fact that Pancham shot into the big league on the back of Rafi’s vocals in Teesri Manzil, his prior exploits with Lata in different raags notwithstanding. Aa jaa aa jaa main hoon pyar tera was not set in any raag, though some may claim that it was composed in raag pancham. Tell me one thing, Mr. Bharatan: Which other male singer could have delivered this song so effectively, with such punch? This song belongs to the rock ’n roll genre, set on a fast pace. The only other male singer who could have done some justice to such songs was Pancham himself; that is what he did later in songs like Duniyan mein logon ko. And that is why when he had to share Yamma yamma with another male singer, he had to opt for Rafi.

What Asha has said in public – not that I fully trust her – about the Aa jaa aa jaa episode does not tally with what you have written. She said that Pancham was worried that she would not be able to match the “male singer” in the song. So she started practising the Aaha-ha aa jaa aaha-ha aa jaa notes in her car, much to the consternation of her chauffeur who thought that she was having some major physical problems!

Rock ’n roll did not start in India with Teesri Manzil. The year Pancham ghost composed Sar jo tera chakraye for Pyaasa, Dada’s other assistant N. Dutta composed Lal lal gaal jaan pe hai lagu for Rafi, one of the pioneering rock ’n roll numbers from Mr. X. And listen to Rafi’s Jaan pehchaan ho from Gumnaam, a Shankar-Jaikishan composition which was recently featured in the American film Ghost World:

Jaan Pehechan Ho

Incidentally, Gumnaam was released a year before Teesri Manzil. See how Western audiences – who know much more about rock ’n roll than you and your fellow scribes put together – love this song. See how Rafi can enthrall people so far from his Punjabi home ground. That was Rafi doing an Elvis. Do you want to see Rafi doing a Beatles? Here is Dekho ab to kisko nahin hai khabar from Janwar, which was also released a year before Teesri Manzil:

Dekho Ab To Kisko

Don’t you think Rafi’s voice rocks in this song? If Pancham had to work so hard to make Rafi amend what he had been taught – by Pancham of all people – I wonder how Shankar and Jaikishan must have felt making Rafi unlearn what he had been taught by the likes of Naushad, Roshan and Madan Mohan! All those compositions in Malkhaus, Piloo, Kafi, Yaman Kalyan, Kalavati and Darbari Kanada where Rafi must have had “slipped into the same vocal error time and again”! The truth is that composers like Shankar-Jaikishan, O. P. Nayyar, Ravi, N. Dutta and Usha Khanna had been using Rafi for rock ’n roll numbers since the 50s and no singer understood the medium better than the King himself; here are some of his songs in black & white:

Dil Deke Dekho

Baar Baar Dekho

O Meri Baby Doll

Jai took note of chhote nawab’s Aa jaa aa jaa and O haseena zulfowali impact on the masses. And the following year, he responded brilliantly with Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche, where Rafi makes Shammi rock:

Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar Ke Charche

Don’t you just love the orchestration? By the way, that was Manohari Singh on the sax.

You mentioned Tum ne mujhe dekha in your article, too. In another article, I’ll showcase Jai’s response to this beautiful number (hint: it’s in shivranjani, but on a faster tempo.) Till then, enjoy another rock and roll number, this time on a Bengali star:

Chhoti Si Mulaqaat Pyaar Ban Gayi

Yours truly,

P. Haldar,
a diehard Rafian.

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130 Blog Comments to “A Letter to Raju Bharatan: On Rock ’n Roll”

  1. balasubrahmanyam chitti says:

    Md.Rafi was pioneer of rock & roll songs….sang all the top songs of Shammi..
    shammi was all the time a standing tropy of Rafisaabs prowess in singing R&R
    rajuBharatan ko goli maaro

  2. Neeraj Anand says:

    Asha’s claim of her singing आजा आजा मैं हूँ better than Rafi sahab loses its ground by another of her anecdote about the same song.

    She said on the same TV program as I have mentioned another thing that
    “While rehearsing for this very song how she dashed into Lata ji ‘s room who reminded the younger sister of being a मंगेशकर.

    So much tension, so much pressure , so much clan reminder ☺☺☺☺
    but she sang better than the Sultan of Song.
    Very Strange ☺

  3. Neeraj Anand says:

    Asha’s claim of her singing आजा आजा मैं हूँ better than Rafi sahab loses its ground by another of her anecdote about the same song.

    She said on the same TV program as I have mentioned another thing that
    “While rehearsing for this very songshe

  4. Virendra says:

    The article being referred to is an extract from Raju Bharatan’s book…. “DOWN MEMORY LANE”
    The following is the review I posted on the book seller’s site after purchasing and reading the book.

    FARRAGO – A confused mixture.
    While you read the book, you can’t help but wonder that the real superstar/celebrity of the so called CineSangeet World is the author himself.
    Consider this, almost every musician/singer happens to be a close confidant of the author, in whom they confide almost EVERTHING. He is the INSIDER, OUTSIDER, ALLROUNDER. All supposed, first hand accounts!
    Wether this is a work of fact or fiction, or a blend of both, is as good as a guess but like an entertainment tabloid, it is most definitely sensational!
    Author has endeavoured to directly or indirectly, sling mud on almost (believe it or not) every doyen of the music world through his facts and/or fiction. Almost NO ONE is spared criticism in some way or the other and (believe it or not) demigods like RafiSaab, LataMadam and AshaJi, seem to have been given more than the fair share of the author’s MUD.
    What reigns most supreme, is the orderly disorder in the arrangement of the chapters hence the FARRAGO heading.
    I abandoned reading the book halfway.
    I am relatively NEW to the intricacies of the Music World but if this is the work of someone who is considered to be one of the Best, if not “The Best” in the business, God Help Us!

  5. Sharad says:

    Jis Kutte ne Raju Bharatan ko kata tha woh bad me PAGAL ho gaya . Raju ko attention seeking syndrome hai , psychitrist ki jaroorat hai

  6. Ahamed Kutty says:

    It is common for the Kishore fans to compare Rafi Saab with
    KK and if they failed they will bring other singers like Gantasaala
    to defend their happened in the Kishore forum and very
    good comments were there from both sides and in the last it
    lead to the almost closure of that site.They are foolish to think
    that Rafi Saab and KK are in the same level and when they come
    to know the limitations of KK they kept quiet.One KK fan even
    said the period when KK was not that much active in the Golden
    era was a wastage as far as Hindi Music is concerned!!!!

  7. shammi says:

    Mercy you are absolutely correct there was 3 decades of beautiful music and songs when Rafi reigned which was then dominated with a very short period of time when Kishore had some years of glory, but how many of those songs that Kishore sang during that period can anyone really classify as popular or classic today?

    Lets face it Mohd Rafi was the choice for many whether it be the public, music directors or the stars themselves so instead of those that disagree arguing let these facts speak for themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .

  8. mercy says:

    Oops! My previous comment of June 2nd was not meant for this article, but for the article by J.K.Bhagchandani (An open letter to Rafi demeanors). But I am not withdrawing most of what I wrote. It applies to all Rafi detractors who dig deep to find garbage and on finding none, manufacture it. While there is no singer worth comparing to Rafi you will see that many fans of other singers try to do just that because he is the best.

  9. mercy says:

    Here is another example of the worse type of Kishore fans. Most of the Kishore fans like his voice and prefer him for that. they don’t make outlandish claims about his singing ability. Then there is the other kind that are delusional with no ability to appreciate real music. They show certain traits such as an obsession with Rafi, a burning need to demean him in whatever crooked way possible, an uncanny ability to fabricate false anecdotes and an inability to appreciate character. They have no trouble in ignoring all proofs in front of them that establish Rafi’s superiority as a singer. Yes, Kishore was immensely popular for a decade following 3 decades of Rafi’s reign. These second class Kishore fans mistake popularity and Kishore’s other talents as actor, writer and producer for singing prowess. Rafi has acted in small roles in couple of movies and I do not see any Rafi fan touting him as a better actor than Kishore.

  10. Sara says:

    Excellent article, and Kannan if anyones comments are biased than it’s yours because this article is based on facts and not fiction like your comments. For a singer to be classed as great surely they should excel in every genre and no one and I mean no one can beat Mohd Rafi in this. Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar are not even in the same league and really should not be compared. Kishore kumar was talented but certainly not to the level and extent as Mohd Rafi.

  11. Narayan says:

    No one in the Hindi film music can come close to Rafi sahab in singing all genre of playback from patriotic bhajan to yoddeling ghazal etc
    Manna da famously said Rafi sahab is toppest and all singers can be counted from 10 th position only

  12. KANNAN says:

    Raju Bharatan is a very biased writer with due respects to Mohd.Rafi Kishore was 2nd to none he will always be remembered the most talented & versatile singer ever. Kishore will always remain miles ahead of any singer male or female

  13. shammi says:

    Dr Abbas sir I have to say I totally agree with your comments and take comfort from the fact that despite all those in the industry who tried hard to sideline Mohd Rafi and give rise to Kishore Kumar that the love from his fans is just as strong now than it’s ever been and Mohd rafi continues to reign ahead of Kishore Kumar in a recent poll carried out by Eastern eye. He came 3rd after Asha Bhondsle and her sister Lata . Personally I would have placed him first.

    Mohd Rafi has obviously appealed to lots of the newer generation too and long live his memory

  14. URK says:

    HAIDER Saab Thank you for setting right facts about Rafi Saab. A great human being and Great Artist. We can’t imagine Bollywood golden music without Rafi Saab. Regards

  15. DR ABBAS says:

    With all due respect,
    First of all salaam and a lot has been said about raju bharatan and his so called denigrating comments on RAFI SAHABS singing as laid out by Mr RD a matter of fact remains that truly speaking raju bharatan wears his heart on his sleeve and rather represents a honest preclude to cynical dramas behind the curtains in HFM.lets see the facts that speak for itself.
    1.its a well known fact that the trio of rajesh khanna ,rd burman,shakti samanta led a bandwagon to keep RAFI sahab on the bay while making every bit possible to help kishore kumar attain the numero uno position after quite a struggle for long 20 odd cannot be denied that rd burman getisoned rafi too much earlier along with his father by jewel thief.i would not like to speak ill of anyone.but to make your views loud and clearer one has to be on the top.GUIDE made sd burman achieve the pinnacle which sd burman was longing for.after this he and his son were waiting for the right moment to propel the career of kk which was still loitering in the doldrums.aadhana proved to be the noahs ark for them.never in their respective career did they prefer RAFI overKK.they both knew how to handle the industry and its tantrums.with all due respect,sd burman though used RAFI more than KK from 1955 TO 1965.41 SOLOS FOR RAFI SAHAB AND 14 SOLOS FOR KISHOREDA..but dis was also because during this time every single music director knew that to beat someone in the same game they required the best.and hence the obvious choice was RAFI SAHAB.
    2.SECONDLY,as far as all my hard work went raju bharatans articles from 1980 to this day,folks,never had he said a wrong thing about RAFI SAHAB.HE solemnly maintained that if there was ever any singer male or female to have unparalled control on the ART RAFI SAHAB WAS THE ONLY ONE AND PROBABLY WILL REMAIN SO.
    3.FROM NOT ONLY raju bharatans article but from many other places articles and from various other sources what i came to know is somewhat the same as echoed by mr bharatan if not just the same in exaggeration.its also very true that the burmans and more strikingly rdb were rather very cold towards RAFI SAHAB.BUT I WOULD ALSO REITERATE THAT NOT ALL THE BENGALI BANDWAGON WAS ACTING AGAINST RAFI SAHAB .UTTAM KUMAR,BISWAJEET AND OTHERS HAD ALREADY CONFIDED IN RAFI AS TO WHAT WAS TO HAPPEN IN D COMING YEARS.
    4.LET ME tell one thing about a misconception that people have reagarding aradhana.the media ia serious circus definitely.first of all sd burman did not pick RAFI SAHAB as his choice for all the songs in was predecided as to who will get the songs in what fashion.
    Thnx ,ALLAH HAFIZ.

  16. shammi says:

    Mr Singh in most peoples opinions there is NO one who can express themselves better than the late great Mohd Rafi whether it be through sad tear jerking songs or uplifting happy songs and he certainly wasn’t below par in expression or anything else for that matter as he was the best in his field as he excelled in everything he sang.

    He certainly wouldn’t have replaced all the singers you have mentioned over the decades if he wasn’t.

    Even Kishore Kumar’s reign in the industry was short lived compared to all the decades Mohd Rafi reigned as king, and for most of us still does!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. B. Iyer says:

    Ghantasala was also superior to Rafi. Rafi never received praise from ghantasala at any point of time – to my knowledge – but it has been the other way round – rafi indeed acknowledged ghantasala as superior, not once, but on three occasions, one was when rafi rehearsed numerous times the song kuhu kuhu number, second was when he heard chal ud ja re panchi of telugu version and the third was when rafi sang telugu songs for Bhale tammudu film in telugu in 1969 , after meeting and obtaining the advise of ghantasala in singing the telugu songs. Are you aware of these facts ? All these three occasions, rafi had categorically stated that ghantasala was far superior to him in singing. In kuhu kuhu rafi even made a statement that I can never sing like ghantasala, rafi went even to that extent. People forget these, because decades have passed for these facts. In HFM, Kishore was better than Rafi.

  18. shammi says:

    Kapil sir, thank you for your comments that definitely echo the words of the majority. I know Mr Singh is entitled to an opinion but why can’t he do that without trying to justify his preference to other singers by making remarks that are not fact based.

    No one can give goosebumps and have the effect Mohd Rafi has with his songs whether they are happy mood lifting songs or the tear jerking sad songs. “Babul Ki Duayen” from the film “Neel Kamal” is a good example of this and there’s no way any other singer could have put that kind of emotions into that song like the great Mohd Rafi did and anyone who has a daughter can’t help but get emotinal and tearful whilst listening to that song!

  19. Arnab says:

    Well said Himmat Singh! Rafi was so overrated. His voice and style did not suite all songs he sang,, Kishore da could also express the sad lyrics better than rafi…

  20. Kapil says:

    Mr. Himmat Singh,

    Can you cite a better Talat/Mukesh/Manna sad song than “Din Dhal Jaye”? In my opinion, in sad songs, Rafi and Talat were supreme followed by Hemant and Mukesh and Rafi was technically better than all of them.

    C Ramchandra didn’t like Rafi is a myth propagated by Raju Bharatn, tell me if C Ramchandra was not fond of Rafi then why did he use Rafi more than other male playback singers? And in my opinion he was a confirmed Rafi lover before he experienced another phenomenon called Lata.

    As for Biswas, he did make some derogatory comments about Rafi but given that he apologized for his comments later and also that he did use Rafi in the movies like Beqasoor, Heer etc..I am sure deep in his heart he knew what phenomenon Rafi was. Anyway, like OP’s bias against Lata does not take anything out of Lata, Biswas’ bias against Rafi too takes nothing out of Rafi.

    In closing, let me cite another sad song by Rafi, composed by C Ramchandra. No one else could have rendered this song so beautifully, not even Talat:

    Ye hasrat thi ki is dunia mein

  21. Himmat Singh says:

    There were established music directors of the late 40s and 50s who were not fond of Rafi’s singing – Anil Biswas and C Ramachandra, for instance.

    Rafi was undoubtedly the most versatile film singer till his death. But that does not mean that his voice and style suited all songs he sang. According to me, he was below par in expression as far as sad, melancholy numbers were concerned. Mukesh, Talat, even Manna Dey could express sad lyrics better.

  22. Ritesh says:

    I wonder why we have made it a habit of using such harsh language while defending our legends..and we put such towering legends into unnecessary fights..Rafi saab,,kishore da,,asha jee and lata jee are four of THE FINEST musical gifts ,.Are we even qualified enough to decide who was the best??,.Enjoy the eternal melodies that they have given to us rather than creating furore over non issues,.Every MD has his favourite singers..Share songs and discuss on songs and stories related to them,..

  23. sreeram says:

    I dont buy that article. i was just listening to one LP number from Pyar kiye Jaa. Rafi saab was incredible in that.


    Raju Bhartan write only trash. He is the most unauthentic film journalist.

  25. P.C. says:

    Rafi saab will always remain unmatched. He was beyond perfection.He was never a favroute of RDB. RDB had only two main singers Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kunar. Other Music Directors like SJ,LP,KA,OPN,Naushad,Madan Mohan,Ravi used Rafi so well

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  27. Poorna says:

    Dear Sri Haldar,

    There is no doubt that RD Burman was to large extent responsible for promoting Kishore at the cost of Rafi saab. Though Rafi saab gave some of the best songs under RD like in Teesri Manzil, Caravan, Hum Kisese Kam Nahin etc, RD was more close to Kishore and hence promoted him. Also Rajesh Khanna penomenon between 1970 -73 ensured that only Kishore sang for him under RD. The difference can be seen the way Laxmikant Pyarelal made Rafi RK’s voice whenever they got a chance to score for RK’s films – Aan Milo Sajna, Hathi Mera Sathi, Do Raste, Mehbooob Kie Mehndi.

    In fact, there is an interesting story of how RD made sure that the song “Tum bin jaoon kahan” in Pyar Ka MAusam sung by Kishore was forced on producers of the movie for repeats in the movie though Rafi had sung the same song so nicely. (I read this story in the excellent biography on RD by Anirudha Bhattacharya and Balaji Vittal). I quote from the book.

    “Mohammed Rafi might have been right to feel that history had dealt unfairly with him by chronicling the purported Rafi v/s Kishore duel as the highlight of the film. “Tum bin jaoon kahan” was used five times in the film. Initially all five instances was to be in Rafi’s voice till Pancham and his musicians coaxed Nasir Hussain into giving the vesrsion to be picturised on hero’s father Bharat Bhushan to Kishore kumar” (Page 80, above book)

    This clearly shows that RD used Rafi saab whenever he wanted and got best out him but never gave him the same opportunity like the way he gave to Kishore. Rafi saab being a gentlemen and humble to the core, never fought with RD for this injustice. That is the greatness of Rafi saab.

    As the above authors rightly say “Rafi’s presence in Pancham’s compositions was that an esteemed guest – infrequent but fondly remembered”.

  28. No Justification Required says:

    Raffi saab does not need justification from R.D.Burman or anyone on being #1 singer in India. If R.D.Burman says Raffi could not sing fast numbers then it is R.D who needs to learn music not Raffi. Raffi has sung fast numbers that R.D can not even imagine composing. You can take Shankar Jaikishan, L.P, O.P and scores of other music dirctors. Even R.D after saying Raffi can not sing fast numbers took Raffi to sing Chadti jawani meri chaal mastani…..So what does it say about this article. In what context was R.D making this context. It is well known that Raffi picked up song better than any other singer and even added to the song. Just read interviews with L.P (Dosti), Usha Khanna (Hawas) just to give two small examples…………In the end you just have to range of songs Raffi sang. If R.D did make these comments than I feel sorry for R.D for not knowing his music………….

  29. Ali says:

    Sir vishal, I got mohd rafi weaknesses the first weakness was he sang for c crade films when he was at the top,other weakness he sang for new music director who was not even able to pay him,He never replied to people when they compare him with other singer,When opn and rd ignored him but when they back to mohd rafi mohd rafi never said no when mohd rafi was at the top,sing without thinking about the payment,to help new other singers,……..

  30. Ali says:

    Dear vishal sir, this from one of the popular realty show of zee tv. according to him mohd rafi was the best playback singer of the industry. when such a great singer (manna de), acknowledges this fact, then we rafians have enough reason to anybody else’s negative comments about mohd rafi.
    I don’t know about music so I don’t like to say anything about music but I will say what said by people who know about music ,kishore said that I am not a singer by himself in interview with lata ji,u can find it on YouTube ,
    When I said the sun I mean the which we all know so sample there small joke about a man who said that I am going on the sun and his friend it is so hot how you will go there and he said ok I will go at night 🙂
    Opn said that I will make other mohd rafi but he failed and he said it was his biggest mistake in his life……
    Who said sachin is not a great player so that not make any change, in sport sachin is the king,actor mr bachchan,singing mohd rafi and queen lata ji..
    I don’t like lata ji even I don’t listen to her songs but I agree she is the best female singer as said by people who know about music….
    As human almost say that we should have weaknesses but there some human sent by god without weaknesses in music world mohd rafi,this not my words but people who know about music like sj the music director said when we doesn’t agree in song we went to mohd rafi to select ,the list of name is endless who know about music who spoke about mohd rafi greatness, the weakness mean when some one come and do better than mohd rafi did in singing world.
    We don’t know anything about music and we speek about weakness so give one name who spoke about weakness of mohd rafi,
    Manna da said to mohd rafi how you sing it so easy and mohd rafi answered I listen to you,manna da answered back I need to born again to sing like you,as hpmanna da when we sung together I lost in the sung when mohd rafi star to sing…..there are many great names

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