Mohammed Rafi Sahab – The voice of all seasons and all reasons
By Salim K
If there are 101 ways of saying ‘I love you‘ in a song, Mohammed Rafi Sahab knew them all and much more. The friskiness of teen romance, the philosophy of unrequited love and the anguish of heartbreak – he could explore every crevice of ardor in the most effortless and unmatched manner.
It wasn’t just love, his voice could capture all the emotions and moods of life – a failed poet’s melancholy, a fiery unionist’s vim, a debt-ridden farmer’s despair, a young man’s dream, heart of a lover and anybody who was somebody, Rafisahab had the amazing and rare quality of expressing it through his matchless and perfect voice. Rafisahab ,whose stupendous career spanned nearly four decades, was indeed a singer for every season and every reason.
It all began much before the the first song that Rafi Sahab sang was in Punjabi for the film ‘Gul Baloch‘, a duet with Zeenat Begum ‘Soniye ni heeriye ni‘ for composer Feroze Nizami spotted the young singer’s potential and found him a job at Radio Lahore. The everlasting fragrance came to the knowledge of people at a private concert of the legendry KL Saigal.
When the legendry KL Saigal heard a 15 year old boy get up and sing in front of a large audience gathered there to hear Saigal , an epic of immeasurable proportions was getting its beginning. With no sound system or cutting edge equipment that we have today that could make anyone sound like a singer, the young boy with his most potent resource, his voice, left a tremendous impact on Saigal Sahab who said that the boy would achieve great things in art of singing. If Saigal Sahab was alive to see what that 15 year old boy achieved, he would have said that his estimate about the boy was very modest as greatness was just the beginning of what he achieved, his achievements stand monumental at the upmost pinnacle of not only singing but of the entire fabric of the music world.
A voice and a person of true legendary status, unmatched and unchallenged in each and every sur and taal of singing. A legend that raised the bar of singing every time he sang, a voice that joined hearts, a voice that united nations, a voice that sprouted the seeds of freedom and love, a voice that galvanized millions, a voice that was and is a household name, a voice that inspired his peers and other future singers, a voice that inspired music directors to go out of their comfort zones, a voice that help shape careers of actors, a voice that created an industry of music, a man that smiled more than he talked, a man whose most prized possessions besides his voice was his respect, modesty, integrity and generosity. A man who gave the innumerable impressions of his great voice in each passing decade, impressions that have left a permanent mark in our hearts and minds a true gentleman who only had good to say about others.
A legend of epic proportions whose undisputed rule began on that stage with Saigal Sahab and continued till 31 st July 1980 when he left us physically and even after 30 years of passing by one sees that no has taken the throne of the emperor as it is impossible for anyone to take that status, a status that has now become a fact, a matter of pride and celebration of the life of the greatest singer of all time, the one and only, Rafisahab.
Rafi Sahab was and is one of the greatest forces in the history of the Indian sub-continent culture. His Immortal Golden Voice still rules the hearts of millions of Indian music lovers and others the world over. Rafi Sahab is indeed the greatest singers of all times and the evidence is out there just like the rising of the sun every day. It is impossible to conceive of another singer ever attaining the range, the versatility and the awesome emotion that his golden voice contains. As time goes by the seasons continue refreshing the environment with the silky beauty of his voice that keeps touching and enlightening millions of hearts the world over.
Rafisahab was not just the champion singe but a song maker. His voice raised the quality of the music and the lyrics and motivated other singers who saw him as a Guru and an inspiration. Even stalwarts like Lata, Mana Dey, Talat, Mukesh, Kishore, and Hemant Kumar acknowledged the unmatched skills and greatness of Rafisahab. I like to end this article with some comments of other legends and artistes on the impact Rafisahab created in every aspect of song making.
Jagjit Singh: “Agar Rafisahab sirf gazal gaate tho sab gazal singeron ki chooto ho jaati” – If Rafisahab had only sang gazals, gazal singers would be out of work.
SP Balsubramanium: He is matchless, no one can sing like him, we can only try to sing, he used to sing. We all consider him to be our Guru.
Anu Malik: Rafisahab singeron mein sabse badae sahab thay – He was the sahab amongst all singers I worked with.
Hasrat Jaipuri: He is the only singer that has done 100% justice to my lyrics
Pyarelal: Jaise Lata ji is the icon in female singing, Rafisahab is the icon of male singing, woh ek shahshan they aur hein.
Yesudas: He was my Guru, whatever I am today is because of Rafisahab.
Kishore Kumar: Rafi sahab can sing one song in 100 ways which I can sing in one way
Lata: None of us had the vocal range that Rafi bhaiya had. I always enjoyed singing with him. A singer of his quality comes once in a lifetime.
Shabbir Kumar: I am convinced that Rafi sahib is the only complete singer I have ever heard.
RD Burman: I wish if I had worked more with Rafi, I miss his vocal magic. One could write a book on what other stalwarts feel about Rafisahab. He is indeed an inspiration for all generations.
Rafi Sahab was the sort of genius who appears once in a life-time ; unique, his golden voice continues to flow like essence drawn from several jewels, a constellation which enriches, in a mystical way, the firmament of music, the spiritual peak of eternal silence and of the celestial world that listens to itself through the voice of cherubic Mohammed Rafi Sahab, the immortal singer who is interpreter of that very sublime silence.