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Muhammad Rafi versus Lata Mangeshkar

by Nadeem Sundoo

Muhammad Rafi versus Lata Mangeshkar

I know that this is indeed a very sensitive topic – nevertheless I feel that I must write about it. The reason for this is that I time and again find articles arguing that Lata Mangeshkar is a better singer than Muhammad Rafi. Sometimes it’s only a short comment, other times it’s a full article. Now, I respect a writer’s right to personal opinion, but whenever any arguments are given in these articles they are of a subjective nature – no real facts are put forward, only subjective opinions are given. If, however, facts had been given to support the opinion I would have accepted it, but instead it prompts me to add some quality and objective arguments to this debate by writing this article.

Muhammad Rafi is the best male playback singer that India has ever produced. If you disagree with this then please read my article posted on this website: The Impact of Mohammad Rafi’s death on India’s music industry. And if you are still not convinced then you are entitled to your personal opinion, however unreasonable it may be. The current article would then probably be a waste of your time, thus you should stop reading any further and continue the blind belief that Kumar Sanu or Kishore Kumar is the embodiment of perfect singing.

On the female side Lata Mangeshkar is considered the best Indian playback singer, but the question that begs to be answered is: Who is the best; Muhammad Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar? A question that many people at one point have thought about, and some may have answered it while others didn’t. And yes, it is a very controversial question and many people would probably advise me not to write about it. Some would argue that the comparison cannot be made due to the pair being a male and a female. I disagree on both accounts and to prove my position I need to apply some rationality and reason. So, first some boring trivia.

Firstly, the question: Who is the best singer; Muhammad Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar? is a legitimate question. Because we ask these types of questions all the time, which is better, PC or Mac? Ferrari or Lamborghini? Lion or Tiger, Rose or Tulip etc. These questions are quite natural, because each object in question represents a capacity for something and we want to know if that level of capacity is the highest or are exceeded by another object. We admire the best and we want the best. Therefore we always want to know who/what the best is.

Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar with Shankar of SJ

And secondly, you can indeed make the comparison between male and female singing, because the two persons in question are delivering the same product – a song. If someone asked you who were the better singer, Lata Mangeshkar or Shabbir Kumar? You would without hesitation answer “Lata Mangeshkar”. And the answer would be the same if you replaced Shabbir Kumar with any other person except Muhammad Rafi or (perhaps for some) Asha Bhonsle. The interesting thing here is that you in this situation do not care if the two persons are of different gender. The greater the gap between the singing skills of the persons in question, the more sure the answer. No one in their right mind would ever acknowledge Dilip Kumar as a better singer than Lata – this is even evident for a child. And why is that? The reason for this is that you instantly evaluate the best songs by the person in question (Shabbir Kumar, Dilip Kumar etc.) with Lata’s best songs and you get your answer immediately; Lata, of course! Even the majority of people would select Lata over Kishore Kumar without any concern for gender (isn’t that correct my dear Kishore Kumar fans?). So why is it that when one compares Lata with Rafi hesitation creeps in for some people. The reasons can be many; here are some of the most important:

  1. Uncertainty due to inadequate knowledge about singing skills: Most people just do not know which qualities makes a good singer, thus they with good reason refrain from taking a position on the matter. This article will shed a light on this.
  2. Blind following of what is conceived correct by other people: Some people do not follow the matter because someone has convinced them that you cannot ask this question, but as argued above this is a very legitimate question which should be allowed to be asked and must be answered. This is just like dogma in religion – you are not allowed to ask the question. I totally disagree here; if the question can be answered then it must be asked.
  3. Inability to decide due to close “competition”: Some people do not permit themselves to choose one above the other because they feel that both singers are so good that it would belittle one if you choose the other. In their minds they feel that because a singer has sung a song that is simply divine, that singer cannot be ranked below other singers. This reasoning is subjective (in most cases it is due to nostalgia); just because one adores one or more songs by a specific singer does not make that singer the best in the world – thus this reasoning would qualify almost every singer in the world as the best singer. And this is exactly the situation today; because no objective analysis has been made on this matter everyone has their personal best singer. But that best singer is a subjectively best singer – we need to establish the objectively best singer; the one that ranks above all others. And the base for valuation must be strictly objective.

So, as you can see all the reasons stated above are unfounded; if you can acknowledge Lata over Shabbir Kumar you have proven that the gender issue does not go into the equation. This means that we can ask the question and rightly we will do so.

In the article mentioned above I argued that the demand for Lata (and Asha and Kishore) declined drastically after Muhammad Rafi’s death. Thus arguing that Rafi’s popularity was independent from these singers and that the popularity of these singers were indeed dependent on Rafi – and only Rafi. This fact alone indirectly proves that Muhammad Rafi was the greater singer. But there is of course a more direct way to verify this – I will try to do that in this article

Now, you may have noticed that I used the word “fact” above. Die hard Lata fans are obviously not used to this word, so I have to elaborate it a bit. A fact is something that is real and thus can be verified objectively. If you apply this criteria to the articles I referred to earlier, it will render their subjective conclusions obsolete. So before any of you Lata fans post a comment for this article please check your facts for subjectivity before commenting. A large number of your arguments fall under this category, the rest falls under the category of lies. This is not surprising because we know for a fact (hmm, that word again!) that Lata did a lot of scheming, lying and plotting against a lot of people in the music industry. And you Lata fans may actual like this aspect of her, because you may be like this yourselves. I have a theory about this: I think that people who defend Lata have the same negative traits in their personality; thus they do not see her as negative (or ignore this aspect of her). Anyway, this is only my subjective opinion – not a fact!

Lata Mangeshkar singing Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon

Just to clear any misunderstandings; I’m not anti-Lata (even though it may sound like that). Countless of her songs are my favorites. I will be the first to defend that Lata is probably the greatest Indian female singer (some would choose Asha). But the fact of the matter is that her personality does not match her heavenly voice; it’s a matter of integrity – something to do with the fact that her voice is beautiful, but that beauty cannot be seen in her person, unlike Muhammad Rafi. Here we have total integrity – not only was Rafi the greatest male singer with the most beautiful voice; his personality were equally great and beautiful – indeed a great role model for any human being. This obviously begs the question: Is it important that a good singer needs to be a good human being as well? Of course not! But if you sing songs about love, compassion, empathy etc. then people expects the same emotions/feelings to some extend in your personality. If your personality then turns out to show significant negative traits, people get confused. They are not able to identify the positive traits of the voice with the negative traits of the person and thus a conflicting love/hate relationship starts developing. This is in essence the relationship I have with Lata; I unconditionally love her voice and songs, but I’m disgusted by her behavior. Sometimes when listening to one of her songs on YouTube a picture of a young and innocent Lata pops up and I think: “O Lata, why did you not stay this innocent all your life? What greatness you would have attained”. It makes me sad and I feel sorry for her; she has thrown away greatness.

Ok, enough subjective opinions, let’s get started with the objective analysis. The analysis consists of the following:

  1. Establish what defines a good singer
  2. Establish how to directly compare two singers
  3. Make the comparison


A: What defines a good singer?

So, what is the definition of a good singer? The experts themselves are divided on this, but it basically boils down to two main aspects; technique and feeling.

Now, the main aim of music and singing is to move you emotionally; any music or song has this as the main goal. To reach this goal you must master both the technical aspects and the feeling/emotional aspects of singing. The technical aspects are like the body and the feeling/emotional aspects are like the soul/personality. If you take out all feeling from a song it will be like a robot singing. There will still be singing ability, but the song will emotionally move you very little.

The technical aspect is a prerequisite for actualizing the feeling/emotional aspects. So, if someone does not master the technical aspects even the greatest amount of feeling/emotion cannot elevate that person to a singer – he will remain an emotional Majnu – never be a soulful singer.

So, let us see if we can breakdown these two main aspects of singing.

The technical aspects of singing are many, of which the following I think are the most important:

  • Accurate intonation and pitch control
  • Ability to sing full range of notes (high, medium and low)
  • Smooth transition when switching notes
  • Modulation of tone
  • Clarity of words
  • Expression of words
  • Power of voice
  • Vocal control throughout the range
  • Fullness/Richness of tone
  • Rhythm
  • Timing
  • Good breath control


The list is far from complete, but I would argue that these criteria define the most important aspects of a singer. These aspects can all be learned. Given enough time, dedication and the right teacher one would be able to master these aspects. The reason for this is that these aspects are all well-defined, thus they can be learned. If you master these aspects you will be able to sing a song with a very high technical quality. This high technical quality will be appreciated by the listener, but he/she will not be touched unless you bring in some feeling/emotion to the singing.

So, how is feeling/emotion put into the music/singing? There are, as I see it, three main feeling/emotion levels in music/singing:

  1. The first level is music without singing (i.e. instrumental music): This is the lowest emotional quality level. Here the level of feeling is determined by the composition of the music and the use of instruments. The emotional quality varies depending on the instrument in use; a flute can convey some types of feelings better that a drum and vice versa. The skills of the musician also plays a role; the better skilled the better emotional quality. The feeling/emotions in this level are thus controlled by the music composer and the people who play the music instruments.
  2. The second level is music with technical perfect singing, but without concern for feeling: This level adds more emotional quality compared to the purely instrumental music. Practically any singer will put in some degree of feeling into the singing, so basically this level is only theoretical. Even so, I have chosen to assign this type of music to its own level because adding vocal to instrumental music raises the emotional quality. The reason for this is that the music is now supported by words that convey the specific emotion f.ex. “Yeh duniya yeh mehfil, mere kaam ki nahin”. The basic meaning of the words carries an emotion even if you do not attempt to sing the words with feelings. And this specific emotion from the singing would be added to the emotion of the purely instrumental music thus adding to the overall emotional quality. So, the additional feeling/emotions in this level are added by the text writer.
  3. The third level is music with technical perfect singing and with feeling: This is the highest emotional quality level. Here not only does the singer sing the words, but do so with feeling, and thus shows directly the emotions that he/she wishes to convey. Please note that this is the only level where a singer has a say about the emotions of the song. Here the feeling/emotions are produced by cooperation between the music composer, the musicians, the text writer and the singer.

A part from these three main levels there are different combinations or variations of these main levels such as singing without music, singing with music but without words etc. But all these sub-categories have emotional quality levels between category 1 and 3.

So, a person’s level of singing ability can be measured by the following

  1. Level of technical ability.
  2. Level of feeling/emotional ability.

As stated earlier please note that a person will not be considered a singer unless he/she has a moderate level of technical ability, thus the standard for been considered a singer is decided by the technical ability – this can be considered as the foundation of a singer. A person with a potentially high level of feeling/emotional ability, but without any technical ability will never be appreciated as a singer. But once you master the technical ability that same feeling/emotional ability that were useless before (singing-wise) now suddenly becomes equally, if not even more, important than the technical ability.

So, a good singer is defined by his/her technical and emotional singing abilities. So, if we are to compare Lata and Rafi it must be based on their technical and emotional singing abilities.


The technical singing ability

Now, I cannot make an absolute comparison of every technical ability of Lata and Rafi, because I’m simply not technically qualified for that. That task must be undertaken by someone else. But even if someone did that and proved one singer technically better that the other singer, that fact alone would not make the technically better singer the overall better singer of the two. However, what is important regarding the technical level is that it has to be attained at master-level by the singers. If one or more technical aspects are only attained at medium level for one of the singers, these medium level abilities will be apparent in the songs and the singer will be considered to be the lesser singer (this is the case for most of the new wave of singers in the 80’s, E.g. Shabbir Kumar do NOT have accurate intonation and pitch control and are not able to sing full range of notes (high, medium and low) nor does he have smooth transition when switching notes). Most of the all-time top 10 singers of the music industry have technical abilities on the master-level. But even though their technical abilities are on master-level the master-level ability may vary from singer to singer, f. ex.

  • Kishore Kumar does not have the same ability to sing high notes like Mukesh
  • Mukesh does not have the same ability to modulate tone as Rafi
  • Talat Mahmood does not have the power of voice as Kishore Kumar
  • Etc.

So on the face of it the level of the technical ability for Lata and Rafi are on master-level – they would individually pass all the technical aspects listed earlier on a very high level.

Even if I cannot make an absolute comparison of every technical ability of Lata and Rafi, I can make a relative comparison and conclude from that. So the question to ask is: “Are there some technical aspects that one singer excels in compared to the other singer?” Yes, there are! Lata obviously lacked some technical abilities since Asha was preferred for fast pace, high pitch songs. So in that sense Asha had some better technical abilities (fast pace singing, high pitch control, smooth transition when switching notes, good breath control) compared to Lata. This fact (not my personal opinion) directly proves that Lata was not perfect in all her technical ability aspects. On the other hand, Rafi was selected for all types of songs and are very versatile in this aspect (this is also a fact!). So the songs that Lata could not master as perfect as Asha were given to Asha, and the male singer selected for these songs were no other than Rafi – in that sense Rafi was Lata and Asha in one! That my friends, is simply fantastic!

Rafi Sahab with Shankar and Shammi Kapoor

And if we compare modulation of voice then there is absolutely no comparison – Rafi was the master of voice modulation – no one came near him in this aspect. Countless examples can be found on his voice modulation due to specific actors in the movies (E.g. Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Johnny Walker, Dev Anand, Jeetendra, Dharmendra). The same cannot be said of Lata (or Asha). Not in a thousand years can you establish which actress Lata (or Asha) is playback singing for on any of their songs. On the same note, never have I heard that any other singer was selected for a song instead of Rafi due to lack of technical skills. And frankly I doubt that any singer excelled Rafi in any of the technical skills to a degree that could make Rafi look amateurish. At best a singer here or there could match one or two technical skills or at best maybe outdo Rafi slightly. But this is only speculation, if anyone one have any proof please bring it forward.

In fact, when you think about it, Lata does not excel in a single technical ability compared to Rafi. Whereas Rafi compared to Lata excels in multiple technical abilities like Modulation of tone, Clarity of words, Expression of words and Good breath control.

Thus the above observations favor Rafi’s technical abilities above Lata’s. So, in that sense Rafi must factually be placed above Lata (and Asha) when comparing the technical abilities. But as stated earlier, a technically better singer is not necessary the overall better singer. The emotional ability is the decisive ability, when technical ability on master-level is attained.


The feeling/emotional singing ability

The feeling/emotional ability is in essence the human touch to the song – the soul of the song. It can be divided into the types of feelings that exist in the emotional spectra, like love, hate, happiness, sorrow etc. – that is obvious. But what is important here is the accuracy of the emotions infused into the song. A love song between a man and a woman must be infused with love as the main emotion, not hate or sorrow or other feelings, E.g. Waqt se din aur raat is a sad song (please note that this is not sad love, but sadness due to unhappy social circumstances), Sambal kar ishq farmaana is a humorous friendly advice song, Resham ki dori is a romantic love song. These three song have a different main emotion, which is easily recognized. Most song however do have an identical main emotion, but differ in the supporting emotion. Chaudhvin ka chand ho is a purely romantic love song, Aap Aye Bahar Ayi is a happy love song. Both songs are mainly love songs, but the main emotion of love must be added with one or more supporting emotions – in this situation respectively romance and happiness. Another example is that not all romantic love songs have the same level of romance nor does all sensual love songs have the same level of sensuality. Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho and Jo Baat tujh mein hai teri tasveer mein nahin are both romantic love songs with the same theme of comparing the beauty of the loved one, but the level of romantic emotion are very different. As can be hinted from the title, the level of emotion of Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho is on a very high level, the poetry is highly philosophical, comparing the beauty of the loved one with the most beautiful aspects of nature, almost on the absolute level – this is the main theme of the song. In comparison the poetry of Jo baat tujh mein hai teri tasveer mein nahin is on the relative level comparing the beauty of the loved one with a picture of herself. Thus a level of pure heavenly romantic emotion is required in the former, while the level of romance in the latter is basically earthly. The singer has to infuse the emotion of dignity and loftiness in the former, while these sub-emotions are not required in the latter. It goes without saying that the correct emotion infused into the song is the most important emotional aspect. The infusion of the perfect emotion consistent with the theme of the song depends very much on how able the singer is to grasp that specific emotion. This ability can be called the emotional intelligence, and the level of emotional intelligence in a singer depends partly on personal experience with the specific emotion/feeling in question and partly on how a singer can relate/understand a specific emotion/feeling even though he/she does not have any direct experience in it.

So, let us make a quick recap: We established that

  1. A singer is measured by the level of technical ability and feeling/emotional ability.
  2. The technical ability is only a prerequisite for being a good
  3. If the technical ability is on master-level, then the emotional ability is the decisive

Thus the emotional ability is the primary indicator for ranking the singers.


B: How to compare two singers?

Now we need to establish how to compare two singers. The following are the different ways to compare two singers:

  • By single songs: Here we compare two different songs by the singers E.g. “A dil-e-nadaan” with Lata and “Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki” with Rafi. This comparison gives the lowest number of common features, because here the music is different, he musicians are different, the song texts are different and the emotion in the songs are different. Thus this type of comparison is inadequate.
  • By duet songs: Here we compare a song were both singers are present E.g. “Resham ki dori”. Here the music is the same, the musicians are the same, the emotional is the same, but the song text is different. The number of common features is high here, but different text sung by the singers still doesn’t make it 100% identical.
  • By identical songs: Here we compare the exact same song, sung by the two singers E.g. “Mere mehboob tujhe”. Here all features are the same; the music, the musicians, the text and the emotion. The songs are more or less the same (some parts of the song can be different but overall it is the same) – the only real difference being the singers. Thus a direct comparison for these types of songs is highly adequate.


Thus the emotional intelligence can only be compared accurately when two singers sings 100% identical songs (or close to that). So, what I would like to do is to compare identical songs by Rafi and Lata. This will be done I the next section.

C: Comparing the two singers

In the following, I have compared 22 almost identical song of Lata and Rafi (there may be more, but these are probably the most famous). For every song, I have explained my reasons for the difference (if any) between Lata and Rafi’s interpretation/version of these songs and given my opinion to who has given the best interpretation. This is obviously not 100% objective, but it is the closest to an objective comparison. I have tried to be as objective in my reasoning as possible, but because it is a matter of feeling I may have been influenced by my subjective feelings. I’m sure most people would agree with my conclusions, but ultimately is up to every single individual to form his/her mind about it. I recommend that you listen to each and every song in the list – sometimes starting with Lata’s version first then Rafi’s version and sometimes Rafi’s version first then Lata’s version. The songs are listed stating with the songs with the greatest difference first:


  1. Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Muhabbat ki Qasam: Now, this song is probably the one with the greatest difference between Lata’s and Rafi’s version. Rafi is light years ahead of Lata in terms of emotions – the difference is so great that Lata’s version seems flat compared to Rafi’s version. Rafi takes you on an ecstatic journey intoxicated by love and sadness – totally spellbound. Lata seems to be late for her dinner and rushes through the song with minimum attachment. Every word in Rafi’s version is carefully expressed and filled with deep emotion; Lata’s version lacks intoxication, seems emotionally superficial and does not have the same grandeur as Rafi’s version. There is simply no comparison here; Rafi’s version is considerably better.
  2. Taqdeer ka fasana: Same argument goes for this song – Rafi is light years ahead of Lata. Again Rafi excels in emotion, subtleness and pronunciation for which Lata lacks. Please note that Rafi masters the high notes superbly, while Late seems to be screaming at high notes. It´s almost like Lata rely on power, while Rafi while having the power, tames it and let it be controlled by his masterful infusion of emotions. If we only had Lata´s version it would go down as a good song, never knowing if it could have been sung in a better way. But with Rafi´s version we know – it can be sung in a far better way. Rafi just raised the bar considerably. Rafi’s version is considerably better.
  3. Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh Pe: Same argument goes for this song, however to a lesser degree. The difference is not so apparent as in the songs above, but still considerably to register – Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is considerably better.
  4. Agar bewafa tujhko pehchaan jaate: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Lata’s version is indeed masterful and heartbreaking, but listen to Lata’s version first and then listen to Rafi’s version; Rafi’s version is more relaxed and subtle. You will find that Rafi’s version is tearing reality apart; Rafi’s version is considerably better.
  5. Jab Jab bahar Aaye: Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. It´s almost like Lata focuses more on the technical aspects neglecting the emotional aspects. Note how relaxed and peaceful Rafi’s version is. Lata’s version is technically perfect, but note how she focus on power and miss subtleness in expression. Rafi’s version is much better.
  6. Aaj Kal Mein Dhal Gaya: Same argument goes for this song. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Please also note that Rafi extends the pronunciation of the word “Rang” in Rang bari shaam resulting in much more balance in the sentence compared to Lata´s version. Rafi’s version is much better.
  7. Jiya Ho Jiya Kucch Bol do: There almost no comparison here; Rafi´s version much more powerful, balanced, effortless. You can hear how Lata struggles with the fast pace and high pitch in this song (there is little doubt that Asha could have done a much better job with this song). Rafi on the other hand show better clarity and expression of words, better breath control and better pitch control while conveying the emotions of the song. Rafi’s version is much better.
  8. Waadiyan Mera Daman: Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. Please note how Rafi´s version is much more settled and relaxed. Rafi’s version is much better.
  9. Meri Shahekhoban O Meri Jane janana: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. Rafi’s version is better.
  10. Pardesiyon Se Na Akhiyan Milana: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. Rafi’s version is better.
  11. Aji hum se bach kar kahan jayega/ Aji Rooth Kar Ab Kahan Jaiyega: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. Please note that there´s too much screaming in Lata´s version. Rafi’s version is better.
  12. Sajan sajan pukaro galiyon mein: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Again Rafi´s version is much more subtle in terms of emotions. Rafi’s version is better.
  13. Tum kamsin ho/Main kamsin hoon:The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is better.
  14. Zindagi bhar nahin bholegi woh barsaat ki raat: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Please note how Rafi expresses “Barsaat ki raat” at position 1:30 and 3:55 – just heavenly! Lata does not reach that sweetness. Rafi’s version is better.
  15. Dil Jo Na Kah Saka: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is better.
  16. Gar Tum Bhula Na Doge: Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of intoxicated emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is better.
  17. Dil Beqarar Sa Hai: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is slightly better.
  18. Tum Mujhe Yoon, Bhula Naa Paaoge: The songs are not 100% identical but close enough. Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is slightly better.
  19. Teri Aankhon Ke Siwa: Rafi is again ahead of Lata in terms of emotional expressions. Rafi’s version is slightly better.
  20. Yaar jinhe tum bhool gaye ho: Note that Rafi’s expressions of the words are much more clear. Every word is completed before moving to the next word. Rafi’s version is slightly better.
  21. Akele Hain, Chale Aao, Jahan Ho: Here I don’t see any significant difference in the versions. Both are evenly matched.
  22. Kali ghata chhayi prem rut aayi: Here I don’t see any significant difference in the versions. Both are evenly matched.

Before looking at the results I will again stress that I have tried to be fair and as less subjective as I can. I believe that other people will have slightly different outcomes for the evaluation of each song, but that the overall conclusion will be the same.

Now let us look at the result:

  1. Songs 1 to 8 (36%): Rafi’s versions are considerable better than Lata’s versions. In song 1, 2 and 3 Lata is outclassed by Rafi on several levels. In these songs I cannot help thinking that Lata sings the songs like she is reading a text, while Rafi sings the songs like he speaks directly to the audience. It’s like Lata is still in the recording studio, while Rafi is plunged deep into the situation of the song.
  2. Songs 9 to 16 (36%): Rafi’s versions are better than Lata’s versions. Rafi’s versions are much more relaxed, much more balanced.
  3. Songs 17 to 22 (28%): Rafi’s versions are slightly better than Lata’s versions or they are evenly matched.
  4. The interesting thing here is that not ONE of the above songs can we place Lata’s version as being significantly better in terms of feelings/emotions. Only in song 21 and 22 are the emotions/feelings/expressions matched. This fact alone establishes that Lata is not a better singer than Rafi.
  5. More than 2/3 of the song are interpreted noticeably better by Rafi. This suggests that Rafi is the better singer.
  6. In some of the songs it seems that Lata has infused more power in her voice compared to Rafi’s versions. Some people could favor this technical quality over the feelings/emotions quality and thus argue that Lata’s versions are better than Rafi’s. The problem with this argument is that none of these songs has tunes or messages that requires power. Songs with tunes and messages that require power are “O duniya ke rakhwale”, Ye duniya ye mehfil”, “Husn hazer hai” or “Woh dekho jalla ghar kisi ka”. The tunes and messages in these songs require that you cry out from your heart – which both Lata and Rafi has demonstrated in abundance here. But to infuse additional power in the songs above is a misjudgment, because when you add power you lose subtleness – that is the reason that Rafi’s versions are much more balanced to listening to.
  7. Finally, I think that the number of Rafi’s versions in the list that were super hits, are greater than numbers of super hits with Lata’s versions. I’m not sure, but if you know then please shed a light on this.




The above results are quite clear. We do not have a 50/50 situation or anything near. More than 2/3 of the songs are interpreted significantly better by Rafi, and at the same time not one song is interpreted significantly better by Lata. The results favors Rafi so significantly, that we can now conclude that compared to Lata, Rafi does not only possess superior technical abilities, but does also possess superior emotional abilities. Muhammad Rafi is factually a better singer than Lata Mangeshkar!

Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi

The single most important ability of Muhammad Rafi compared to Lata Mangeshkar (or any other singer for that sake) is his ability to flavor a song with his emotions. This ability is not surpassed by any other singer. Some singers may equal or surpass some of Rafi’s technical abilities, but as stated earlier the technical abilities are only the prerequisite for being a good singer – to be an exceptional singer you have to spice up the song with emotions/feelings. If Rafi had only been at technical masterful singer with medium level of emotional application he would just be a page in the book of the music industry like most singers are. And we would not adore him as we do. But being the giant that he is on the emotional area, he is not just one page but practically the majority of the book – he cannot be sidetracked by any sincere student of music. In the universe of singers where good singers are planets and master-level singers are stars, he is the supernova.

We have come a long way and the analysis should be concluded here, but there is still one question I feel we should ask: What is the reason that Rafi’s emotional interpretation of a song is so much higher than Lata’s (or other singers). I think (not necessary a fact) that because Rafi controlled the technical level better than other singers it gave him surplus for focusing on the emotional level AND because he had a high emotional intelligence, he was superior than other singers in the interpretation of the songs. THIS, I think, was in essence the primary reason for his superiority.

If we didn’t have Rafi’s versions of these songs, we would have thought that Lata’s version were the ultimate interpretations of these songs. With Rafi’s interpretations we stand in awe of the fact that even the masterful renderings of Lata can be surpassed by several levels. It makes us wonder how much further Rafi could have taken some of Lata’s solo songs – THAT, my friends, is a very interesting question, one that we will never know the answer to.

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47 Blog Comments to “Muhammad Rafi versus Lata Mangeshkar”

  1. says:

    That completely destroyed the young composer’s equilibrium. But soon he won over the charismatic star, and RD was on board. With Shammi in the film, there could also be no dispute over who the male playback would be – and so Mohammed Rafi got to sing every song, solo and duet, his smooth vocal calisthenics making every song seem simple – from the rambunctious

  2. N P Rajamane PhD says:

    I consider this write up as the most comprehensive comparison of two great people – Rafi & Lata.

    We like them both but now we know we somehow feel Rafi is always effective and better, even though they are technically almost equal.

    Rafi is exception, and hence incomparable. Every one of his songs seems to be perfect and we can not imagine any other doing better job of it, not even equal.

    Superlatives do not exist to describe as Rafi describes himself.

  3. Sandeep says:

    Nadeem ji comparisons are odious

  4. Salil says:

    Ms Shobana
    Yes dear you are right that comparing a male voice and female voice is totally incorrect. I do agree with you that a female voice can be sweeter, sharper and thinner than a male voice. However the fact is that male renditions are always superior than female renditions as a male voice can generate more variation and hence more appeal than a female voice without creating any monotony. When you have a singer as versatile as RAFI than the result is even clearer. However it ultimately boils down to personal preference on what kind of voice you prefer. RAFI was way too versatile than Lata and even her sister Asha was a more versatile singer than her! Hence the combination of god gifted voice and talent that RAFI had could make me listen to him in any language or genre for as long I live!

  5. Salil says:

    Mr Maurice
    Yes Lata is the most illustrious female singer, but she she falls short on versatility when compared with her own sister Asha! Skill-wise she was the best but there were singers who were as good as her in her own style, who can forget Suman Kalyanpur? Her renditions were so close to Lata that her songs would often be mistaken for Lata! Suman’s voice quality, pitch and range was as good as Lata, but she unfortunately entered films too late which is why she remained 2nd to Lata always. RAFI is indeed the most versatile singer ever, male or female! His range, control on notes and voice quality appeal is supreme which is why his renditions always have more charm than other singers. When you keep on listening to RAFI and rake lessons from his singing, you realise that there is simply no singer as good as him!

  6. shobhana says:

    First of all that there should not be comparation between Male voice n female voice. It is natural that female voice is thinner, sharp and sweeter than male voice.
    For emotion expressions, The comparation between the great 2 in the songs, mostly depends on the situation in the story of the film and the mood of the actor in story for who they playback. Both excel by that point. As i think mostly male voice appeals more than female voice. It is natural too.
    So comparation is waste of time.
    I could hear Lata Mangeshkar any song in any language for hours for days, but not Rafi Saab.

  7. Chris Maurice says:

    Lataji’s control over notes, pitch and word intonations were supreme bar none. No one could match that. Listen to the song Yaara seeli seeli as an example and focus on the words Jeena, Dholna, Galiyonse and its intonations. The closer you listen to her singing, you’ll find there is no other singer to match her ability to control notes like that.

  8. R Srinivasan says:

    Very well analyzed article by an author who is knowledgeable and unbiased. No doubt about the fact that Rafi sahab was the greatest playback singer of all time, male or female, and Lata herself has acknowledged this as fact in an interview (she said that Rafi sahab had an ability and range that far exceeded that of every other singer, including herself, Asha, Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey). The music director Naushad said that he can imagine someone singing as well as Rafi sahab, but not better. I wish to make one point here. The one female playback singer who gave a good account of herself in her duets with Rafi sahab is Suman Kalyanpur, a much underrated singer. In my view SK handled the higher notes better than both Lata and Asha. I would argue that of all the female playback singers, Lata of the 1950’s was possibly the greatest. But Suman Kalyanpur was not far behind. By mid to late 60’s I would consider that Suman Kalyanpur was No. 1, followed by Asha and then Lata, whose voice deteriorated noticeably in late 60’s. I do not know why SK’s career faded out after the Lata-Rafi dispute was settled in the late 60’s, when logically SK should have been given pride of place.

  9. Riaz says:

    I think the author is not baised against any one. Mohd Rafi today also is also very much famous than any other past or present singer of India. In past several news papers have written their views about such songs when there was no social media in existence and they have given upperhand to Mohd Rafi. Specially, they have mentioned difference between songs like Gar Tum Bhula Na do ge, Aji hum se Bach Kar Kahan Jayege and Wadiya mera daman.

    Award like Bharat Ratna is not criteria to chose popularity of any artist as the said award is politically motivated. It is mostly given by the Union Govt. on the recommendations made by the State Govt.

    If the Public Opinions are called for such awards the scenario will be different. Here, I am not against the Artist who have got the same, definitely they had deserved it. If we see popular site who popular India than the Mohd Rafi is No.1 singer of India and No.6 in the World. Anniversaries of other artist also comes , but not celebrated much, as that of Mohd Rafi. Whenever, Rafi’s anniversary is there you will see throughout the world it celebrated and this is becaue of his populairty. Further, you will find on social media there are hundreds of interviews in the tarif of Mohd Rafi by renowned personality of film industy including Stars, singers, musician etc.

    In the past 2/3 years before, IBN channel had called views of music lovers ti adjudge the best singer of India. The competators were among Lata, Asha, Mukesh, Kishor and many more singers. The music lovers unanimously voted for Mohd Rafi and he was declared No.1.

  10. Shaun says:

    his name is “Muhammad Versatility Rafi (MVR)”
    the world’s Greatest and most Adroit singer ever;
    his Creator endowed him with a teflon-coated singing superiority that rules the masses
    hence, to equate other singers with him is simply futile and asinine

  11. Shaun says:

    his name is “Muhammad Versatility Rafi”
    the world’s Greatest and most Adroit singer ever; his genius was teflon-coated by his Creator; hence, to equate other singers with him is simply futile and asinine

  12. ANONYMOUS says:

    I am not sure whether this entire post is intended to be a joke. Has the author even considered the contemporary social times when these songs or these two legends used to sing? what were the demands of the time from a coy heroine and a flamboyant hero. Lata was as versatile as Rafi Sahab, if not more.and could take up any song which was demanded from her including qawwalis. Yeah she didnt get Shammi Kapoor songs, but its quite clear why. Lata lacked technical finess as compared to Rafi? Esp breath control? The article is so ridiculous that I cannot even begin to thwart it. It is so one sided and biased. and untrue. Its what the writer wants to believe hard and has tried even harder to make us all believe. how does her so called negative personality matter as a singer? LOL. Technically she was and will be the best singer India has had and will have in a long time. her tonal quality, her honey dipped voice…her command over classical…Lata plus Asha is equal to one Rafi? Thats a joke, right? I can digest one Lata equal to one Rafi…….On the other hand, Rafi Sahab, though technically incomplete, was the master of playback. There will never will be anybody like him ever.

    And I am a huuuuuge Rafi Sahab fan, not as much of Lata ji. yet I write what is the truth. No need to be biased for your idol. That will be unfair on both of them.

  13. Sara says:

    I have to say that this article sums up the views of the majority of listeners and I totally agree with what has been written as it is true. I have heard both versions of many of the listed songs and choose to hear the Mohd Rafi version over and over again, they give me goosebumps and are so much more pleasng and soothing to the eardrums. Lata, unfortunately sounds like she’s screeching on many tracks, and when you don’t have any one to compare her to she may be just okay. However, she shouldn’t be compared to the late great Mohd Rafi but when she is compared then there really is no contest.

    Mohd rafi’s voice is just so sweet and melodious that it just melts the heart, and the fact that he can sing every genre of music says it all!

  14. Sir, I am an ardent fan of Mohd. Rafi saab since I was 8 years old Now I am 62. The very first film I saw with Rafi saab’s songs was Dosti (1964) in which 5 out of 6 songs were sung by Rafi saab. They were (still are !) super hits.

    Though I have been a fan of Rafi saab for the last 55 years and the question you have dealt in this blog has crept so many times, I could not justify that Rafi saab was a better singer in comparison in words as superbly as you have done.

    The Do Pehaloo Geets that you have quoted while comparing reminded me of Dosti days to the Aas Paas days.


    Thanks and regards.


    PS: When I read about Rafi saab’s death in the newspaper in the morning of 01.08.1980, I did not know how to pay my homage to him. I only performed the full day Upavaas that day and kept on listening to his Ek Se Badhkar Ek suhane songs.

  15. Binu Nair says:

    Its a well researched article by any standards. Yet, few flaws remain. Why this Comparison at all ? Rafi Saheb is far ahead seeing his rising popularity even with the Biased Media Not being with him.
    Everyone knows by now that AWARDS are GIVEN ON POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS AND MONEY POWER. Some have grabbed awards. Not Mohd Rafi Saheb.

    Rafi Saheb was clean. upright and leading singer for about four decades. No one can take the Number One Spot and That Position is Void Even Today.
    Some 15000 musical tributes are paid by Saheb ‘s devotees in the months of JULY AND DECEMBER.

    Mohd Rafi is Incomparable… And thats what an Independent Jury will say .

  16. Subhash Mehra says:

    This article remains nonpareil, direct, correct a honest and most stylish piece of research on musical work of two legends. The article clearly manifests author’s hidden love for Rafi sahib but definitely this love is the hard work of realistic facts of his minute and comprehensive study of Rafi + Lata singing contributions..!! Lata ji summed up in her Shardhanjali album for Rafi sahib..she said those amazing words..ऐसै कलाकार वार वार जन्म नहीं लेते,,she was in great shock during funeral of Rafi sahib she said to Doordarshan.ंंआज.संगीत का एक युग ख़त्म हो गया ..sobbing in tears. Both were great gifts to the world of music. I studied Rafi sahib in depth he was not a ordinary soul he can NOT be compared but l would end up saying ” singing is not wrestling “..!!

  17. Vivek Vardhan says:

    Not a very comfortable article because the topic revolves around what many believe as the most celebrated singers which bollywood has ever known. Downgrading one singer against another does not set up comfort zones and levels for people having music fantasies and imaginations. I appreciate the author’s love for rafi, as many rafi fans like me also do, but personally think that there seems to be no absolute business in showcasing another equally celebrated singer in downward terms. This may set fuel to fire as instances have earlier happened when I was writing in these blogs long back viz., Mohd rafi vs kishore kumar, Mohd rafi vs Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, Mohd rafi vs Saigal, Mohd rafi vs. Manna dey etc. etc. where discussion turned quite disturbing. And now a whole article has been published Mohd Rafi vs Lata Mangeshkar. My kudos to author on analysing rafi’s skills and abilities which are well known and need no introduction neither challenge from any source, but at same time does not fit well with regard to the downgrading views of equally celebrated singer among females – more so the Bharat Ratna title holder – in a league which Pandit bhimsen joshi and other legends fit. A firm respect is always a feather for people in that stage and league. I apprehend and feel , similar to earlier discussions regarding comparison between legends, this article may not lead to any controversies and discussions mainly from fans of Lata Mangeshkar, and take that they are quite mature enough not to take in their hearts which are uncomfortable here as well to them.

  18. anjum says:

    Wow!What clarity of thought!What an understanding of singing parameters!A humble thought…could Laga have sung the fast numbers that Rafi Sahab sang… Jaapaan,love in Tokyo…legyi dill gudiya jaapaan ki…yahoo…mast baharo ka main aashiq etc etc…
    And that song jab jab bahaar aayi…Laga,MahendraJI, Asha,all are pedestrian compared to SAHABs rendition!!!

  19. Chetan says:

    Additionally later S P Balasubramanyam also was a singer with a variety talent though he cannot be compared with greats like ghantasala, rafi etc. but had carved out a place for him in southern film world having sung close to 40000 songs, a guiness world record as many believe. Coming to south females P suseela (whom lata mangeshkar admired, S Janaki, Vani Jairam are other singers who were also good.

  20. Chetan says:

    Dear sal

    Your point on technical abilities. Classical musicians and ustads have technical eldge over playback singers purely from technical angle. Hindi film music you can find Manna dey, Bhimsen joshi etc. rendering some good classical numbers among male singers. Since you mentioned all good singers you can have a look at south talented singers as well viz.,. ghantasala, K J Yesudas etc. who were technically well placed and great playback singers as well. Mostly legend ghantasala as he belonged to the rafi era and yesudas was later generation. Sonu nigam in later generation is also good. Females I think lata was good from technical angle.

  21. Chetan says:

    Both Rafi and Lata are great in Hindi film music. Comparison between male and female is difficult as voice cultures will be different. Mostly lata fans may not take the facts comfortably and may contradict many of the points stated herein.

  22. R.Padmanabhan says:

    One aspect of Rafi Saab’s singing is the amazingly breathtaking identity of the
    songs with the actors on the screen. The shining examples are Chahe Koi Mujhe
    Junglee, Nazar mein Bijli and Khuki Palak Mein Jhoota Gussa [for Shammi Kapoor],
    Abhi Na Jao Chod Kar, Bekhudi Mein Tumko and Khoya Khoya Chand [for Dev Anand] Mere Mehboob Tujhe, Chalke Teri Ankhon Se and Itna Hai Tumse Pyaar and
    Dil-e-Betaab Ko Seene Se[ for Rajendra Kumar], Nain Milakar Chain, Affoo Khuda,
    Dilbar Dilbar Kehte Kehte and Theheriye Hosh Mein Aloon[ for Shashi Kapoor].
    Sar Jo Tera chakraye, Main Bombay Ka Babu[ for Johny Walker]. In this yardstick
    he was streets ahead of Latha Mangeshkar.

  23. BChaterjee says:

    Mr Sal – Your post on technical abilities and clarification.

    Technical abilities singer surpassing rafi in hindi will be Manna Dey and lata mangeshkar – But rafi’s voice is better and interesting than manna dey and evenly matching lata. Both Manna dey and lata mangeshkar have rigorous technical songs as compared to rafi. One such example is kuhu kuhu song which I mentioned in my previous post. Manna dey’s ketaki gulabi song is also technically great and even mohd rafi has stated that he listens to manna dey songs for technical prowess. This is in Hindi film world. If you see from overall country playback singers, then Ghantasahala, the distinguished playback singer of south clearly surpasses all indian playback singers from technical prowess/point of view. Just hear his Shiva Shankari song in you tube – you will know his classical filmy prowess – Even Mohd rafi was struck with wonder on hearing that song. Many ustads and classical musicians in rafi forum has confirmed this over the past few years in many blogs. These are not my views wholly.


    B Chaterjee.

  24. B Chaterjee says:

    Dear Author

    A great research but purely subjective. Mohd. rafi may be great among male Hindi Singers, But lata Mangeshkar is considered the greatest of all female singers. Kuhu Kuhu song which you had stated, is clear in that. Lata Easily surpasses rafi in that song while we can find rafi struggling. Actually the song is the original south telugu version sung by Ghantashala, the great legendary singer of south of whom Mohd rafi was a admirer and Ghantashala surpasses lata mangeshkar as well if you hear telugu song. Male and female voices have different levels and comparing should be reasonable. In my opinion, lata’s expressive talent is superior to rafi, (rafi fans may object to this) – Hear chalte chalte song – how beautifully she lands in notes etc. Similarly in jo wada kiya song in tajmahal, lata’s sweetness is surpassing rafi, if one hears in a good speaker. Similar feeling can be had in the song tuhje jeevan ki dor se song, sau saal bad pehle, tumhari nazar kyon, chalo dil dhar chalo etc. etc. wherein lata clearly surpasses in sweetness. While agreeing that rafi may be regarded as best among hindi male singers, I feel that based upon my hearing best among film singers in the country would place Ghantashala first, followed by Lata Mangeshkar followed by Rafi. Of course Ghantasahala is irrelevant here. Anyhow as between rafi and bharat ratna lata mangeshkar ji, the first among film playback singers to be given bharat ratna, one can easily guess. This is my feeling based upon research of songs of these legends.


    B Chatterjee

  25. samuel george says:

    I am steadily listening Hindi film songs nearly 50 years. and from a non Hindi speaking state.I enjoy songs by KK,Mukesh ,Talat,Mannadey,Hemant Kumar,Mahendra Kapoor,Lata,Asha,Geeta Dutt,Shamshad Begum etc But, In my opinion Moh Rafi is light years ahead all singers .

  26. samuel george says:

    this is a fact that Moh Rafi is the most popular and better singer IN INDIA

  27. diehardrafisaabfan says:

    Rafi Saab sang in all genres miles better then any other singer. I’d say Manna Dey who was exceptionally talented was the closest in ghazal & qwallis. Rafi Saab will remain the greatest!

  28. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Dear Mahesh Thaker,

    Thanks for your kind words and points.

    I must say that you have some interesting points, but imagine the extension of the article if I were to include these into it. Although valid points I think they deserve their own article. I think you should take the task of doing an article if not for all, then for some of the points – I for one would very much like to read it 🙂

    It also shows the extension of the features that Mr. Rafi used in his singing, there may be many more than these – that’s amazing!

    Regarding your point about Mr. Rafi’s humming in the beginning of a song I immediately think of “Ishq Ki Garmi-E-Jazbaat Kise Pesh Karun” – what fantastic sweetness, simply without comparison.

    The inclusion of special words by Mr. Rafi while singing a song I think of the words “Sadke Jawan” in the song “SAMBHAL KAR ISHQ FARMANA” – it always puts a smile to my face and displays a playful punjabi side of Mr. Rafi 🙂

  29. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Dear Sal,

    Thanks for your kind words and opinion.

    I fully agree with your thoughts, but let me explain myself on some of your points. I agree with you regarding Shabbir Kumar, but the reason I selected him was that even the most tone deaf person knows that Shabbir Kumar is not in league with Lata. He is in fact a terrible playback singer. He was chosen so the reader could easily choose Lata over him.

    In regards to your comments about classical prowess I must admit that my musical knowledge is inadequate for me to be able to make a comparison on this subject. I’m simply not musically educated enough – you give me to much credit. That kind of analysis most be undertaken by someone else.

    And no, I do not know any singer who could excel Rafi in any of the technical abilities, but that could be due to my inadequate musical understanding. maybe some real Ustad could shed some light on this?

    I’m looking forward to your article.

  30. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Dear Rafi fans,

    Thanks to all of you for your kind words.

    This article has been underway for a long time – years in fact. Once I wrote the first version I put it aside thinking that it was maybe too offensive, unreasonable or simply not factual enough. I simply did not have adequate musical knowledge to undergo the required analysis. I thus had to rethink the structure and components of the analysis. Slowly but steadily I established the structure and components, inquired the necessary knowledge and made changes until it was finally shaped into a coherent article. Your kind reception of this article is therefore indeed appreciated.

  31. Rajiv Dutta says:

    Beautifully written article. No scope of any argument now about superiority of Rafi Sahib over all other singers. Heavenly voice of Rafi Sahib provides a healing touch to one’s soul. Those who do not feel are definitely deprived of Gods Blessings.

  32. Sal says:

    Dear Nadeem,
    The article is well researched and written. The effort you spent on it worth every second for us Rafi Saab fans. You had shared so much analytical information about Rafi Saab’s prowess and talent.
    I would like to point out the following just to express what I thought about this article.
    My first reaction is; the question should not arise. Rafi Saab is incomparable, period. If you compare singers leave Rafi Saab aside and do it with the rest.
    I know the reason for this comparison because of the public considers Rafi, Lata to be the best. But writing an article comparing the Greatest to Lata you are uplifting Lata close the Rafi that she is not.
    If at all title should be Mohd Rafi vs rest of the singers not just Lata (but I agree where you are coming from, public perception).
    The talent wise everyone knows Asha Bhonsle is better than Lata, right? So, Asha should have been more adept to compare Rafi. You proved my point in the technical session anyway. According to me the ONLY advantage Lata had against other GOOD singers is melody, too much of it.
    Throughout the article Shabbir Kumar was mentioned, if you have taken Shabbir for his limited talent that is fine, else as a mediocre singer he shouldn’t have been mentioned as we have very talented so many singers
    Nowhere in the article had you touched the area of Classical prowess. IMO I cannot recollect any of Lata songs that are classically sound like Madhuban, Kuhu Kuhu etc. What I mean is Lata has so many good semi-classical songs but not the kinds I mentioned. Correct me if I am wrong.
    Rafi Saab indeed is not just Lata and Asha but most of the ALL well known singers i.e. Manna Dey, Talat Mahamoud, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar in one. That is a fact and proven.
    Finally, I believe the humane qualities of Rafi Saab makes me believe that he is not an ordinary singer but divine singer that you call “God Sent”.
    You mentioned “Some singers may equal or surpass some of Rafi’s technical abilities” can you suggest one if you have anyone?
    After all ‘hearing quality’ of a person, his musical knowledge and background, analytical ability, patience to have heard so many songs over and over again will give the person to judge a singer better.
    I am working on a spreadsheet chart comparing all known good singers by their talents. Your article will definitely give me a lot of pointers, thanks again.

  33. Wn Sure says:

    Dear Nadeem Sahab,

    Your Article is a Great work indeed! It is much, much better researched than so many Ph.Ds and Post-Doctorals that are awarded in our country… sad to say…

    I know exactly WHY Rafi Saab was the BEST where ‘Emotional Intelligence’ is concerned: he was HIMSELF a Farishta, who faced very great difficulties at the start of his career. But when he earned name & fame, he helped hundreds of deserving (maybe even a few not-so-deserving) people.

    Now, you CANNOT be a Farishta and NOT have those qualities reflect in your Emotional Intelligence and your Singing, I argue!!

    Of course, you have rightly pointed out that Rafi Saab controlled the Technical side so easily and that that ability gave him more freedom to concentrate on the Emotional side. My addition is that he had an even bigger range of Emotional skills PRECISELY because of his Humanitarian and Kindly nature!

    My theory is, to be a Great Playback Singer (Playback singing is COMPLETELY different from anything else), a Singer HAS to be a great humanitarian! In Playback singing, you have to match the Actor, the Mood on scene, the Lyrics, the Music Director’s preferences, etc., etc. Playback Singing is not at all like Classical Music (which is sadly disappearing today) or like Rock/ Pop (of which sadly there is too much today!)

    So until the world gets its next GREAT Humanitarian AND a Technically sound Singer, we have no one who can be compared to the Gentle Giant that Rafi Saab was and is!!

  34. Raghavan Vasudevan says:

    A very well researched and beautifully written article though a long one.
    Your good analysis and road well taken to reach the path of conclusion that Rafi is better than Lata. I entirely agree with you. Lata is a supreme singer no dobut in it – no female singer can compete with her. Take this one sing – ye mere dil e naadhan thu gham se na gabrana – But Rafi is the best, the ultimate and a complete singer. With his voice Rafi moves our heart, soothens our feelings creates something in us which can not be described in words. Lata at best
    gives us entertainment of great listening to music.

    To me Rafi is within me.

  35. BUSHAN WALI says:

    I fully endorse your views.You have done a commendable job by completely analysing most of the songs and their perfection with which Rafi sab would sing
    In addition to singing Rafi sab had many more qualities which proves that he was not an ordinary man but a soul which takes birth once in a yug
    Bushan wali

  36. Raj says:

    Great article and analysis. I don’t think there was or is a singer who can capture the very essence of any song. Raffi saab captured the mood and the emotion of a song better than any singer. And then he went about executing it to perfection. Case in point, is the first song you mentioned in your article, mere mehboob tujhe.. The romance Raffi saab brings in that song is unparalleled. Hats off to you for well researched and well thought of article. And I am a big fan of Lataji as well. She is the greatest female playback singer. And yes pls do not mention any other male singer in the same breadth as Raffi saab. He occupies top 10 spots of the male playback singing.

  37. Are there any more proof of what he has written about? Does anyone else
    have any negativity? A brilliant and inciting article mostly on this great humble
    soul who is terribly missed.

  38. R B Kodical says:

    Muhammad Rafisaab is the greatest singer of all times. Even a singer of Manna Dey’s calibre has said in one of his interviews that Rafisaab is the best singer among all the singers, both male and female. He is the only singer who can sing any type of song effortlessly. We are all lucky to have belonged to an era when Rafisaab was present.

  39. Bhargavaram says:

    Certain questions doesn’t have satisfactory answers. This question of “Who is betteror to say best singer, Rafi saheb or lataji ? . As per my view ( I have more than 1000 songs in my collection both in format of vinyl records and CD ). They were like two strings of a sitar, which produces melodious , melliflues sound. Both have excelled while rendering a song. ” Yeh dil diwana hai” jeethi lengey baaji hum tum geetha adhura ” to name hundreds of songs rendered by them as duets.

  40. I fully agree with the author. I am Lata fan but not her behaviour and arrogance. When Lata boycotted Rafi, it was Suman Kalyanpur who took over from Lata. Late realised her mistake much later and had to resume singing with Rafi.
    Much have been written about Rafi and Kishore. Both are excellent in their own ways but Rafi is a versatile singer which suits every kind of songs. The day Rafi passed away, I lost interest in hind film songs. You must know that SD BURMAN composed Aradhana songs for Rafi but he was hospitalised and Pancham gave all songs to Kishore. Yes Kishore voice was perfect for Rajesh Khanna but Rafi is the legend of all time.

  41. Muzaffar Ali Khan says:

    Very good & heart touching article
    Rafi saab is legend
    thanks for ur article


  42. Mahesh Thaker says:

    Dear Fan Nadeem
    Superb analysis/comparision done by you.. your article shows your level of music
    sense and deep meditating ability while listening a song. I also am of the same
    mania after Rafi-saab’s songs. Glad to meet you by your article.
    But to my mind, some more points/arguements you have missed to include in
    the article, are as under :
    1)Rafi-saab’s art to pick-up and relaxing the words with honey-like sweetness in each song.
    2) While starting a song with Humming, Rafi-saab’s breath-control, flow of the voice and power behind it, are incredible.
    3) Weaving very special words while singing a song (like: Aaha, Oho, Oye, balle
    balle, O belia, Sadke jawan, O hatke praji bachke, O laala, and other Happiness
    Utterings from Punjabi Festivals in Bhangra)
    4) While singing a song in other language, Rafi-saab’s pronounciation is outstanding….If sings Gujarati, the listner can’t feel that the song is being sung
    by a non-gujarati person. So perfectness in his presentation.
    5) In patriotic song, Rafi-saab infuses all required excitement/feeling
    6) Presenting perfectly Classical Tarana(bol) is a master art of Rafi-saab(listen
    Madhuban me radhika..)
    7) Thru voice, he is presenting Dard/sadness emotions tremendously (listen
    Sharabi’s song- Kabhi na Kabhi Kahin na kahin…
    8) Lata has rare Rhythmless song, while Rafi-saab has 7 or Ten rhythmless songs ( listen Kagazke Phool, Pyaasa, Shola aur shabman songs)
    9) Solo song sung by both in Mere Mehboob(title song)… Rafi-saab creates a
    appealing Maahol and did justice to the Nazm of the writer in true sense.

    This are the points, I could note down while studying your article. I hope
    you will agree with me. Inclusion of them would make your article more unique.

    Till then, Take care and let us keep continuous contact. My Mobile-9824930655
    I am of 65 years leaving in Gujarat, Ahmedabad.


  43. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Afternoon Sir,

    A very good article sharing your opinion based on your experience and knowledge. It is always very interesting to read about these legends who enthral us even today with their works left behind for us.

    A wonderful analysis projected openly to all. I read many article quite before with similar matter. I also heard about Suman Kalyanpur as the one that got effected because of Lataji.
    Thanks and regards
    Uma Maheswar Nakka

  44. Saifullah says:

    The best analysis of Rafi Saab’s singing compared to Lata’s which I have come across. Undoubtedly, Rafi Saab is light years ahead. As someone said, Lata fans may not like this, but facts are facts . Well done, Nadeem

  45. n.g.ramaswamy says:

    Excellent effort and analysis. Kudos to you sir. 200% agree with you. It is not that I am a Rafi saheb fan and hence support this. It is due to all the points as given in your article I became a fan of the farishta right from my secondary schooling. This article sums up everything and has put a big lock on the mouth of those who blindly follow music. Thanks once again. Hats off to you. Keep writing.

  46. anurag malhotra says:

    Good article. It says truth. I want to add that when it came to lower notes and classical taans, Lata is slightly superior to rafi. This point is missed in this article, Rest all OK.

  47. Sohail Amjad says:

    One of the best comparative analysis read in recent years focusing music and singing abilities of two legends……..good work done

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