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Remembering the Versatile Legendary Singer on his 27th Death Anniversary

This article is written by Mr. Biman Baruah from Sivasagar, Assam, India.

Assomire Sutalate, Rudalire Senehate, Maramor Faku Khele, Rangate NachePakhili, Mate Muke Haath Bauli“. ( In the valley of Assam, Sunshine play with colures, Butterflies Dance in Joy and Call me with beck of Hands ) Remembering a Mohammed Rafi Assamese song under compositions of mumbai-based noted Assamese music director Jitu-Tapan.

Rafi was an Indian playback singer who has sung in 11 Indian languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Assamese, etc., from 1944 to April,1980. But he is mainly remembered for his songs from Hindi Cinema. Mohd. Rafi has sung more than 26,000 super hit songs, for which his name was entered in Guinness Book of Word Records after his death in 1984.

Rafi was born on 24th December 1924 at Kotla Sultanpur, a town near Amritsar in undivided Punjab in a middle class Muslim family. His father was Hajji Ali Mohammad and he had five older brothers. Rafi’s pet name was Pheeko, who started singing by imitating chants of a “Fakir” in his village. His elder brother-in-law Mohammed Hameed was aware of Rafi’s love for music and first to take notice of the divine gift in Rafi’s voice. He decided to concentrate all his efforts to provide all the support needed by Rafi to make it big in the music world. Rafi learnt Hindusthani Classsical music from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Wahid Ali Khan, Pandit Jiwanlal Matto and Firoze Nizami.

A Sketch of Mohd Rafi
A Sketch of Mohd Rafi

One day Rafi and his brother Hameed went to attend a function by K.L.Saigal. But the legendary singer refused to sing due to power failure at the venue. Hameed went up to the organizer to ask whether his brother-in-law could sing to keep the audience quite and that was the Rafi’s first public performance at the age of 13.

Rafi started his career at the age of 20, with a duet Punjabi song, “Soniye Heeriye, Teri Yaad Ne Bahut Sataya” with Zeenat Begum under composition of Shyam Sunderji in the Punjabi film “Gul Baloch” which was released in 1944. The producer was impressed by Rafi’s style of singing and booked Rafi for all his future films. In 1944, Rafi became the very popular singer; teenagers and school-going kids sang many of his songs. On getting invitation from actor-director Nazeer, Rafi decided to move to Mumbai and from this point there is no turning back.

In Mumbai, he was introduced to some leading film producers like Abdul Rashid Kardar, Mehboob Khan and famous music director Naushad. Initially Naushad used Rafi’s voice for a Chorus and Rafi’s first song with Naushad was “Hindusthan Ke Hum Hain” with Shyam Kumar, Alauddin and others from A.R. Kardar’s “Pehle Aap”(1944). At the same time Rafi sang a song “Aji Dil Ho Kaaboo Mein” for the film “Gaon Ki Gori” (1944) under composition of Shyam Sundarji, which was considered his first Hindi language song. In the mean time, Rafi’s voice, Naushad’s music and Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics would become super-duper hit and the songs were being heard in all corners of the streets. He sang a number of songs for Naushad as a part of chores, including “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani, Roohi Roohi” with K.L.Saigal for the film “Shahjahan”(1946). He was first noted for the song “Tera Khilona Toota Balak” for Mehboob Khan’s “Anmol Ghadi(1946). His duet song “Yahan Badla Wafa Ka” with Noor Jehan in the film “Jugnu”(1947) became a hit. Rafi also appeared in the screen for the song “Tera Jalwa Jis Ne Dekha” in the film “Laila Majnu”.

In 1948, Rafi was called and settled as playback singer. He sang a song “Suno Suno Aye Duniya Walon, Bapu Ki Yeh Amar Kahani” when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, written by Rajinder Krishan and compose by Hunslal Bhagatram, which touched all nations and was a great hit. Rafi was invited by the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru to sing at his residence. He received a silver medal from Nehru on the Independence Day in 1948.

In 1952, Rafi was established as number one playback singer in film industry with the songs of Vijay Bhatt’s “Baiju Bawra”. Naushad was very impressed by Rafi’s performance for the song “O Duniya Ke Rakhwale” from “Baiju Bawra”. It was said that Talat Mehmood was the Naushad’s favorite singer and once Naushad found Talat smoking in recording room, he annoyed and hired Rafi to sing for “Baiju Bawra”. Rafi refrained from smoking and drinking alcohol as a devout Muslim. Later on Naushad started using Rafi in almost every song composed by him. Rafi sang about 149 songs for Naushad.

In 1950s and 1960s, Rafi also became the favorite singer of other music composers too, notably O.P.Nayar, Shankar-Jaikishan and Sachin Dev Burman. S.D.Burman patronized Rafi as the voice of Dev Anand. Rafi’s notable songs with S.D. Burman included songs from the movies Tere Ghar Ki Saamne(1957), Pyassa( 1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool(1959), Guide(1965),Aradhana(1969) and Abhimaan(1973). O.P.Nayyar used Rafi’s voice to sing a song “Man Mora Baawara” in the film Raagini for singer-actor Kishore Kumar. Rafi also sang for Kishore Kumar in other movies such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat. O.P.Nayyar used Rafi an Asha Bhosle for most of his songs and the team created many hit songs for movies such as Naya Daur(1957), Tumsa Nahin Dekha(1957) and Kashmir Ki Kali(1964). Rafi sang about 197 songs for O P Nayyar. Shankar-Jaikishan and Rafi is noted for the songs picturised on Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. Rafi sang about 341 songs for Shankar-Jaikishan. Madan Mohan was another composer whose favorite singer was Rafi. The team of Ravi and Rafi produced several hit songs, notably from the movies Chaudhvin Ka Chand(1960), Neel Kamal(1968), China Town(1962), Kaajal(1965) and Do Badan(1966). The duo composer Lakshmikant-Pyarelal also patronized Rafi as singer since perception for films Parasmoni(1963), Dosti(1964), etc.

Between 1950 and 1970, Rafi ruled as an emperor in Bollywood over his contemporaries like Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, Mukesh and Mehendra Kapoor. In 1970s, with the emergence of Kishore Kumar, Rafi’s career suffered a major setback. Kishore Kumar was accepted as the “voice of Rajesh Khanna and Amithabh Bachchan”. Kishore Kumar’s rise and R.D. Burman’s patronage to him sidelined Rafi’s career in early 1970s. Rafi made a brilliant comeback in mid 1970s, with Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Angan Hoga (Jeevan Mrityu), “Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Baad” (Hawas), Gulabi Aankhen (The Train), “Kya Hua Tera Wada” (Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin), “Pardah Hai Pardah” ( Amar Akbar Anthony) and “Ramji Ki Nikli Sawari” (Sargam). Rafi gave many other hit songs in late 1970s for films Laila Majnu(1976), Apnapan(1978), Qurbani, Dostana, Naseeb, Shaan and The Burning Train (all in 1980). Rafi was very happy singing with Amithabh Bachchan in the song “Chal Mere Bhai Tere Haath Jor Ta Hoon” in Monmohan Desai’s Naseeb. Rafi’s last song “Shaam Phir Kyun Udaas Hai Dost” recorded by Lakshmikant-Pyarelal for the film “Aas Paas” on Thursday, July 31, 1980. On the same day, Rafi died at 10.50 pm due to massive heart attack, leaving behind thousands of songs and millions of mourning listeners.

Mohammed Rafi was a versatile singer and could sing any type of song; let it be pop, qawali, bhajan, gazal, romantic, bhangra, sad song, rock’n’roll, parody, duet, fast numbers, slow numbers… anything he was remarkable. He was the first to fit into the role of playback singer in a convincing way. His unique voice enhanced the brilliance of actors like Dilip Kumar, Bharat Bhusan, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, etc. The songs of Rafi are known not only for their achievements in music but also for their lyrical richness. Rafi belonged to the golden age of Hindi lyrics, when lyricist like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Hasrat Jaipuri were in full form.

Government of India honored him with the Padma Sri Award in 1965. He got his first National Award for best male playback singer for the song “Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja” from the film Neel Kamal(1968) and second for the song “Kya Huwa Tera Vaada” from the film Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977). In 1974, he won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song “Tere Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Bad” from the film Hawas composed by Usha Khanna. Rafi won the Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for six times for songs: “Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho” (Chaudhvin Ka Chand-1960), “Teri Pyaari Pyaari Surat Ko” (Sasural-1961), “Chahunga Mein Tujhe” (Dosti-1964), “Baharon Phool Barsao” (Suraj-1966), “Dil Ke Jharoke Mein” (Brahmachari-1968) and “Kya Hua Tera Vaada” (Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin –1977). He was also nominated for Filmfare Award for several times.

There will never be another Mohammed Rafi. Now, Rafi is not amongst us, but his divine voice and soul will never fade from this Earth. He was, and remains, a major force in film music, the music of love, despair, hope, humor… etc. The coming generations will appreciate and savour the richness of his songs for years to come. His song in the film “Ek Nari Do Roop” says it all: ”Dil Ka Suna Sans Tarana Dhundega, Teer Negaheen Aankh Nissana Dhundega, Are Mujkoo Mere Baad Zamana Dhundega, Waqt Mere Geetoon Ka Khazana Dhundega”.

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13 Blog Comments to “Remembering the Versatile Legendary Singer on his 27th Death Anniversary”

  1. Shirin says:

    I am a great fan of Rafi saab too.

    My favorite are “Do Badan”, and many more.


    There is a very famous couplet in sanaskrit a piece of which i would like to quote here- ” Na bhooto na bhavishyati” Neither in the past any singer was parallel to rafi nor after about 3 decades of his sad demise till date any one could stand in front of his soulful performance.
    Kya kahoon bolna chahata hoon to gala roondh jata hai aur likhna chahta hoon to durust alfaaz nahin milte. Jyada kya kahoon “Tareef karoon kya uski jisne tumhen banaya” aur “Hazaaron baras nargis apni benoori pe roti hai badi mushqil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida.”

  3. radha_singh says:

    i am an ultimate and intense lover of rafi saahad’s voice..right from my childhood when i was 11yrs old i am listening to his songs and i believe till my last breath i would be listening his songs…i really love his voice very(n..times) much…whenever i feel low or depressed… i listen to rafi saahab’s songs and that really gives me huge relaxation and relief….his velvetty voice gets directly to your heart u know and creates immense magic and after listening to his song , one word always comes from heart and i.e Wahhhhhh kya Awaj Hai……….Subhanallah!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. binus2000 says:

    According to most reliable sources : from Rafi saabs closest friend
    Mr.Ahmed bhai, Hamid bhai is rafi saabs elder brothers friend who
    accompanied rafi to Bombai searched for work with producers for
    young rafi , stayed to gether in bombays bhendi bazaar area next
    to jj hospital and rose to become his able m a n a g e r .
    rafi saab settled him in canada in later years and zaheer became
    the manager..
    we have to correct some small errors wherever possible..
    yes : we can say that hameed bhai is rafis brother : for he was one
    of the most important wheel of rafi saabs work engine.

    binu nair

  5. Mr.Ramkkrishana,
    U and baruah both r right Mr.hamid was elder brother as well brother in law of Rafi as zheer’s both sister(elder and younger) married to hamid and rafi respectively.

  6. KRISHNAN says:

    I am an ardent fan of Rafi saahab. Is there a Mohammad Rafi fan club in Dubai? I am eagerly looking forward to meet Rafi fans and singers. Like me we have a few friends in our group who are also Rafi fans and sing Rafi songs.
    Please e-mail me at

  7. RAMAKRISHNA says:

    Mr Biman baruah please note that Hamid saab was the elder brother of Rafi sahab and not his brother in law. Its the continous efforts of hamid sahab and the dedicated hard work and talent of Rafi sahab that we are most fortunate to know what melody is……………

  8. Anmol Singh says:

    After the release of “Naya Daur” in color, the next to follow will be “Hum Do” also in Color. Once again the Rafi magic will shine on screen.

  9. abhay says:

    Excellent write up, Biman
    My Favourite rafi songs are:
    Nazar na lag jaye-Night in London
    Tum Jo mil gayen ho-Haste Jakhm
    Lakho hain nigahon mein-Shagird
    Tasveer teri dil mein, jis din se….
    chalkayein jam, aayien apki…
    bekhudi mein sanam…
    yuhin tum mujhse bat karti hon…
    dil ne dil se pukaran, mulakat ho gayin..
    and more and more and more…


  10. mohanflora says:

    Mohammed Rafi: The first singer to sing more than 25000 songs

    Enkayaar, Bollywood Trade News Network

    A singer from the light music genre who could sing in tandem with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, as he did in NAVRANG and MUGHAL-E-AAZAM has to be a legend and Mohammed Rafi indeed was a legend who was the first singer who sang more than 25000 songs in his illustrious career and launched many a careers, and turned many a films without any super stars like DOSTI into super hit films. It is also one of the ironies that those who got a career made for themselves owing to voice over of Rafi do not have the time to offer the obituary to him on his death anniversary.

    He would probably be the only singer who sang for the fathers, and then gave the voice over for sons as well, when they were making debuts. His exploits are legendary, however one of the most significant contributions that Mohammed Rafi made to the Hindi films was that it was his voice majorly that gave the Hindi cinema its first dancing star, Shammi Kapoor. Were Mohammed Rafi not there it would have been very difficult to imagine whether Shammi Kapoor would have been able to get the youthful and zany image that he cultivated for himself. Right from TUMSA NAHIN DEKHA to DIL DEKE DEKHO to JUNGLEE to BRAHAMCHARI the singing and yahoo image that Shammi Kapoor could acquire was owing to Rafi’s voice over. The reign and tight leash that Shammi Kapoor had on box office for nearly a decade was catalyzed also by Rafi. The saxophone that found prominence in the sad songs that Rafi sang for Shammi Kapoor could not be heard once again with such prominence the celebrated example being, HAI DUNIYA USIKI ZAMANA USI KA…

    In case of other film stars, Rafi was singing mainly sad songs, as Kishore Kumar had already made his debut as a voice representing and epitomizing mischief, but in Shammi Kapoor Rafi had found a perfect foil to give Kishore Kumar a real run for his money. In fact Rafi could be probably the only singer in the world who would have given a voice over to a singer, when he was acting as an actor in a film, it being Kishore Kumar. Rafi Saheb had given voice over to Kishore Kumar in about seven films. As these films are of Black & White era, few would have seen the film but one of the songs must have been seen or heard,” Ajab hai dastan teri aie jindagi”, a Kishore Kumar Meena Kumari starrer film.

    The image of jumping jack that Jeetendra had got for himself was also owing to the voice over of Rafi as in CARAVAN and FARZ. The experiments that Rahul Dev Burman could experiment with Rafi’s voice when Pancham was at his peak gave another high to Pancham’s repertoire. It was only Rafi who had feature in one of the most memorable song competitions of the Hindi film, right from the Qawali of BARSAAT KI RAAT to HUM KISSI SE KAM NAHIN to ZAMANE KO DIKHANA HAI. It was the changing times as was reflected in HUM KISSI SE KUM NAHIN that Rafi was giving voice over to Tahir Khan while Kishore Kumar was chosen for Rishi Kapoor.

    The magic and the clink that Rafi had in his voice can once again be savored when NAYA DAUR is re-released in colour, and can then once realize what a magician Rafi was with the vocal chord.

  11. Manish Kumar says:

    For someone like Mohammed Rafi or Kishore Kumar – a Filmfare award is hardly more than a formality. These guys are above it.

  12. mohamed parvez says:

    i would like to inform rafisaab fans log on to you wil be able to download rafi saab songs

  13. unknow1 says:

    Mohd raf only had six flim far Award!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????each song of mohd rafi is an award for music lover,people like Lata ji got Bharat Ratna award and people like Mohd Rafi,Dilip Kummar,Raj Kapoor,Amithab Bachchan,Naushand,O P nayar,Madan Mohan,SJ,LP and many more don’t!!!!!

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