True Voice – Mohd Rafi
The following article was brought to my notice when Sharad posted it on MAS. The article has been trimmed down a bit keeping afloat Rafi details. However, anyone interested can go visit the source at http://tfmpage.com/forum/4980.6302.04.57.19.html
I am Swaminatha Iyer and I am 78 years old. I hail from Tiruchi and I am a part of music associations in Tiruchi, M’as as well as in West Bengal and Maharashtra.
I think it is wrong to condemn music or artists on either side of Vindhyas. Our Indian music is one of the few which has not been cleaned off by the western music though there has always been a influence. It speaks a lot of the richness of our music. Sometime back director of MTV had said that MTV westernized the music wherever it went but in India , MTV had to be Indianized for it to be accepted. A lot of this credit goes to the Indian film music.
I have been fortunate to have close personal association with Rafi, Sirkali, TMS, Dr. BMK, Kishore, SPB & KJY, PS, Mannadey and the one and only Lata Mangeshkar.
Comparisons are bound to come, but almost every artist or I have met considers Lata to be beyond comparison. Her talents are beyond anyone’s reach. Even Sirkazi used to talk of her singing like a die-hard fan as do countless others.
Now coming to the Rafi-SPB discussion. It might be difficult to convince an South Indian to believe Rafi is the better and at the same time Rafi crowd will never believe any other male singer comes anywhere nearer. There is one more mobile crowd, which is well conversant with Hindi and some south Indian language. Majority of them tilt to either Rafi or Kishore.
During one of my stays in M’as I had stayed with SPB. While talking of true voices he said, I don’t feel like half a singer when listening to Rafi. True voice is not a tech term but many in circle use it. Perfect example would be lata, but to understand consider our own PS who within her range is superb. People who do not have such true voices can never do justice to original. They generally underplay many parts of the song or fake it with bass/superficial singing. True voices make people like Sirkazi, Nusrat Fateh Ali khan, Lata… Inimitable. However since Sirkazi and Nusrat did not have the filmy voices their “real” following is limited to their local arena.
In addition to the true voice if the singer has a very good voice then in “most” cases he/she can better songs of others. It is this combination which makes Rafi stand out among the other male singers. There are many here who seem to have mistaken notions on a good bass and also on high pitch.
Bryan Adams does not require a monster bass in “Summer of 69” to sound real manly. It is the punch which gives that feel and that is decided only by the comfort level in most ranges (that is by what your throat can support). This you CAN never disguise with bass. Since people have talked about lack of manly voice viz. a viz. Rafi it was necessary to bring this point out. I have had the fortune of listening to most singers in studio and some times without a mike, practicing with MD’s.When Lata or Rafi do, the level is so high that people hesitate to even hum. It felt silly to sing in their presence (and it feels silly when someone says his voice isn’t manly).
In RD’s tribute when SPB sang “Aaja Aaja mein hoon” or “Chaand mera dil” it sounded only sweet and lacked punch if you compare with Rafi’s original.
Yesu once told me God has been partial to Rafi. He said “god gift term anavasyamaa romba common aa ippo use aardu”.. but idu Rafi kee thaan 100% porundu”. This person could sing “as intricately as a lady without sounding thin”, “cover any mood”, “versatility odey perfect example Rafi”. Yesu said most important is the comfort level over ranges which makes you feel God has been partial to Rafi. (But Of course in Rafi’s early career (1950’s) the voice was relatively feeble).
To people exposed to Rafi’s talent, these or any amount of praise can only seem less. I just wish he was alive and you people could get a live chance to hear him. Probably you can get hold of the DD album for the Geet Gaata Chal series where the first four episodes were dedicated to Rafi. Rafi is on camera singing “O Duniya Ke Rakwaaley” and many other songs. If you see and hear the last part you will realize why SPB said “impossible”. I think particularly those people who have talked about scales w.r.t Rafi should see this album. Its a known fact in industry that Rafi ruled high pitch and there is no male singer better in switching notes so easily. There are artists who can go beyond but then they sound strained or they don’t have pleasant voices when they venture into those territories.
Many singers of today are his compulsive followers. But they end up inheriting only part of his quality. Md. Aziz ended up with a sad voice. Mahendra Kapoor with a thick nasal voice. Anwar with a nasal voice. Sonu Nigam with a feminine voice. Rafi neither had a soft voice nor a heavy (bass) voice he had a good voice. Importantly did not strain at high notes, and voice if at all only became better at higher notes. If you see him singing it will remind you of Janaki. However diff the song is or the note is he will be smiling and singing. It is unthinkable that he cannot sing something.
There seems to be lot of talk about “Shankara Bharanamo” song. SPB has sung many a great numbers and things being said about this song in this forum are rather amusing, particularly b’cos 3 out of 4 people who can be called as singers will be able sing it and at least one out of 10 will sing it with the same effect. There are lot of other songs of SPB where this great singer has played with songs in total control. You will find most south Indian singers who have had a good exposure say that it is beneficial to learn Hindustani as it gives better breath control and improves expression.
Rafi was not only able to glide over a song, the important thing was that he could express each word/sound when singing. It is one thing to hold your breath, start and reach a crescendo (high note), as like in “Shankara”, “Anbey (Yennai kaan villaye)” it is different ballgame if you have to do it from low notes or suddenly switch notes. With practice the former can be done, latter requires a special gift. Rafi had a natural ability to do the latter. In “Tum joh mil gaye ho” there is such a transition in the “karwaan mil gaya” part. I have never seen anyone do justice to most of his songs in my life time. In “parda hai parda” quawaali the similar part is “kar doon to, Akbar mera naam”. In fact most of his songs will have these specialty as it was his natural ability to sing freely in a wide range at the same time giving that extra expression.
Whereas SPB takes us to heavens with “Idu oru pon maali”,”Ilaya nila” “bisiladarenu”(kannada), when he sings Rafi’s song it lacks the punch or expression, though it has the bass. But at least most agree that SPB does some justice to original, whereas most others murder the original.
One trivial point I would like to add is that singing in Hindi is harder. There are more “JHA”,”CHA”,”HA”,”THA”, “KHA”,”JA”,”FA”. These take away the breath faster. The more expressive you are the more air you are using up. Just singing from Nabhi will not help, your throat also needs to do a lot, for singing in Hindi, Bengali etc. SPB makes you fall in love with his south Indian songs but same cannot be said about his Hindi songs. If you just glide through words having these sounds, you will never be expressive. Doing this as well as reaching high notes is not easy. Rafi had this gift and that’s why it is difficult to imagine anyone else in his shoes. Song “Chalkaaye jaam” has so much expression that it is unthinkable how anyone can sing it. When Rafi switches to a high note with “Mitwaa” in the song “Chaahunga mein tughey” you cannot replicate it with bass. Most others will sound as if they are shouting in such cases. That man’s throat had the ability to freely sing at such levels.
Versatility is not just the ability to sing in various styles, more important is how good you are singing in those styles. You have lot of Ghazal singers today but when Rafi sings a Ghazal you will sit up and take notice. You don’t have to be part of the Ghazal listeners crowd. This is one important aspect. Whatever style you sing you should be able to pull the common man to listen and not just a particular crowd. Pick “parda hai parda” or any qawalli and it will stand tall among other qawalli’s.
Variety is amazing :
songs of Guru Dutt’s Khagaz key phool or songs like abhi naa jao chod key, Aaja teri yaad aayi, Aaj kal mein dhal gaya, Aaj kal terey merey pyaar, Aasmaan sey aaya farishta, Dil ney pyaar kiya hai, Deewana mujh saa nahi, Din dhal jaaye, Duniya paagal hai, Jaane walon jara, Dil joh na kaha saka, Dil key jharokon mein, Dil kaa bhavar, Chalkey teri aakkhon sey, Kar chaley hum fida, khilona jaan kar tum, Woh jab yaad aay, Woh hain jara khafa, Vaadian mera daaman, Pathar key sanam, Chaand mera dil, Main zindagi kaa saath, Mainey poocha chaand sey, sun sun jaalima, Koi jab raah na paay, hum to chaley pardes, badan pey sitaarey, laal chadi maidaan, Tum jo mil gaye, O meri shaahey, Sau baar janam lengey, Tum mujhey yoon bhula, Tumney mujhey dekha, Terey merey sapney, Tumny pukaara hum chaley aay
Name a situation/mood and Rafi’s song will be there on the top.