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What was so special about Rafi Saab?

By H.V.Guru Murthy

What was so special about Rafi Saab?

We, Hindi movie retro-music lovers always compare the present day music to that of the songs from fifties and sixties, and always the present day numbers are found wanting in so many ways. We either find fault with the loud orchestra or the meaningless lyrics or the way the singers have rendered and compare them to the earlier era which had meaningful lyrics, Indian classical based tunes and soulfully rendered, which always appealed to our heart, whether it was a romantic number or a classical song, whether it was patriotic or soulful or bhajans or even qawwalis.

Whenever a Ghazal player is performing, we always compare him with the Ghazal King Talat Mehmood, a classical or qawali singer with Mannada, a ‘dard bhara’ singer with Mukesh, a singer at higher pitch to Mahendra Kapoor, a Bengali Rabindra Sangeet performer to Hemant Da and a humorous singer to Kishore Da though KK himself was a versatile genius. Who among the present day singers can render sensuous numbers like Asha Bhonsle did and who can match the ‘Maa Saraswati’, the versatile Latadi in putting feelings into a song.

If we cannot exactly compare them with any of the above singers, then we always have the most versatile Mohammed Rafi Sahab who was adept at singing all type of above such songs as good and sometimes, even better than anybody else. He mesmerized with his divine voice a whole generation of music lovers during his career of nearly four decades.

In fact, when I listened to Kishore Da’s “Aake Seedhi Lagi Dil Pe” from HALF TICKET, where KK sings in both male and female voice, I thought perhaps this was one song which Rafi Saab could not have rendered. No Sir, I thought too soon. I was wrong because, till then, I had not heard Rafiji’s “Maike Se Aaja Biwiri” from DEVAR BHABHI, where he has changed his voice completely to match the peculiar voice of the character actor Radhakrishna. Wow, this man could have carried off any songs with the ease with which he sang some of those all-time hits. Just enjoy this song.

Even yodeling is always associated with KK, but how many have heard Rafi Saab yodeling in movies like REPORTER RAJU (Gussa Fuzool Hai) and AGRA ROAD (Unse Rippi Tippi), he showed that he is as good as KK even in this genre.


There are umpteen numbers of classical songs where Rafi Saab and the classically trained versatile Mannada have sung together like ‘Tu Hai Mera Prem Devta’, ‘Shud Bitar Gayi Aaz’, etc. Most of the qawwalis were rendered by Rafi Ji and Mannada together and it is a treat as both of them have competed at each and every stage. Both have matched each other and we are benefited by having such classics in our CDs. He not only matched Mannada, but even RDB Pancham in “Yamma Yamma”.

Rafiji excelled even in Classical Carnatic music numbers like “Kuhu Kuhu” from SUVARNA SUNDARI.

What was so special about him that even after thirty six years after his exit from this World, no day passes for any of the retro-music lovers without listening to his voice at least once. In fact, my day starts with my mobile alarm number itself, “Jai Raghunandan Jai Siyaram”.

Think over, what was so great about him? Yes, he had a divine voice which could be transformed like Water into any song. True, his voice suited most of the actors – heroes, comedians, character actors and even villains of the time so that while lip synching, it never appeared odd. Agreed, he was highly talented having got inputs from so many stalwarts, but so were most of his contemporaries. No doubt, his diction was perfect whether it was Hindi or any other language, a person could grasp the lyrics at the first attempt itself. He could scale up and scale down his voice without losing ‘Sur’. He was steady at both higher Octaves as well as lower. Of course, he spent hours together in his ‘riyaz’ perfecting every word of his song.

We also know that for him song came first and remuneration later, so loyal was he to music. He never bothered about the reputation of his Lyricists, Music Directors or actors. Also agreed that he was a thorough Gentleman, and generous, which made us love him and respect him that much more. Perhaps his ever present smile also attracted us to him and made us partial to him. But still when one compares his singing prowess with any other singer, he always stood out. What was that EXTRA and UNIQUE thing he possessed which made him such a singing Star.

Reasons can be many including all the above indicated qualities. But I attribute mainly to his capacity to put feelings into any song. While rendering romantic songs, he would see to it that the listener would day-dream with songs – ‘Jaane Bahar Husna’ or ‘Kahin Ek Masoom’. He made us weep with his soulful numbers – ‘Babul Ki Duayen’ or ‘Aman Ka Farishta’ or ‘Dil Ek Mandir Hai’. He made us dance with ‘Aaja Aaja’ or ‘Dekho Abto’. He would have been equally adept at today’s pop songs as he showed in songs like ‘Jaan Pehchaan Ho’ or ‘Laal Laal Gaal’. His sensuous numbers like ‘Tumse Kahun’ or ‘Haseen Dilruba’ arouse passionate feelings in the listeners. He brought tears with his patriotic numbers like ‘Kar Chale’ or ‘Ae Watan’. He made us think with his revolutionary songs like ‘Yeh Mehlon’ or ‘Ye Kooche Ye Neelaam’. How beautifully the tempo is built from almost whispering “Ye Mehlon Ye Takhton” in the beginning to the full throated “Jalado Jalado” in the end. Even a non-filmy guy but interested in Hindustani classical sangeet, would marvel at the rendition of ‘Madhuban Me Radhika’ or ‘Nache Man Mora’. A qawal would love to reproduce the mother of all qawalis, ‘Na To Caravan’ or ‘Meri Tasveer Lekar’ like Rafi Saab has recorded.

What can one say about the GUIDE solo, “Din Dhal Jaye”, the song had so many shades of emotions – bitterness, frustration, love-lost, disappointment and Rafi Saab brought out all those emotions into this one song making it easy for the ever youthful Dev Anand to give perhaps the best performance of his career. No wonder, this song is considered as one of the best song ever recorded in the Hindi Film Industry.

Yes, this is precisely the thing that Rafi Saab gave with his songs, the mood for the listener to hear those songs in the same mood. It was as if he was rendering those songs to each of the listener. How much he must have struggled in those fifteen or twenty days of ‘practice’ before the song was finally recorded, practicing to perfect the diction, putting feelings into each and every word, a pause here and a ‘harqat’ there, full throated in one line and suddenly soft crooning (“tumse bhi pyaar, inse bhi pyaar” from GANWAR’sDuniya Haseen’) so that the final product goes straight to the listener’s heart. If one closely observes the way he pronounced words like ‘Zaam’, ‘Nasha’, ‘Sharab’, ‘Khumar’, etc. it would appear as if this teetotaler himself had a peg before recording these songs. Similarly, if carefully listened, one can experience the tiredness in his voice when he pronounces the word, ‘thak’ in the first stanza in “Meri Aawaaz Suno”. Rafi Saab had a unique way of pronouncing ‘Mohabbat’ and ‘Pyaar’. ‘Mohabbat’ was always pronounced as ‘Muhabbat’ and his voice would become soft while rendering ‘Pyaar’. Listen to “Phir Wo Bhoolisi Yaad” and carefully listen to his singing “Rote Hi” in the final stanza, it appears as if he himself is weeping while pronouncing the word. The emotions he expressed while singing “Aman Ka Farishta” and “Babul Ki Duaen” cannot be matched.

The title song of AADMI was a big hit. In you-tube, we can get another version sung by another popular playback singer, but one can easily see the difference. Though the second version has been sung well, but the disappointment, confusion and other emotions suited to the picturized scene in the Rafi Saab version is totally missing.

Well Rafi Saab, I have a complaint, you have set such a high benchmark that we always feel like comparing all the singers with you and in the process feel disappointed. But I dread to think what would have happened to all of us if Singers like you were not born. Even your most romantic songs bring tears to me, as I start thinking whether any ordinary human being can sing so perfectly. They say any beautiful thing will make your heart weep, and I weep when I listen to you, because your songs are the most beautiful sound one can hear in this World. You have won so many awards, but even after so many years you are still in the hearts of so many people and that is the greatest award, you have earned. Not only people of earlier generation, but even young people including very young children enjoy singing your songs, as proved in the many TV music competitions.

Rafi Saab, you have given us so much pleasure all our life, and continue to give us with your songs, a BIG thank you very much.

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25 Blog Comments to “What was so special about Rafi Saab?”

  1. Satish Tavag says:

    This is a glowing tribute. on Mohd Rafi Sahib, written by a person, namely Gurumurthy, who is his true fan and admirer. The breadth and depth of Rafi Sahib’s abilities and talents are well covered. If I may, I would like to draw people’s attention to some of Rafi Sahib’s other soulful renditions such as “Ye zindagi ke mele, duniya mein kam na honge..”, “Ya meri manzil bataa, ya zindagi ki chhenle..”, “hamey kya jo harsoo, ujaale huay hain..”, “Mohabbat ke dhoke mein koi na aana..” etc… etc…
    Rafi Sahib has given us so much, that I have more than enough to keep me joyous and busy for the rest of my retired life.

  2. Mobeen Ashraf says:

    You said it right we also can feel tiredness in thak in song mere mahboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam.

  3. MAJAZ MUNGERI says:


  4. shammi says:

    I don’t agree with Shaun as there will be people casting their votes for their favourite singer whom ever it may be again and again. It certainly doesn’t make them dishonest, What really is wrong and dishonest is the fact that the government has FAILED to recognise that Mohd Rafi should have been awarded the Bharat Ratna award and has as usual deliberately made a mockery of the award system by giving it to less worthy receiptants. It’s got to the point that many people just don’t take the award system seriously any more.

  5. Shaun says:

    An intelligent person will not dispute that Rafi is the greatest singer of all time; however, for the same individual to cast multiple votes, is in my opinion dishonest


  6. Adeel Haidry says:

    I am sorry to say that rafian don’t fulfill their responsibility regarding cast the vote to Rafi Sahib in “MOST POPULAR MUSICIANS IN WORLD” website even they have written columns in favour of rafi sb. donot cast the vote.

    Rajinder Sagoo and me cast the vote 6-7 times daily. Rafi sahib one the best singer in the world but unfortunately he is on 6th position in world by vote. Rafian’s must take it serious and cast their votes.

  7. Adeel Haidry says:

    I am sorry to say that rafian don’t fulfill their responsibility regarding cast the vote to Rafi Sahib in “MOST POPULAR MUSICIANS IN WORLD” website even they written columns in favour of rafi sb. Rajinder Sagoo and I cast vote every 6-7 times a day.
    Rafi sahib one the best singer in the world but he is on 6th position in world by vote. Please consider it on this matter

  8. samuel george says:

    Rafi is not a human He is an angel

  9. Z says:

    Does anybody have link to Aadmi title song sung by another singer as mentioned in this article? Or is the author confused by the song “aisi haseen raat” which has talat mehmood singing on the soundtrack but mehandre kapoor in the fil.

  10. Sujit Kumar Sharan says:

    Great Article. thanks for posting… RAFI JAISA KOI NAHI…

  11. Shahbaz Mahmood says:

    I think Muhammad Rafi was real genius. He sang Mera Yaar Bana Hai Dulha. At the end he molded his voice to an old character. When you watch the song on screen, you will definitely say, Muhammad Rafi had the ability to mold his voice to any character perfectly.

  12. shammi says:

    What a beautifully written article. I totally agree that whilst most of us associate certain singers with certain genres of music, the great Mohd Rafi slotted easily into all of them and for me excelled in all. I think he beat Talat Mehmood, Manna Day, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh at their own game. I definitely think had it not been for the likes of some actors like Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, and R D Burman being such close friends with Ashok Kumar and his brother Kishore Kumar and therefore favouring him of the highly talented Mohd Rafi then Mohd Rafi would have reigned right until his death. However, it is important to realise that Mohd Rafi was more popular for a much longer period of time than Kishore Kumar and in an era when music was at its all time best. To sum it all up Mohd Rafi was and is still and always will be the best singer that India has ever had.

  13. S Nambiath says:

    Very emotional article – and one can understand just why people get emotional, when remembering the Maestro!

    Thank you very much Guru Murthy Sir, for the Link to the totally crazy, entirely lovable “Maike Se Aaja Biwi”! I am going to listen to it many, many more times (have already listened to it about 3 times! :))

    Thank you also for your thoughts on Rafi Sahab!

  14. K.P.Hassan says:

    very interesting article about the versatile singer Mohd Rafi Sahab. Really he was the only all rounder singer of our film industry. We are still enjoying his beautiful songs which he gifted for his fans. Very very thanks to RAFI SAHAB.

  15. Raghavan Vasudevan says:

    Nicely written article and well chosen songs.

    Rafi Sahib was jack of all types of songs and master too.

    Rafi sahib was a complete all rounder.

    I chose these simple words to say about the greatness of Rafi sahib.

    He is born to live in our hearts as long as we live.

  16. SalRafi says:

    Guru Murthy,
    Can you please tell me the Aadmi title song you are referring to and the other singer? Thanks.

  17. SalRafi says:

    Brilliant article. very good video examples. Thank you. I couldn’t believe the yodeling voice is Rafi Saabs. I have heard him yodeling before but this one sounded like KK. May be he impersonated KK and sounded like him!!! Rafi Saab the one and only. When you compare singers leave Rafi Saab aside. He is simply incomparable.

  18. Dr. Khaja Aliuddin says:

    Janab Guru Murthy Sahab,

    Salaam, Fabulous writing, Bahut khoob.
    ” Tumhari bartari hai aaj bhi khayam zamane me
    Khayamath tak baje ga aap ka danka Rafi Sahab ”

    ” Sukoone khalb milta hai tumhare geet sun sun kar
    wa gar na aaj ke naghmo me kiya rakha Rafi Sahab ”
    Penned by Mr. Saleem Khaderi

    Long live Rafi Sahab
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  19. krishnan says:

    hare ek gaan me jaan dekar usko jeevith karne ka sahas sirf rafi sahab rakthe they. Isiliye unke har ek gaane amar hai.

  20. Bhargavaram says:

    Heading of this article itself says, ” what is so special about Rafi saheb ” .
    First thing I would like to highlight is , Rafi saheb, just didn’t sang the songs as it has been tuned by music director, or just readout the lyric as penned by a lyricist . Rafi saheb, felt those songs deep into his heart and mind as if he himself is expressing it as his own feelings He made those songs to be alive and feel the lyricist, music director feel proud for having made the song immortal.

  21. sabnavis. says:

    I have just picked up playing saxophone since the last One year & Nine months. I tried various songs of all our singers. Slowly when am getting control over my fingers for modulations & expressions I am daring to play the renditions of Rafi sahab. I have started playing the following songs of rafi sahab,

    1. Chalkaye Jaam.
    2. Ai gulbadan
    3. Likhe jo khat tujhey
    4. Akela hun main ( Baat ek raat ki )
    5. Chale the saath milke
    6. Chaunga mein tujhe
    7. Pukartaa chala hun mein

    Now when I try playing these vere green numbers I feel as if am deeply churned inside my heart since it requires so much of involvement to create the exact expressions. Thats our Rafi sahab the FARISHTA.

  22. Uma Maheswar says:


  23. Rohit says:

    Thankx lot for this truly perfect article where each n every words r true and transparent. Big congtrs to u sir i here pay my tribute to rafi saab by this song.

  24. N V Prakash says:

    It is impossible to comprehend how Rafi saheb could bring so many emotions…. much more than the actor on scene..!!! Surely it is GOD HIMSELF. I cannot explain otherwise

  25. Arun Vedula says:

    Wow really great to know about the yudleeying side of my GOD
    never herd these songs – these are really unique gems.

    GOD Rafi could sing any thing and anything that he sang becomes the best song by default.

    Thanks for posting such a fantastic article about the God!!

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