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Tribute to Mohammed Rafi on his 20th death anniversary

Thursday August 10, 2000 5:30 PM. Copyright 2000 Hindustan Times Ltd

Mohammad Rafi was a singer par excellence. One of a kind. When he died, all of a sudden and well before his time, such were his charisma and qualities as a human being that he left behind millions saddened and wishing he had not gone. His contemporaries: Talat Mahmood, Mukesh, Kishore, Hemant and Manna Dey were all super singers, each with his own mass following. But they all acknowledged Rafi as a versatile singer. Rafi had a voice that for its tonal quality and range had no peer.

The high and low cadences in O Duniya ke Rakhwaley – Baiju Bawra and Meri Kahani Bhoolney Waley – Deedar were proof, if one was needed, of his trained voice and, one ventures to add, an inspiration for some fine emoting by Bharat Bhushan and Dilip Kumar. He had talent that was so rare that when he sang for Dev Anand or Johny Walker, Raj Kapoor, or Mehmood, Shammi Kapoor or Guru Dutt he made it look as if they were singing themselves.

I recall the days of Binaca Geetmala when its annual programmes with the year’s 32 most popular songs would invariably have a Rafi song at the top – Yeh Hai Bombay meri jaan, Sar jo tera chakraye, Zara samne to aao chaliye, Yeh mera prempatra and so on. His songs had an amazing variety and showed him to be the phenomenon that he was; they were sad and heavy Hui Shaam unka khayal aa gaya; Din dhal jaaye, light and romantic Teri pyari pyari soorat, Tumsa nahin dekha, Tasveer banata hoon teri khoon-e-jigar se, ghazals Kahtay hai ke Ghalib ka, Ghazab kiya tere waadet pe aitbaar kiya, Hum bekhudi mein tumko pukarey chaley gaye, comedy Hum kale hain to kya hua; Main Bombai ka babu classical Madhuban mein Radhika nachey re and devotional Man tarpat hari darshan ko and Badi der bhayee Nandlala. He sang some stirring songs of patriotism too. It was soon after independence that Rafi sang Watan ki raah mein watan for Dilip Kumar, the patriot, in Shaheed and which almost at once gained the stature of some kind of a national song. No national occasion was, and is, considered complete without this Rafi evergreen. This was followed by another immortal song, Suno suno aiye duniyawalon Bapu ki yeh amar kahani that was played over and over again in every city and town, every village and dale. Rafi’s singing made it a moving tribute to Bapu.

A versatile voice, such as his, fitted every one and he could sing for every occasion. Where Hemant Kumar was identified as Pradeep Kumar’s voice, Mukesh was Raj Kapoor’s, Kishore Kumar was dev Anand’s and Rajesh Khanna’s, and Talat, to begin with, was Dilip Kumar’s, it cannot be said that Rafi was identified as any one actor’s voice though he did regulary sing for Dilip Kumar nor could it be said of him, as used to be said for some of the other singers that any particular music director favoured him. Whether it was Naushad or C. Ramchandra, S.D Burman or Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan or O P Nayyar – all chose him to sing their songs. And he, in turn, did full justice to them. The one male singer after Saigal, who caught every one’s ear, Rafi’s popularity remained undimmed in the face of acute challenge from Mukesh and others. It was only Kishore Kumar in the post-Aradhana phase who could hold a candle to Rafi. But, and this may sound incredible and even blashemous to Kishore Kumar fans, and I am one, O P Nayyar chose Rafi to sing Man mora bawara in Raagini for, yes, Kishore Kumar! That was an undeniable stamp of class on Rafi, and Kishore showed his own class by graciously agreeing to this arrangement. Many budding singers have taken inspiration from Rafi and done their best to copy him, be his clone. It is a measure of Rafi’s greatness that none has come close to even cloning him. Not many of today’s singers would be able to do justice to the songs of Junglee, Janwar, Sangam et al. But, had Rafi been around today, surely he would have, in his inimitable style, rendered Kuch Na Kaho, Ek ladki ko dekha, Kuch kuch hota hai, and Kaho na pyaar hai. Such was the man’s genius that 20 years after he has been gone, one still longs to hear him, misses him.

May he rest in peace.

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5 Blog Comments to “Tribute to Mohammed Rafi on his 20th death anniversary”

  1. shamim says:

    kishore kumar doesn’t even come close to mohd rafi’s incredible talent and for those who like kishore kumar they should go to the kishore kumar sites and leave mohd rafi fans to enjoy the aricles written about the best singer in the world.

  2. Somnath Mukherjee says:

    Just one correction . Madhuban Mein radhika nache re is from the Film : Kohinoor & NOT Bombai ka babu .

    Please ask Bandita not to comment on singers – before she learns Music

  3. siddu says:

    at bandita-

    kishore kumar isn’t anywhere near rafi saab.. rafi is the greatest of all time..

  4. Bandita says:


  5. Bonifacius says:

    Great article. I am just sad I dont know how to reply properly, though, since I want to show my appreciation like many other.

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