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His voice made him immortal

This article is written by M.L.Dhawan for the tribune on July 25th 2004.

As a child, Mohammed Rafi spent hours listening to a fakir sing folk songs in his village Kotla Sultan Singh. It was this fakir who aroused in Rafi a passion for music. Impressed by Rafi’s talent, music director Shyam Sunder asked him to sing Soniye ni heeriye ni teri yaad ney bada tarpaya for the film Gul Baloch in 1942.

Rafi came to Bombay where he met Naushad who used his voice for Ek unhen mila and Tum Delhi main Aagrey in A.R. Kardar production Pehle Aap. Yahan badla wafa ka bewafayee ke siwa kya hai, a duet with Noorjehan from film Jugnu proved to be a turning point for him. Music lovers warmed up to Rafi’s numbers in film. Jin raton main neend ud jati hai kya kahar ki raten hoti hain from Raat Ki Rani underscored Rafi’s ability to deliver the best.

Baiju Bawara established Rafi’s credentials. O duniya ke rakhwale sun dard bhare mere naale and Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj were considered epitomes of perfection in singing.

Rafi had the passion of a workaholic. A perfectionist to the core, he would rehearse his songs a number of times till he achieved the desired level of perfection. Before the final take, he insisted on one final rehearsal. This accounted for the quality of his songs.

Rafi ability to depict every mood through his songs speaks volumes about the diversity of talent. Tasveer banata hoon teri khoon-e-jigar se from Diwana spelt class, while Phir wo bhuli si yaad aayi hai showcased Rafi’s vocal virtuosity. Over five decade have passed since these songs were recorded and yet none of his songs have lost their appeal.

The composers for the day were thankful for a singer like Rafi. He could deliver whatever they wanted. He lent his voice to S.D. Burman’s ode to existential disillusionment, Yeh duniyan agar mil bhee jaye to kya hai in Pyasa. In Dekhi zamane ki yaari bichde sabhi bari bari from Kagaz Ke Phool, Rafi sang about love and loss. In Roshan’s Carvan guzar gaya ghubar dekhte rahey from Nai Umar ki Nai Fasal, Rafi brought out a lingering sense of loss and longing. Under the baton of N. Dutta, he conveyed the agony of a man whose dreams had been shattered in Main ne chaand aur sitaron ki tamanna ki thi from Chanderkanta. Nain lad jayi hein to manva maan kasak hoi be kari from the film Ganga Jamuna is still remembered for its exuberance.

It was with Rafi’s voice that became the leitmotif for Shammi Kapoor’s famous yahoo exuberance in love songs. Numbers like Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahey, Bar bar dekno hazar baar dekho, Youn to humne lakh haseen dekhe hain, Ho gaya dil mera sooku sooku made Shammi the star he was.

Rafi was known for his camaraderie with his co-singers. The spirit of one-upmanship was absent in him. He never asked what he was going to be paid for a particular song. It was characteristic of his generosity that he sang Chanda ka dil toot gaya hai rone legey sitarey for Nissar Kaazmi for the film Khoj for just Re 1. Sometime he did not accept even that much.

Rafi brought cheers and smiles to millions of his fans through his songs. In his songs like Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, Rafi tried to inspire the dejected and give hope to those who had lost faith in life and God. On July 31, 1980, a massive heart attack silenced this peerless singer forever. But his songs keep him alive.

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