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His voice swayed millions

This article is by Mr. Vishal Verma. Source: Mr. Sajjad Qadir

MOHAMMED RAFI was one of the most versatile and talented singers Indian film industry has ever produced. Though he passed away 19 years ago on July 31, 1980, he continues to live in the hearts of millions of his fans in India and abroad. Mohammed Rafi had an immortal, melodious voice. He was trained in classical music and had an unparalleled range. Rafi conveyed different shades of emotions through his songs whether romantic, sad, classical, devotional, ghazals or bhajans. He could sing every kind of song with an ease and perfection that made him the uncrowned king of Indian playback singing. It is no wonder that film-makers of the stature of Mahboob Khan, Guru Dutt, A.R. Kardar, Dev Anand, S. Mukherjee and Nasir Hussain relied on him.

However, this humble and shy man’s journey from a small village, Kotla Sultan Singh, to the position of popular singer was not an easy one. Rafi was born on December 24, 1924, and was fond of singing from childhood. As singing was not considered respectful those days, he ran away from home to Lahore, where he got training under maestros such as Bade Gulam Ali Khan and Ustaad Abdul Waheed Khan. Rafi sang on All-India Radio before he entered cinema. Sham Sunder was the first music director who recognised the artiste in Rafi and gave him a break in a Punjabi movie, Gulbloch, in which Rafi sang Soniye, Hiriye nee. Rafi came into limelight in the late 40s with songs such as Suhani raat dhal chukie and Yahan badla wafa ka. However, the credit for discovering the immense range of his voice and polishing it goes to Naushad Ali whose film Baiju Bawra (1951) established Rafi as a talented singer.

Rafi sang for many famous music directors during the 50s and 60s. He sang Naushad’s composition Man tarpat Hari darshan ko, with the same perfection he sang O.P. Nayyar’s light composition Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan. He also sang S.D. Burman’s Khoya-khoya chand – Kala Bazar,Shankar Jai Kishan’s Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar – Junglee, Roshan’s Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi – Barsaat ki Raat, Madan Mohan’s Main nigahen tere chehre se – Aap ki Parchhaiyan, Salil Chowdury’s Koi sone ke dilwala – Maya and Ravi’s Sau baar janam lenge – Ustaadon ke Ustaad.

Despite his great success Rafi was a simple, kind hearted and down-to-earth person. When Laxmi-Pyare recorded their first ever non-film song, Rafi called them after the recording and said Are you both happy?, Yes said the duo. He then gave his entire fees to them and asked them to divide it among themselves. Since then we have always shared everything equally, said the late Lakshmikant. Such was the respect he got from the music directors. He sang free of cost or for a small fee for producers who were short of finances.

Rafi sang almost all the songs for actors like Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Sunil Dutt and Dharmendra among others. He also lent his voice to musical hits like Baiju Bawra, Aan, Amar, Pyasaa, Mere Mehboob, Kashmir ki Kali, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Taj Mahal, Junglee, Suraj, Dosti and Arzoo. Even the producers who had other singers as favourites had to turn to Rafi whenever the need arose such as Raj Kapoor in Sangam, Shri 420, and Awara, V. Shantaram in Sehra, Manoj Kumar in Upkaar, Kranti, and B.R. Chopra in Waqt, Dhool Ka Phool, Dastaan and The Burning Train.

In the course of his career spanning over 35 years, he sang over 26,000 songs in different Indian languages. He has the credit of singing the maximum number of duets along with Lata Mangeskar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. He won six Filmfare awards and the Padam Shree in 1968. He also received the National Award for Jinhen naaz hai Hind par- Pyasaa and the Sur Singar Award for Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare – Chitralekha.

Rafi was truly a singer for the masses and not for any particular class. His voice appealed to all, the old, young, rich, poor, men and women. He was always ready to entertain jawans at the border whenever approached. Pandit Nehru once invited him to Delhi to hear him sing. That was the happiest moment of my life said Rafi. No wonder then that his patriotic songs like Kar chale hum fida – Haqeeqat and Watan pe jo fida hoga – Phool Bane Angaray are still popular.

His demise at the age of 56 on July 31, 1980, came as a shock to the film industry and millions of his fans. Thousands of people took part in his funeral procession although it was raining heavily. People wept, threw flowers and garlands on him from their homes, recalls Naushad Ali. I felt as if my own voice had been lost and could not utter a word for hours when I heard this shocking news, said actor Shammi Kapoor.

- By Vishal Verma.

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11 Blog Comments to “His voice swayed millions”

  1. channa says:

    you are the greatest when listening to your voice we are in a trance youre a gods gift to music world its up to the authorities to protect and codify your work may you be re born in mother india

  2. M. Rajan says:

    The best singer who sang for Hindi films for nearly 37 years. The most talented, versatile, melodious, deep and soothing voice throughout the range ever heard in Hindi films. No comparison with any other singers in Hindi films. Being a humble and simple personality he had to undergo sufferings due to film politics despite his extreme talent. The loss was subsequently to Hindi song lovers. I too in my younger age in 1970s used to wonder why such a great singer was neglected when there is nobody else to compete him in his field.
    In fact it is for this reason that Hindi film songs deteriorated. Since 1970, melodious songs became rare and it gave way to some funny odd sounds and rhythms. Those who sang melodious songs did not have melodious voice at all.
    It is with regrets that we note how such a man with golden voice was neglected my eminent music directors.

    Anyway past is past
    That is all
    M. Rajan

  3. Vishal Verma says:

    My email is : vishalchd@yahoo.com

  4. Vishal Verma says:

    Hello to all Rafi sahab’s fans. This is Vishal Verma. I wrote this article in 1999 (11 years ago) in Chandigarh. I am glad to see it on this website. Sorry for not replying earlier friends. My email is listed below for anyone who wants to contact. One thought.. Just like Kohinoor’s value or shine will nly increase as the time passes, rafi sahab’s voice & his songs will be missed even more by people like us

    Vishal.

  5. Siraj Baug says:

    Beautiful article. My mornings starts with his velvet voice.

  6. rameshkurpad says:

    there are two appearances the almighty made in the blessed land of bharat and every bharatvaasee never refutes and protects it with a smile ( irrespective of religion caste creed colour ) simply because in both the appearances the birth life and death was in bharat itself.

    krishna

    rafi sahab

    ramesh narain kurpad

  7. DPT says:

    I can not imagine my life without Rafi Sahab.
    Have been listening his songs for more than 40 days.
    Addicted and intoxicated by the Master.

  8. vishal verma jeeee,

    congratulatiions on writing this heart tearing – endearing article in the year 2003 ( i did not know this site existed till 2008 )

    vishaljee – some lines – i have to copy paste -

    quote :

    Rafi was truly a singer for the masses and not for any particular class. His voice appealed to all, the old, young, rich, poor, men and women. He was always ready to entertain jawans at the border whenever approached. Pandit Nehru once invited him to Delhi to hear him sing. That was the happiest moment of my life said Rafi. No wonder then that his patriotic songs like Kar chale hum fida – Haqeeqat and Watan pe jo fida hoga – Phool Bane Angaray are still popular.

    His demise at the age of 56 on July 31, 1980, came as a shock to the film industry and millions of his fans. Thousands of people took part in his funeral procession although it was raining heavily. People wept, threw flowers and garlands on him from their homes, recalls Naushad Ali. I felt as if my own voice had been lost and could not utter a word for hours when I heard this shocking news, said actor Shammi Kapoor.

    unquote :

    vishaljee – all that i am PEEVED AND DISTRESSED is

    our great nation – is doing a great dis-service to MUSIC by not confering

    BHARAT RATNA – on the bharat kaa ratna himself even after 30 LONG YEARS.

    bhagwaan bikaawoo nahee hai – i am talking about RAFI SAHAB.

    adaab rafi,

    ramesh narain kurpad

    rafiaarenkay@gmail.com
    rameshkurpad@gmail.com

  9. jasbir singh says:

    MOHD.RAFI IS THE GREATEST SINGER …NOBODY CAN EQUAL HIM..GOVT SHOULD ERECT MEMORIAL WITH ALL SONGS BEING PLAYED 24 HRS….HE IS MY GOD………

  10. Can someone get me the video of my rafi sahab’s janaza????????????????????????

  11. 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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