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The King of melody

This article is by Mr. Binu Nair. It has been published at

Even if belatedly, music lovers have now appealed to the government to honour Mohammed Rafi with the Bharat Ratna posthumously. A singer par excellence and a paragon of humility and piety, Rafi strode the musical landscape like a meteor, enchanting generations of music lovers and transcending geographical borders. The melody and vocals Mohd Rafi created, crafted and pioneered during his reign have withstood the test of Time. The mellifluous vocals rise like a glorious tide, caressing the soul with songs for every mood and occasion.

Mohammed Rafi has sung them all, with grace and unsurpassable elan – be it ghazals, bhajans, classicals, soft romantic numbers, bhangra, sad songs, duets, nazms, and high-pitched fast numbers.


Mohd. Rafi was born to Haji Ali Mohammed and Allah Rakhi in Kotla Sultan Singh village, a town near Amritsar on December 24, 1924. A disciplinarian father disapproved of Rafi’s passion for singing but the child had the blessings of his mother, according to Rafi’s youngest son Shahid Rafi, now in the business of garment exports in Mumbai.

The story goes that as a young boy, Rafi used to hear a fakir passing by the house, ektara in hand, singing to glory. The young lad would follow the fakir, sit with him under a tree and hear him to his heart’s content. This mendicant was the first to plant the singing bug in young Rafi’s mind. The ubiquitous radio too played its part, Rafi being glued to it when not attending primary school. At 14, Rafi’s family moved to Lahore for good, where he discreetly trained under Ustad Barkat Ali Khan.

Music composer Shyam Sunder, impressed by the lad’s voice, gave Rafi his first break – a duet – in Gul Baloch. The song ‘Soniyo ni heeriyo ni teri yaad ne sataaya…’, was recorded in 1942 in Lahore and thus became his first recorded song. Composer Feroze Nizami duly got for young Rafi his first job – through Radio Lahore in 1943. Thereafter, along with elder brother Hamid (who helped Rafi get major singing assignments in the early struggling days) Rafi reached Mumbai.

The brothers took up a ten-by-ten-feet room in the crowded downtown Bhendi Bazar area. Probably, to make ends meet Rafi also faced the camera in two movies, but his heart was set on singing. Long hours of early morning riyaaz mainly at the Chowpatty sea-face followed. As destiny would ordain, Shyam Sunder was now in Mumbai and again provided an opportunity to Rafi – who got to sing a duet with GM Durrani, ‘Aji dil ho qaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi…’, for Gaon Ki Gori, which became Rafi’s first recorded song in a Hindi film. Rafi’s stars were looking up now. National recognition soon came from the runaway hit, composed by Firoz Nizami, ‘Yahaan badla wafa ka…’ with Noorjehan, then reigning queen of Hindi playback singing for Jugnu. Many other popular songs followed and music composers were now convinced of Rafi’s phenomenal voice range.

In 1948, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the team of Husanlal Bhagatram-Rajendra Krishan-Rafi had overnight created the immortal song ‘Suno suno ae duniyawalon, Bapuji ki amar kahani…’, which became a national rage. Mohd Rafi became a household name.

It was perhaps Baiju Bawra (1952) that brought real fame to Rafi and riches never even dreamt ever by this God-fearing lad who was on his way to becoming India’s topmost singer. ‘Man tadpat Hari darshan ko…’, ‘O’ duniya ke rakhwale…’, ‘Tu Ganga ki mauj…’ all became chartbusters. It heralded the era of the Naushad-Shakeel-Rafi team the musical works of which later reflected young India’s dream of a ‘secular and noble’ India.


The then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru while viewing Baiju Bawra, enquired about the singer of the devotional songs from his secretary. When the PM was told it was a singer by the name of Mohd. Rafi, he was invited to dinner with the PM himself. Rafi was duly honoured and hugged for his singing feat by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He was all of 28 years then and thus started the annual visit to the PM’s house and the tradition of singing for Prime Minister Nehru and several dignitaries.

Rafi Sahab and his wife with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, O.P. Nayyar, C.Ramachandra, Hemant Kumar and Ravi now began composing great numbers suited to Rafi’s vocal range. Rafi’s clear rendition, perfect sur and bhaav, unparallelled expression and impeccable diction placed him way above the other singers of his time.

However, despite fame and adulation, Rafi’s life and routine remained unaltered. The recording room-to-home itinerary never changed. No film parties, no vices, retiring at 9 pm and doing riyaaz from 4 to 7 in the morning were some strict norms laid by the maestro for himself. The only ‘luxuries’ Rafi indulged in and looked forward to were sports like carrom, badminton and flying kites along with family members and close friends.

Rafi became quite adept in singing in languages like Marathi, Kannada, Konkani, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and English. He would rehearse for days before each recording – driving perfection into the numbers.

When Aradhana happened (and Kishore came in due to the advent of R.D.Burman as its associate music director and later hit centerstage), a section of music composers wasted little time in prophesizing the end of the road for Rafi and his salability as a playback singer. This hurt the gentle Rafi no end. Believing this to some extent, he thought of retiring and settling down with his sons in London. But Naushad, Rafi’s mentor and friend, urged Rafi to stay on and not run away from the scene as – he had considerable talent to face the heat of the times.

Rafi, Kishore Da and Manna Dey

At this stage, composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal was in top creative form and not getting typecast in a specific musical mould like R.D. Burman. LP also did not forget Rafi’s huge role in their success in Parasmani, Dosti and many other films and his support when they were making their transition from assistants to music composers.

In due course, Rafi regained his confidence and once again was on top reckoning form with hit numbers from films like Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Sargam and many others.

A teetotaler and family man to the core, Rafi is the shining example of a singer who lit the way and blazed the trail for numerous aspiring singers from Mahendra Kapoor to Anwar and Shabbir Kumar down to Sonu Nigam. Mahendra Kapoor was his disciple and both shared a guru-shishya relationship till the very end.

Rafi Sahab with Mahendra Kapoor, Mukesh and Asha Bhonsle

Rafi came from a family where humility was equated with worshipping the divine. He had a lovable nature, no enemies and perennial humility.

Help would often go to artistes fallen on bad times – without the world knowing of it. He sang more for the song than for the money – the money would come later or never from struggling producers – but satisfaction always arrived at his doorstep. He would often waive his singing fees from debutant composers with no resources – charging one rupee as a token for a song. If he liked a song he would waive his fees too, citing his satisfaction as his payment. Rafi was content with the remuneration he received for his recordings. He did not chase money like some other artistes of the day.


Did the Indian government give due recognition to Mohd Rafi, asked a Bangladesh journalist in, a website dedicated to the legend. The Padma Shri was conferred on Rafi and a nondescript tiny marquee with the sign “Mohammed Rafi Chowk” stands on Mumbai’s arterial SV Road in Bandra, the suburb in which he lived. But Rafi’s biggest award perhaps is the place that he has carved in people’s heart in many corners of the world.

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173 Blog Comments to “The King of melody”

  1. Mushtaq Ahmed says:

    Mr Narayan ji and Binu ji

    Please book one copy of Rafi special magazine for me also. My address
    #697, super cooperative society, Sector 48-A, chandigarh. Please also let me know how I can help Rafi Foundation in making it more stronger body. I am also die hard fan of Mohammed Rafi.

  2. binus2000 says:

    Post 98: the special magazine will contain articles, anecdotes,
    pictures and remisciences of legend singer Mohd Rafi.
    binu nair

  3. binus2000 says:

    Dear rafians – a special issue magazine is being issued by
    the RAFI FOUNDATION – MUMBAI CHAPTER on July 31, 2007.
    THE MAGAZINE DETAILS. Revenue from the mag will go towards
    the expenses of the foundation…..
    the mag. price is rs.50 and rs.20 for postage in India…

    kindly book your copies with mr. narayanan : or : mob : + 9833 250 701

    For advertising details and the foundation charter, pls contact asap.

    binu nair..

  4. binus2000 says:

    Dear Unknown:

    Sorry for this. I understand only less than 50% what you say…
    I like your interest and love for rafi saab : but please express
    in a way that all will understand and appreciate you….


  5. Ganesh says:

    Mr. Unknown1 please improove your english or write in Hindi which can make us easy to inderstand you language

  6. binus2000 says:

    Pl. join the r a f i foundation and spread the good words of vibrant
    enchanting melodic – vintage music……. Mr.Narayan from Bangalore the energetic, enthusistic
    young rafi saab b h a k ta who is a garments consultant by

    His cell no. is – 0 988 677 9557 and e.mail address is

    binu nair from Mumbai :

  7. Prakash shah says:

    post 93:-Binu you are absolutetly right that now a days people have short memory they are not oblige to anyone as they reach to gaurishankar(peak)they shortly forget main reason behind theire success,But not only rafiji ,but industrywallas even not remembering dadmuni,Rk,sj,shailendra,Hasrat,even KK,and Great gazal creator ever prroduce in hindi film industry mestro madan mohan ,Roshan a truely original music director i can say B’coz at the time of tough compitition with (SJ,Naushad,Madan mohan,SD,Kalyanji anandji) he never bargain with his music creation and quality,& given hit after hit like barsat ki raat,bheegi raat,dulha dulhan,aarti,and many more , but his own sons Rajesh and Rakesh are never say any thing good or bad or done any thing towards his father to be remember to todays generation so i think binu that this filmi people are highly philosopher and they remain in present and trying to forget the past easily.So where Jeetu stands.

  8. binus2000 says:

    Post 89: Prakash shah…..

    You are right…. to some extent but two points…. herein:

    The industry treated rafi saab badly : the last 8 years of his life…

    and rafi saab was ignored for rightful awards….

    in this industry – money can buy awards…. and undue praise to
    these film people enable one to scale the social order and be in
    their good books…… Money can also buy you roles…
    I love Jeetendra . rafi saab made a huge contribution to his
    career… i doubt if Jeetu bhai remembers this… today….

    The treatment meted out to rafi saab irks me a lot….
    See the contribution of rafi saab to the music and
    film industry… . Rafi saab was a honourable man with great principles
    but this big bad industry does’nt have the time yet to honour the
    thespian Mohammad Rafi…

    binu nair

  9. binus2000 says:

    Dear Unknown:

    Ur question and explanation is quite complicated… pls write clearly

    and if possible forget Lata and write more clearly on our legend

    rafi saab…..

  10. unknow1 says:

    Sir binus2000,
    would u plz tell me what is Bharat Ratna award?
    As we all know that Lata ji was a great singer but she was not great human to be given Bharat ranta award as we know why she didn’t sing for SJ because SJ used to give us other Bharat Ratna(Female singer)Why she didn’t sing with Mohd Rafi because she is bharat Ratna she loves money more than Bharat!!!!!!!!!!! or music lover.why not sing for SD!!!!!!!!………

  11. unknow1 says:

    Sir binus2000,
    would u plz tell me what is Bharat Ratna award?
    As we all know that Lata ji was a great singer but she was not great huma to be given Bharat ranta award as we know why she didn’t sing for SJ because SJ used to give us other Bharat Ratna(Female singer)Why she didn’t sing with Mohd Rafi because she is bharat Ratna she loves money more than Bharat or music lover.why not sing for SD………

  12. Prakash shah says:

    Dear binu,i fully agreed that now a days filmy awards doesn’t have any meanings of dignity,But i want to improve one mistake in your letter that phalke award was given to dilip kumar and not jeetendra, he was present in function.from your writing it clearly shows that you have some jeoulesy towards jeetendra,but in any case jeetendra and dharmendra didn’t get any of the awards except life time achievement awards this clearly shows theire creditability that they could have manage it in theire time as of todays stars but they didn’t.

    For jeetu sons ,jeetu performing his duty as a father , let’s wait and watch.

    As far as rafiji concern i am thankful to Jeetendra,dharmendra,shammikapoor,dilipkumar,rajendrakumar,and devanand,films.

  13. binus2000 says:

    Dear friends

    Awards in the film industry may not be always based on
    good quality – always….

    The Dadasaheb phalke award was given to actor Jeetendra and
    Aruna Irani recently. Many others have also undeservedly got
    these awards…..
    Rafi saab who is known the world over and one who has unified
    the Indians worldwide and has taken the hindi music industry to
    dizzying heights – has not been honoured with any major award.
    More, they have dishonoured the awards by giving it to ayre – gayre
    meaning all and sundry….
    In this industry, even Jeetendras son can become a hero – by his
    money power…..

    Rafi saab was above all this… If the govt. so wishes.. let the
    Bharat ratna award be honoured and decorated by giving it to
    Rafi saab… We all will make a big representation – starting
    J U L Y 31st…. this year… with the lead being taken by Dr.Vinay

    binu nair

  14. Mohammed says:

    Rafi Saheb is the greatest of all times.

  15. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Rafi Saheb deserve Bharat Ratna and Dada Saheb Phalke and much more.

  16. shobhit sharma says:

    I hereby extend my immense support to the noblest cause of conferring the bharat ratna or atleast dadasaheb falke award on rafi saab as early as possible.

  17. binus2000 says:

    When comparisons are made between Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar,
    I remember this:: rafi saab was a past master in whistling in live
    concerts…. in his fast paced songs .

    Also, On stage, Rafi saab would also call out : Ya hooo .. while singing
    this song…. electrifying the audiences…

    I have watched Kishore Kumar live but did not see KK whistling…
    But, dancing and singing – Kishore was good and great…..

    Yoodlee ing…. any basic singer can do…. Sudesh Bhosle can do
    it b e t t e r….

    binu nair

  18. sjk says:

    KK fans, learn something from Rafians like binu and others. Learn the language of decency, manners and civilised behaviour.

    It is sad seeing you guys boil your blood over and over in driving the self proclaimed kishorebachaoandolan.

    In reality its not KK that needs to be saved but you.

  19. mohamed parvez says:

    well said anmol ji binu ji we never used bad language for kishore da we like his song we respect him

  20. binus2000 says:

    Kishore Kumar lovers..

    I have met Kishore Kumar, talked to him.. I like love and adore
    Kishore da…
    He is a great singer… I will never use improper words for Kishore
    unlike the kalank kkk … debjyot , abishek who use foul language
    for rafi saab.
    Please grow up Kishore fans…. enjoy Kishore songs and try to live
    with others viewpoint as you may never be able to change that…..

    I definitely love many Kishore gems but when my favourite singer
    has to be named, it is not Saighal, Not Talat, not manna da, not
    Kishore da. It has got to be the inimitable – legend mohd rafi saab
    who has the variety – which no singer has…..
    binu nair

  21. sjk says:

    Well said Anmol. In reality we love KK more than them.

  22. Anmol Singh says:

    Hi Binu,

    The biggest irony is that KK fans never understood KK properly. If a Rafi fans are asked to speak a few words on KK, they will do a better job. The reason being most Rafi Fans are humble by nature, this is because of the influnece of Rafi melodious voice which speaks of truthfull is some form or the other.

  23. sjk says:

    Dear Binus

    Couldn’t agree more with you. Your observations are spot on.

  24. binus2000 says:

    Dear SJK……

    WELL said S J K….. Kishore supporters lack content when they
    pen about KK.. So they use few words…. mostly borrowed which
    one can make out.. .
    When their vocabulary is exhausted then they resort to cheap words
    which they have heard on the roads like – hi hi, hi hi…..

    On the other hand i have found learned and literate people being
    rafis greatest fans which include doctors, painters, teachers,
    student and many other educated ones from different professions.

    While attending a social gathering of medical professionals
    in Kerala, only Rafi songs (solos) and duets of Rafi-Lata were sung.
    What does it prove?
    The Kishore-bachao-andolan has one slogan: Kishore is the genious,
    Kishore is the best singer in the world…… A sectarian view can
    never overcome facts and quality….. even if repeated a thousand
    times …..
    But these jesters do provide comic relief…. I seriously feel..
    binu nair

  25. sjk says:

    I hold my hands in pray and thank almighty God for giving us the angel of voice “ Mohammed Rafi Sahab” to this world. His voice is a symbol of glory, peace, and immortalized melody. Melody that is one of its kind, unthinkable, unachievable and incomparable and never ever to be matched by any mortal.

    His voice unites people and regions. Regions that have being torn apart due to political and other selfish reasons. His voice has crossed the man made hurdles and allowed people to reach each other through his immortal voice. His voice has broken the barriers of language and culture. His voice has all the emotions, emotions that flow from the heart and transform to melodious notes that remain embedded in our hearts and minds.

    Every note that he sang had a purpose, every modulation he displayed had a reason, and every range he achieved took him to a status that cannot be attempted by anyone let alone be achieved.

    We are indeed very lucky that God has given us the ears to appreciate and love his voice. Rafisaab lives in our hearts and minds. Things change everyday and will continue to change forever but what will not change is the love, appreciation, pride and respect we have for Rafisaab, as a person and as mercurial singer.

    I pray that his souls rests in peace and may God grant him heaven.

  26. sjk says:

    Hussein ji

    peace and common sense but no laughter….for that you have to go to what a member sonali wrote as

    isnt’ this funny.

    Wana laugh more, here is what some one posted and read the reply.
    dinesh Says:

    “Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar were declared the best playback singers of the millennium while Majrooh Sultanpuri was bestowed with the honour of being the best lyricist”

    read link:

    ‘Even after 25 years of his death, Mohammed Rafi remains immortal through his songs. Music director Laxmikant expressed surprise at the phenomenal demand for Rafi’s songs. `No other singer, not even Lata Mangeshkar, has been able to attract such tremendous following. It’s almost as if he were still alive,” he once said.”

    Rafi’s unmatched tarck record:

    read link :

    Hopefully this will bring in some sense for those who simply type anything without thinking and knowing the widely accepted facts.

    (Read the reply)

    Anuj Says:

    May 29th, 2007 at 8:46 pm
    Kishoreda is the singer of the millenium,genius of the millenium,I know it from net.

    where can you find such humour, or should i say black humour.

  27. ajay kumar says:

    dear rafi fans
    hi to all
    i was interested to have videos of rafi jis live performances.from where i can get it if you can kindly help me to locate.i shall be grateful.


  28. javifazl says:

    Dear Mr. Nair, I too need a copy of Rafi Saheb’s special magazine,
    I live in pakistan and I am willing to pay the charges.
    javed fazal,.

  29. javifazl says:

    Dear rafians plz
    beemar zehnoo ke logoun ki baatoon ko sun kar mat pareshan hoon, yeh bechare tao khud dawa ke liye pareshan haen,

  30. Hussein Sheikh says:

    sjk, welcome back to Rafi Saheb’s site where you’ll find peace.

  31. Hussein Sheikh says:

    I feel ‘sukoon’ while listening to Rafi Saheb’s songs.

  32. javifazl says:

    mohd. rafi is my all times favourite

    i love him and his songs

  33. javifazl says:

    binu nair sahab plz
    I would a copy of the book too. I live in pakistan and I am willing to pay the charges.Please sdvise me as I am also a Rafian.

  34. sjk says:

    KK lan says:Dear writer of this article,Rafi was never at the top after 1969,you stay in your fool’s paradise witha few fools like you.Kishore Kumar ruled the musical world from 1969 to 1987.Kishoreji is the king of melody,the world’s greatest singer.Rafi was just a fair singer

    This is exactly what i was stating in the above post. LOL…

  35. sjk says:

    Hello guys

    i am just coming back from Kishore da’s website. Good man, good singer but it seems that website is disconnected from the world and the truth. Good to be back in real world.

    Rafisahab is the only true icon of singing besides Lata and Saigal.

  36. ssmakkar says:

    mr. kkkklan should use moderation. kishore da was great . no doubt. we , the rafians, also love and adore him. it is just that we love and adore rafi sahib just that much more. i would never stoop so low as to use the kind of sad language some people use. let us not belittle either rafi sahib or kishore da.
    let us talk and discuss the creative and constructive aspects of their work.

  37. khuram says:

    mohd. rafi is my all times favourite

    i love him and his songs

  38. binus2000 says:

    Rafi sings for Kishore Kumar for 11 songs according to industry
    sources.. this proves the point….. w h o is the greatest singer…

    Uneducated sadak chaaps, unlettered donkeys can write what –
    we can imagine…… No use playing a tune of reason in front of
    these buffaloes….
    Editor: please censor some of the dirty words used for Rafi saab
    by these psychiatric elements whose rightful place is in the
    lunatic ashrams… or in h e l l ….

    binu nair…

  39. Rafi ko “The king of Melody” kahna bilkool sahi hai kyuki “ALLA TALA NE Rafi ko kabhi na khatm hone vali nayamat ata ki jo ki rahti duniya tak kayam rahegi,Unki avaz se pata lag jata tha ki yah Dilp kumar saheb,Rajendra kumar, Shammi kapoor,Mehmood aur yahan tak pata lag jata hai ki yah Joni walkar saheb gaarahen hain- isliye humlog khten “RAFI SAHEB JAISA NA KOI THA, NA HAI ,NA KOI HOGA.


  40. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Rafi Saheb jaisa koi nahin hai, aur na koi hoga.

  41. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Rafi Saheb was on top till 1980. KK learnt from Rafi Saheb a lot.

  42. Hussein Sheikh says:

    KK was never a king of melody, this title doesn’t suit him at all.

  43. Hussein Sheikh says:

    KKKLAN, your brain is totally washed out… Your comments are like expired medicines. You have no manners at all.

  44. KKKLAN says:

    Dear writer of this article,Rafi was never at the top after 1969,you stay in your fool’s paradise witha few fools like you.Kishore Kumar ruled the musical world from 1969 to 1987.Kishoreji is the king of melody,the world’s greatest singer.Rafi was just a fair singer.

  45. binus2000 says:

    Mr. Asok:
    Pl. forward your address for the RAFI SPECIAL mag to be
    released on July 31.
    the price is rs.20 and try to place an order of ten copies
    for distribution to music lovers… and support the
    RAFI FOUNDATION WHICH is a non-profit organisation..

    binu nair

  46. asok says:

    I would a copy of the book too. I live in Singapore and I am willing to pay the charges inckuding shipping.Please sdvise me as I am also a Rafian.

  47. binus2000 says: a web portal has today (24.5.07) published
    a news item on RAFI ACADEMY…..

    Please do not miss it……. and revert to myself or to Mr Narayan..

    A rafi saab special s a r g a m, on July 31 is being issued.
    Kindly support by booking orders as 10000 copies has to
    be distributed world wide… Price is Rs.20 each copy within India..

    binu nair.. Mumbai….

  48. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Agreed Mr. Nair, but there’s only one rafi saheb, no rebirth can take place.

  49. binus2000 says:

    For centuries to come, Mohd Rafi is the T A N S E N OF MUSIC

    Only by a rebirth another r a f i can come to this world – if at all…

    binu nair

  50. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Dear Mr. Nair, I too need a copy of Rafi Saheb’s special magazine, please book a copy for me too.
    Hussein Sheikh, Burundi, Central Africa

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