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An Ocean of Difference

An article by Mr. Ajay Bannai

So much has been said so far, perhaps one more opinion would only add to the pile. I have not made a study as such and more qualified people have already done so – I do not think I can add any further.

My feeling – the shift of popularity from Rafi to KK is more an issue of shifting trends and musical values. Rafi saab was popular when music was the centerpiece of the theme and films were successful on the basis of music. KK got to be more popular when the musical tastes have changed. The music became more of a “teen kanastar” type when KK became more popular. I feel KK was always under Rafi’s shadow for the duration when music was an integral part of the movie and not contrived into the themes. I personally believe that Rafi saab never regained his stature once he lost it to KK for no other reason than that the masses who started listening to music had lower standards of music. A “khaike paan banaras waala..” was a bigger hit say than “dard-e-dil..”. Speaks volumes. If that is popularity, then I personally would not seek it.

If someone were to compare and do a statistical analysis on the basis of total songs sung to total songs appreciated, between the two Rafi saab would outscore. Similarly, compare the lyrical beauty of songs rendered, Rafi would score. I have not heard too many songs of KK but the range of emotions in the songs would put Rafi saab as the number one. Perhaps the only emotion where KK beats Rafi saab is the comedy track. I think Kishore is unpromising on pure romantic numbers, only good ones being “yeh raate yeh mausam” and “dekha ek khwaab to yeh” perhaps. Sad songs, “dukhi man mere” is probably the only one. Classical music based tunes, KK is not much heard.

I personally believe that music is for enjoyment and even if a “Kumar Saanu ” song sounds good, I listen to it. So I do not really think a great amount of value is added by doing a comparison. Lataji for all her documented short-comings sang “aye mere watan ke logo”, “allah tero naam.. eeshwar tero naam” and countless Ghazals for Madan Mohan. I love her songs and can reel a list and I suppose so many others can, too.

I guess this is an era where mediocrity shrouded with blaring noises passes for music. To add value add some bare mid-riffs to appeal to one’s baser instincts and you have a video hit. The music critics who thrive in this era, no wonder find KK more appealing than Rafi saab. Today a remix artist like AR Rehman gets to compose for the biggest events. Far more competent composers, like Naushad saab, Khaiyyam saab etc are not even mentioned – except by oldies – like us. Perhaps we all resent this over-selling because we share a value system not based on quantity but quality.

I would say both artists (Rafi and KK) are great legendary & celebrated singers and have contributed their mite towards bettering the music world for us. If forced to choose, I would choose Rafi saab – no doubt.

Lastly, Rafi is the greater one, because he sang playback for KK but KK could not do the same. Fuzzy logic??? Yes. Incidentally the song in Sharaarat was recorded by Rafi saab since KK refused to sing it after getting into some payment hassles with Rahul Rawail. I think that song is better sung by Rafi saab that it would have been by KK. Many years later, for “love story”, KK refused to sing in the movie, I think Rahul Rawail was associated with it somehow, saying “Rafi saab se gaana gawayiyeh..”. Rafi saab had already passed away then. KK relented later since it was also the debut film of his son.

I believe Anil Biswas gave an interview saying that Rafi is a non-singer long back. I do not know what prompted him to say that. KK wrote personally saying that “Rafi saab is a great singer and no one could dominate the industry as he did for couple of decades” if he was a non-singer.

– Ajay

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4 Blog Comments to “An Ocean of Difference”

  1. mohamed parvez says:

    dear rafi saab fans there is a article by ajay binani the ocean of defrence it is about rafi saab and kishore das song it was posted on may 2000- is very nice article

  2. 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.

  3. Rajinder Bhatia says:

    Agreed 100% that Rafi songs are tough to sing. The reason is that Rafi sahib had a broad range; MDs kept that in mind and exploited the capability to the max. Secondly, he poured his heart and soul into his songs. According to Naushad sahib, he always used to be his own critic and there are instances when he would tell Naushad sahib that he was not “satisfied” and wanted to re-do the song (various songs were re-done) even though the recording had been “okayed”. Thirdly, he had this uncanny God-given gift of customizing the song for whomever he was singing. That is something NOBODY else has been able to do. You can tell if a song is for Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar or Dharmendra or Shammi K or Johnny W (and numerous others.)

    Any singer who is honest to himself, will think more than twice before attempting a Rafi song on the stage. The range, the emotion, the maturity
    are impossible to emulate. How many of the current crop of male singers have the richness and bass which could even come close to Rafi sahib’s – they are all “out there in the left field”.

    A dear friend of mine, an extremely talented musician, and a music conductor/arranger (he used to play for the late, Salil Chaudhry and others)
    sums it up this way, “Most of Rafi songs are NOT for us mortal beings to sing; we should just listen to these and enjoy and be thankful. How can one
    honestly say that he/she can perform ‘tere mere sapne ab ek rang haiN’ or ‘din Dhal jaaye par raat naa jaaye’ or ‘deewaanaa huaa baadal’ and about a couple of thousand others”.


  4. Naveen says:

    A nice article by you. I agree with your point of view. I would also add that there is one more aspect to it. Even Rafi’s simpler songs are too complex to sing. On the other hand KK’s songs are simple to perform. In last 5 to 10 years, I have found that in music nites, people struggle to sing a Rafi number on stage. In one such old hindi music nite conducted in our office in Sunnyvale out of 20 songs the singer sang 10 KK numbers, 5 Rafi numbers and remaining 5 songs of Mukesh, Manna and Hemant.

    For remixes, even if parda hai parda hai or O meri mehbooba, aa ja aa ja, type of Rafi songs are remixed you don’t find the quality singers who can sing them. Most of the Rafi songs thrived on the art of his sheer range, intricacy and rendition. His songs were more voice dependent than music/rhythm specific. You can’t recreate the same voice and the effect. The majority of his songs from 50’s or 60’s are not remixable.

    On the other hand remember that Roopa Tera Mastana remix, it was simply superb if not better but at par with the original. The guys singing it did a great job and it became a huge hit. Why R.D Burman is more talked about in today’s music world is entirely owing to the reasons mentioned by you..For all the talent he had, he is not even half of what his own father was in terms of melody yet people tend to forget SDB because Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye, Jalte hae Jis Ke liyea or Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaare can’t be remixed.

    It is a well known fact that western influence is there in every walk of the life in today’s time. More westernised the way in any aspect of life and more commercially successful you become. This is an MTV age. Go to a beach in Santa Cruz, relax… have a goblet of wine by your side, listen to the country side live bands and most of Pancham da’s source of inspiration becomes revealed. Very recently I was amazed when I heard a couple of notes similar to those used in Teesri Manzil in one such live bands. Now here I don’t say others didn’t get inspired or didn’t do copying, I was just quoting an example. To me Pancham is an institution in himself though I maintain that accolades he has been getting is far more than he deserved just because he was more westernised than the rest.


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