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Mohammed Rafi- Beyond Compare

By Jagdish K. Bhagchandani

Quote on Mohammed Rafi in Hindi

Writing a tribute for someone as pious, as divine as Rafi Saab is a task meant for an emotional fulfilment. But it also has many difficulties as any permutation/ combination of available words or alphabets will not be able to create suitable narrative to adequately describe his persona.

38 years after his death, Mohammed Rafi remains the unmatched emperor of playback singing.

Such is the magical power of his voice that it penetrates deep into listener’s conscious to connect with his soul, takes him away from his world into the trance of divinity. A bhajan of Rafi Saab can infuse Godly faith into a non-believer. A patriotic song of him has such patriotic zeal that any listener will be filled with overflowing love for his motherland. A fatigued mind can relax and rekindle his romantic attributes just by listening to “Abhi na jaao chhod kar….”. Or a despondent lover can take solace and companionship in the song “Din dhal jaaye hai, raat na jaaye…”. Songs like “Nain lad jaaye hain to manwa maan….”, or “Pipra ke patwa mein….” can make you feel in the midst of rural India without physically being there.

You can ‘visit’ an urban club just by listening to “Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho…” or “Chheda mere dil ne tarana tere pyaar kaa…” For every conceivable human situation there is a song of Rafi Saab as your mate and take solace. His voice was much more than a listening pleasure or a means of entertainment; (listening to) it was (and it still is) a kind of holy discourse, an exercise of spiritual detoxification; a source of release one’s own feelings and emotions.

For most singers of all generations next to him, the musical silo that he has left behind is a source of inspiration, of motivation, a foundation of learning.

But his contribution to Hindi Film Industry extends beyond playback singing. On the shoulders of his godly vocals rode many acting careers. His voice enhanced the brilliance of stalwart lyricists and music directors of golden era. There were movies revolving around the songs, where his rendered song was used as an effective tool of story-telling. Songs like “Mere Mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam….”, “Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi wo Barsaat Ki Raat….”, “Dekhi Zamane Ki Yari….”, Ye Mahalon Ye Tajon ki duniya….” etc. were integral and inseparable part of the movie’s mood and theme, the actor’s (on-screen) characterization and his mind-set. Without these songs the movies will be rendered soul-less and its story-describing will become drab.

Shailendra Singh in a TV interview narrated how Rafi Saab’s songs ‘appear’ to be simple and uncomplicated to sing but ‘koi gaa ke bata de’ as those songs actually are very difficult considering in-built harkats, that feelings-filled rendering (by Rafi Saab) which one encounters while attempting to sing or listening to them more attentively. And Shailendra Singh’s punch-line (Koi gaa ke bataa de) aptly summarises the essence of Rafi Saab’s singing.  

All singers of that golden era had a specific ‘zone’ of singing and they all are great legends in their own way. But when it comes to Rafi Saab, he was beyond any such comparison, beyond any such ‘zone’. He stands tallest among all those great singers. The canvass of his work is so wide that it cannot be confined to any specifics. He took the craft of playback singing to such lofty heights that his achievements are beyond anyone’s reach.

‘Unmatched’ he was (and still is), not only as playback singer but also as a human being. His acts of humanity, most of which came to the fore only after his demise, are something we find absolutely unbelievable. Being part of an Industry known for crass commercialisation and ruthless ways, his acts of humanity, of helping others seem like an oasis in the desert. Singing free or with a meagre/ token amount for an aspiring music director, helping poor with regular monetary help, leaving a bundle of Rs. 10000 under the pillow of ailing music director Mohammed Shafi (who could not afford the expenses for treatment of his ailment during his last days), giving an entire amount (Rs. 10000) that he received for recording the song (Ishwar Allah Tere naam sabko sanmati de bhagwan…) to the liftman of the building where he recorded the song to enable him to meet his daughter’s marriage expenses, gifting a Mumbai hospital with dialysis machine that he brought from abroad while on a concert tour; are some of the countless instances of his divine acts that can be attributed only to someone closest to God. Endless narratives can be written only on this human aspect of Rafi saab’s greatness.

If such a par excellence performer and Godly human being is not given the highest civilian award of the nation, then the very purpose of the award gets defeated.

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6 Blog Comments to “Mohammed Rafi- Beyond Compare”

  1. Salil says:

    I think you mean the ‘Bharat Ratna’ Raj lol. Anyways the award is nothing in front of an artist of the calibre RAFI SAHAB. Lot of ordinary people and corrupt politicians have received the award, RAFI SAHAB is ‘VISHWA RATNA’.

  2. Essen says:

    I forgive the Government for not conferring Rafi Saab the Bharat Ratna.

    For the endless hours of sheer bliss listening to his songs, for his sheer Genius and exemplary life, it is inconsequential whether he is conferred an award or not – it cannot not make his songs any sweeter, does it?

    What any Government will earn is the feeling that Yes, they have risen above silly, mundane issues and recognised – with love, devotion and respect – our most accomplished Playback Singer – now or forever!

    The Government that does this will earn my respect!!

  3. Raj says:

    I am so disappointed with government of India for not bestowing Rafi saab with Padma Bhushan that I have lost the validity and importance of this award. I was going thru the list of artists who have received this award and I fail to see there accomplishment even close to Rafi saab. It is unfair to compare one great artist to another, but he was, simply put, the best male playback singer in the history of Indian Cinema. That means he should be recognized as such. So what is stopping the government, or whatever authority does award Padma Bhushan from awarding Rafi saab with the much deserved recognition.

  4. Salil says:

    Simply the best, RAFI SAHAB.

  5. dev says:

    Aaj din badha beimaan hai

  6. Rajendra Prasad says:

    Truly said of the greatest, the most melodious and the most versatile singer ever born on the planet, the legend of legends, sur samraat , aawaaz ki duniya ka betaaz badshah, Mohammed Rafi Sahab.He has no peer in singing of any type of version, be it a ghazal, a romantic song, a sad lamentation, a prayer, bhajan, naat, chakle, qawwali,shabd, patriotic song and what not.He had a unique trait rather knack of modulation of his voice according to the actor, theme or situation. He had a full control over all surs, his range of singing was amazing to which no singer could reach. Sahir Ludhianvi sahab aptly remarked that Rafi Sahab’s voice did more than 50% job of the actor. I pay a humble tribute to the music maestro, I pay high regard to Rafi Sahab. I love , nay, adore him. Singers may come, singers may go; Mohammed Rafi Sahab remains at the top.

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