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Mohammed Rafi

This article is written by Raj Kaushal and contributed by Mohan Flora.

The CBSO celebrates the legendary Bollywood singer Mohammed Rafi, Bollywood’s answer to Frank Sinatra. Like Mohammed Ali, listen to another Mohammed who was simply the greatest.

Mohammed Rafi sung over 26,000 songs in a career spanning 40 years, most of those spent as the undisputed King of Bollywood playback singers.

When Mohammed Rafi was a little boy, a fakir used to wander by his house in Lahore singing songs. Captivated by the beautiful sounds, the little boy would follow the holy man and sing along. So began the musical journey of Rafi, a magical trip that would lead him to Bombay, the blossoming Bollywood film industry and immortality as, arguably, the greatest ever male Hindi playback singer.

Born in 1924 in Punjab to a middle class Muslim family of barbers, Mohammed Rafi was not meant to enter the world of music. His strict father regarded singing as an inappropriate career for his son, but with the help of his older brother, the young Rafi changed his mind and by the age of 7 was being trained in Indian classical music.

By the age of 13 he had amazed an audience of thousands with his debut public performance, and by the age of 18 had arrived in Bombay, ready to conquer Bollywood.

Mohammed Rafi montage

It was clear from the beginning that Rafi had a unique talent which distinguished him from the other playback singers of the era but it was only when he teamed up with the music composer Naushad – most notably in the 1952 classic film Baiju Bawra – that Rafi established himself as one of the greatest playback singers in Indian cinema.

Rafi revealed a golden voice of unrivaled tonal quality and range, which had the power to pitch lyrics from the lowest modulations to high soprano.

This incredible versatility of range soon attracted all the stars and, during the 1950s and 1960s – unquestionably the golden age of Hindi film music – Rafi became the voice of all the cinema greats, from Dilip Kumar and Guru Dutt, to Shammi Kapoor and Dharmendra.

Rafi proved his greatness further with an astonishing display of vocal pyrotechnics that used intonation and inflection to ensure no actor he lent his voice to ever sounded like the other.
But Rafi was more than just an outstanding Hindi playback singer. During his 40-year career he sang over 26,000 songs in all the national languages of India, achieving an unequaled level of success in many genres of Asian music, from ghazals and geets, to qawwalis and bhajans.
Surprisingly, Rafi could have pushed back the musical boundaries even further but in 1980, at the age of 55, he died of a heart attack.

CBSO pay tribute

On the 7th April 2006, the CBSO pays tribute to the legendary Rafi with a concert that showcases many of his much loved songs. It is a creatively bold and pioneering step by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as they are investing in local artists who will play tribute to Mohammed Rafi

Whilst there are many South Asian musicians worthy of being honoured by the CBSO, it is difficult to think of a better starting point than Rafi to introduce the sounds of Hindi music to the West and the talents of the CBSO to the culturally diverse communities in and around Birmingham.

His influence stretched across generations and musical genres, encouraging and inspiring many of the great Asian singers in modern music. “The singers performing at the concert are local to the West Midlands, yet also have an international recognition, such as Mehboob Chohan who had the privilege of receiving personal tuition from the great Mohammed Rafi.” said Parminder Singh Jutla.

“The other singers are British Asian bhangra legends Shin, who came second in the tribute competition on the first anniversary of Rafi’s death, and Slinder Pardesi, who has recorded two tribute albums to Rafi.”

Shin added: “On the night we will be reliving and paying tribute to the great Mohammed Rafi. The audience will have the opportunity to hear 18 tracks played to a live orchestra, similar to how they would have been originally recorded. It will truly be a magical night for all.”

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77 Blog Comments to “Mohammed Rafi”

  1. ROHIT says:


  2. Rajesh says:

    Hello does anyone know if the live recording is altaf hussain posted about is available? I tried sending him an email but I didn’t receive a reply. If anyone has any information please email me @ Thank you

  3. rafi is atrue indian and he is a perfect example of unity in diversity through is all work of singing. he should be honoured as a bharat ratna award.but govt. is not noticing it.

  4. prashant jain says:

    i only know rafisahab was a very pleasent & great singer still he is & will remain till ————————————————————————-

  5. ANKUR KAPOOR says:

    Mohd Rafi Sahib has no doubt touched the hearts of millions of people from national and international level,as he has miracleous voice and streched averyeone towards him to hear his unforgettable voice.I termed his voice to be the voice of GOD. All numbers from fast track to solo, bhajan to bhangra, he performed as the best of his ability and capacity.

  6. Gurpreet Singh says:

    Rafi Saheb was the most versatile playback singer that India would ever had. The versatility of his voice reflects in the way the tone and pitch of his voice fits the mood and wording of the song so perfectly. No other singer could sing songs in so many languages and such a wide variety, let it be romantic, sad, patriotic songs or bhajans.

    It is so unfortunate that we Indians are so thankless that we dont remember and dont pay any tribute to the greatest singer of all times, in the way it should be done in his honour.

  7. bhumesh sharma says:

    I have been made to believe that there is always a room at the top, means there is scope for improvement in everything, I found myself gladly in agreement with the above statement and could always comfortably imagine of a better version of whatever I saw or experienced, untill I heard, experienced and felt mohammed rafi, well, now I am convinced that the man who invented the proverb did not hear mohammed rafi singing or else he would have said…there is always a room above and at the top is mohammed rafi’……., I am really surprised as to what and how can there be nything better than rafi’s voice.

  8. sarwar says:

    can someone please give me details as to wherefrom i can have cds containing original videos of mohd rafi singing live, recording or giving interviews etc. i shall be very thankfull

  9. mohammed sajid says:

    i can only say if taj mahal is a wonder created by man then rafi sahab is great wonder, he is created by almight to show the world that human being is greatest cretion of creations in known universe.
    so be a human being first.

  10. Abdul Razzaq says:

    Please some one ; a fan of rafi sahib help me. Long time ago I heard a ghazal duet by rafi sahib & a female singer which begins like ” o dil ki tamanna thee mehfil me, hum bhi kisi ke dilbar hotey ” be kind enough as to what hindi movie this ghazal was played & how can I find this song, duet or ghazal. my email address is Thank You so much. Sincerely. Abdul Razzaq.

  11. shadab says:

    I completly agree with Irony80.. Rafi sahab is the Institution and rest are student.. in todays time we can not find a singer and a person like rafi sahab..
    he was not only a good singer but also a great person with great heart.. i stll have yet to see the better man of integrity & honesty in the film industry than Rafi sahab… he live this world already but his song has not.. he will be remember in everyone’s heart for many many years to come…
    and in todays days when there is no molody left in indian songs, no shayeri,, every one distroying the words on the name of Shayeri… few days before one of the great singer Kavita Krishnamurthy said that “today our composers has no style, and our music has become soulless.. and there is no melody in songs” and thats TRUE… So, request to every reader please listen only soulful and melodious songs…Bye

  12. binus2000 says:

    Dear Rafians,

    I need live footage of Rafi saab on stage and otherwise.
    Also I need photographs and anecdotes of the LEGEND for my
    forthcoming pictorial biography on Rafi saab. me on
    I am based in Mumbai.

  13. altaf hussain says:



    First of all thanks a million for getting back to me with your stupendous comments concerning the video footage of the Master, which I have followed and carried out by sending off the original vhs to a proper professional service centre. I’m hoping that they will give me a fast response relating to the quality of the contents on the cassette, as it’s already been through many battles over the last 25 years or so.

    The only reason that I have taken these steps is that your comments hit me right on the nail like a hammer, after all since I am advertising the dvd for sale… so let’s go further by improving and enhancing the picture and sound quality. Could you imagine me offering it to anyone and then having to receive complaints over a botched up cowboy job, and after all it will save me from all those criticisms in the future.

    The actual concert footage is over 2 hours

    It kicks off with ‘Bari Door Se Aaye Hain’ and ends with ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Piyar Tera’

    Muhammad Rafi is wearing a white suit on stage

    I leave you now with peace and prosperity for the future!


  14. altaf hussain says:


    Muhammad Rafi was an outstanding singer and one of the most influential playback singers that our part of the world has ever produced, a voice which captured millions of heart’s and whose songs touched all generations.

    This is the second time that I am going to comment about the master, who I had the privilege as a child to watch on stage at Bradford’s St George’s Hall, West Yorkshire [UK]. I actually grew up listening to his melodious voice as it soared all around me, whether I was watching a movie or listening to the radio set.

    There came a time in my life when I was just ten years old, that I got the chance of watching Muhammad Rafi [The Legend] live on stage and in person performing live to a captivated audience. I had to be forced to go by one of my family friends who had bought 2 tickets for us both, so he literally had to twist my arm into going with him.

    However whilst attending the gig I was totally baffled at what I had just experienced on stage, he was right ahead of me… yes Muhammad Rafi Sahab singing live. He kicked off the show with ‘Bari Door Se Aaye Hain’, followed by many of his recent hits and past famous songs such as ‘Hum Bekhudi Main Sanam’, ‘Parda Hai Parda’, ‘Hum To Chale Pardes’, ‘Kiya Hua Tera Vaada’, ‘Sar Par Topi Lal Rumal’, ‘O Duniya Ke Rakhwale’, ‘Punjabi track’, and some other hits.

    It’s been a long time now and for a ten year old it’s very hard to remember, but I never ever forgot that memorable night as some of it’s contents were captured onto one of those old movie cameras. Which were later distributed onto vhs tapes in the 80’s and sold for ridiculous high prices to anyone interested in buying a copy.

    My dear father bought himself a copy of that recording which I’ve watched innumerable times over the last 25 years or so, but my vhs tape is failing me now in 2007. So I am going to have it’s contents transferred onto dvd format, once I manage to grab myself a good machine… it’s been over 2 months now since my last post in December 2006, but would you believe it – I’m still looking for one.

    Once it’s been transferred entirely all onto dvd quality format, I can then distribute it by offering it to any buyers who will be interested in buying themselves a rare recording of the legendary Muhammad Rafi live in concert. Before all that I would like to put some clips on you tube first, just to give you a small little taste of what’s to come in the near future.

    You may email me whenever you have the time

  15. irony80 says:


  16. mohanflora says:

    Dear Admn.,
    The archives on”Remembering Rafi on his 26th. birthday” shows Error 404- Not found and also the Rafi yodel songs are not coming in! This is an ALERT! Thanx.

  17. unknow1 says:

    Dear Roger,
    when we say nothing is impossible?as I think there are manythings are impossible to do by human,Can we made the earth?can we made the sun?can we made other Mohd Rafi?we use this word(impossible)to work more hard it not mean that it there is nothing is impossible.

  18. Roger says:

    Yeah death can be befallen upon music but misic never dies how? Both statements are true. If a man dies can he live? Is existance possible without being born.
    Yes I think it is possible. I am sure my freind Ali sees my genius point. RIGHT ali?
    Well what if he says that it is impossible for music to live though it is dead. I would say that it can be also wrong.
    NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. Remember the statement. Will Ali’s impossibility theory be contradictory to this impossibility theory. lets see.

  19. Sagar says:





  20. Thank you Mohanflora. Rafi was a great singer indeed!

  21. mohanflora says:

    Dear friends,
    Please click on this link to view the tribute to Rafisaab in the UK :

  22. suhail ahmed ansari says:

    wai Roger federer tu kiska fan hai KK ka ya Rafi Saheb ka.

  23. monu says:


  24. Roger Federer says:

    I am afraid I have again put you to sleep by my second line above. But both the contradictory statements are true.

  25. Roger Federer says:

    Wake my dear friend Ali, for you can be rest assured that music has no death. It is true however that death can be inflicted on music. Why don’t you enjoy A.R Rahman’s tunes. My friend Himesh.R has produced some very fine numbers as well. Even Kishore has given us some memorable numbers.

  26. Ali Baluch says:

    Dear friends,
    If am not wrong Indain films music start from 1950″s when Mohd Rafi was new ,the music was young in 1960’s when mohd Rafi singed most of the songs,became old in 1970’s when Mohd Rafi not singed much and after 1980 there is no Music.

  27. Roger Federer says:

    Hi Sungma,
    Its completely my own pleasure! Does any body think I will equal Jhon Bhorg’s 5 succesive wimbledon titles? Atleast I will allways think of that. HA!HA!HA!
    And you know one more thing, your comment completes the 50th. Means you have hit a half century ehy! I wanted to do that by the way!(Take it easy.Don’t pull me by my horns!)

    I interpret your terminology of ‘better singers’ as ‘conventional singers’. Get it? These singers are arguably of lesser quality to Rafi standards,no doubt. But we have to adjust ‘MADKOBEKU’! You see if there was a singer who could dig out something beyond Rafi ‘conventionally’, suitable enough to earn him/her a ‘original’ tag(for him/her to wear around) why would millions of us miss Rafi to this extent? It is common sense however, that that super genial singer could macth Rafi, gayaki for gayaki. Then why should we now open this page and count words to show how much we miss and love Rafi? Well, there is but one female singer who can fill in the puzzle. Lata Mangsehkar. Infact with her you have to put it the other way round. The Godly Rafi could definitely match the Godess Lata gayaki for gayaki but sometimes She even managed to take His breath away-It is said. Show me how many Lata’s are there in this world? ONE! Thats all! (Like ONE Taj Mahal).Get it or Not? Yes. Good!

    Your saying of the ‘passing fad’ is acceptable. But the period after Rafi’s death was followed by a final show down from Kishore till his death in 1986. How do you account for that mam? The period b/w 1977-1980 did witness a major comeback from Rafi after a slight slump. He once again began dominating and this time with pop numbers like ‘Dard-e-dil'(which is more of background music than the voice). Only Rafi’s death meant Kishore’s comeback.
    Himesh definitely has to plan for his future. A FEW DAYS OF SUNSHINE DOES NOT MAKE A SUMMER! YOU KNOW! On the other hand it is not yet prooven that he is a low quality singer. So,you have jumped to a conclution without ‘proper backup’. Get It?
    I fully agree with your last too lines too.

    Well speaking about video clips I am sure the concerned will agree that it is that difficult to get those ‘stuff’ for any of us as it might be for you people. There are video clippings as you might have seen in DD1 channel, but to do that you might have to go a little bit ‘HATKE SE’!
    Mohanflora(July 8th) has given a sentimental touch to her discription.Nice. Again Mohanflora(July 2nd) has given an account of the emotions of high profile people.Interesting.
    I agree with Shashu& K.G. also.

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