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Rafi sings in ‘Navarasas’

By: H.A.K. Walijah

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

John Keats once wrote: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, today I can pretty much say “A song of Rafi is a joy forever”.  Even 30 years after his death – I am sure Rafi’s popularity did not go into oblivion. Millions of million Rafi lovers pay their respects and tributes everyday which alone is the strongest proof that Rafi still rules and his chair did not occupied yet, no replacement so far!!!. Could anybody ask for a grander memorial than that?  Rafi Saab’s voice has given us a song for every emotion and mood. Rafi’s voice will always be with us, and considering how popular he still is.  As for Rafi’s memorial being his voice, that was exactly why I thought versatility of character that makes him so special. Mohammad Rafi was a superb vocal actor and could bring a range of emotions into the limited time (usually about 3 minutes, back then) a song allowed him. From romantic to sensual, angry to soothing, loving to despairing, or outright joy and laughter, there isn’t a single emotion that his wonderfully fluid voice did not express, and express beautifully.

Classical performing arts in India are traditionally made up of the navrasa 9 rasas or 9 major basic emotions/expressions.  The idea of life without “emotions” is just inanimate. We often use words to express emotions. We paint words so beautifully, yet sometimes fail to express the right emotion. Art is a means of expressing emotions to the fullest. One element that is common among all performing arts is their ability to express the emotions which make up different slices of life. Emotions characterize life as well as art. Music is one such language of emotion. Music without emotions is lifeless and an emotion without music is inadequate.  Emotions in music need not be associated with the phrases and the words that make up the song. Pure music i.e., music without words (instrumental, aalaapana or swara kalpana) can bring out emotions too. To site a good example, the tone of a person on the other end of the phone can make us get a feel of his/her mood.  If Raga is the soul of music, rasa or bhava is its emotional quality. Good quality rendering can arise intense emotional feelings in both the person rendering the music and the person listening. Nine types of rasas (basic emotions) are identified predominantly in music or dance.

Navarasa means Nine Emotions in which Nava signifies nine and Rasa signifies Emotions. The nine emotions included in Navarasa are Shringara (love), Hasya(laughter), Karuna (kind-heartedness or compassion), Raudra (anger), Veera ( courage), Bhayanaka (terror), Bheebhatsya (disgust), Adbutha (surprise), and Shantha (peace or tranquility). These are the emotions that human shows according to the situations.  Navarasa is mainly used in classical dance forms. Indian classical dance forms like Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Kudiyattam, Kathakali and others include Navarasa. Emotions can be called as the basic factor for all dance forms in India.  Life is the true testing ground. Emotions are as large as life and twice as natural. Indian cinema, since it is based on nava rasas, has always something to offer the viewer.  Although the concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, musical theatre, cinema and literature.  Now let us analyze how Rafi Saab did rendered his songs in various emotions and moods one by one.

1.  Shringara Rasa

Love is an indispensable part of life. It encompasses every relationship and influences all actions.”Shringara rasa represents love and beauty; any element of beauty evokes love. This emotion can be used to paint love for any person, be it specifically sweetheart or anybody else. Rafi certainly was a master at expressing romance and the sheer number of his great romantic songs is a testament to that. Just listen to these haunting romantic numbers.

  • Sau baar janam lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad, 1963)
  • Kaajal wale nain (Devar).
  • Abhi Na Jao Chodke (Hum Dono)
  • aap ke hasiin rukh pe aaj naya noor hai (Baharen phir bhi aayengi)
  • aaj ki raat badi shokh badi natkhat hai (Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal).
  • Ek Haseen Shaam Ko Dil Mera Kho Gaya
  • Mere Mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat (Mere Mehboob)
  • Aaj ki raat yeh kaisi raat ke hum ko (Aman)

2.  Hasya Rasa

The ability to express amusement or laughter is one thing that separates the human species from animals. Teasing and laughing with a friend is one face of “Hasya rasa”. Much has been said about Rafi and Johnny Walker  and their superb comedic partnership. But Rafi did great comedy for others too  like Mehmood and Om Prakash.

  • Chhuri ban kaanta ban (Jaali Note, 1960)
  • Tere poojan ko bhagwan (Shaadi 1962)
  • Sar jo tera chakraye ya dil ( Pyasa )
  • Ye Duniya gol hai (Chaudvin ka chand)
  • Hamein kale hain to kya hua (Gumnaam)
  • Membooba Mehbooba bana lo mujhe dulha (Mastana)

3.  Roudhra Rasa

When love is not reciprocated, the definite feeling would be anger. This brings us to Roudhra rasa, anger, Rafi was especially adept at expressing anger, his voice could slip into the high notes and quick enunciation of the angry man, with extraordinary control and with such great effect. The songs depicting anger where Rafi excelled in this emotion.

  • Ya meri manzil bata (Rakhi, 1962)
  • O Duniya ke rakhwaale (Baiju Bawra)
  • Mere dushman tu meri dosti ko tarse (Aye din bahar ke)
  • Yeh mahalon yeh takthon yeh taajon ki duniya (Pyasa)
  • Yeh Duniya ye mehfil mere kaam ki nahin (Heer Ranjha)

4. Karuna Rasa

The next essence is the feeling of compassion. The sympathy and fellow-feeling that sorrow generates is Karuna rasa. A compassionate understanding of human troubles coats Rafi’s voice as it once again effortlessly brings forth the emotions demanded of it.

  • Kahan ja raha hai (Seema, 1955)
  • Hume Bhi De Do Sahara (Seema, 1955)
  • Chahunga main tujhe (Dosti)
  • Na tu Zameen ke liye (Dastaan)

5.  Bibhatsya Rasa

The fifth emotion is Bibhatsya rasa” Disgust. This emotion is evoked by anything that is a symbol of repugnance, nausea  Rafi at its best to render  this rasa more effective  if one can listen to the song of Pyasa “ Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya ho”  Let the song speak for itself, and for a poet’s disgust with a worthless materialistic world.

  • Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai (Pyasa)
  • Meri Dushman tu meri (Aaye din bahar ke).
  • Kya miliye aise logon se (Izzat)
  • Woh woh na rahe jin ke liye (Badaltey Rishtey)

6.  Bhayanakam Rasa

The sixth emotion being the Bhayanakam rasa horror/terror. Rafi Saab brings this rasa effortlessly in the following songs which shows sheer disgust and antipathy towards the atrocities of the society.

  • Sab ke rehte lagta hai aise (Samjhota)
  • Hum Bekhudi main tum ko (Dil Diya Dard Liya)
  • Dono ne kiya tha pyar magar (Mahua)
  • Mili khaak main mohabbat (Chaudvin ka Chand)
  • Zamane ne mare jawan kaise kaise
  • Guzre hain aaj ishq main us maqam se (Dil Diya Dard liya)

7.  Veera Rasa

To fight disgust, one needs  Veera rasa Valor. To /become a hero doesn’t need shining weapons. Heroism should be in body and soul. Any person who has courage to take a stand exhibits veera rasa. I love how Rafi’s voice quickens with the strength of his emotions and how heroic and sad the high notes sound in veer rasa.

  • Kar chale hum fida jan-o-tan saathiyo (Haqeeqat)
  • Apni Azaadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahin (Leader)
  • Zindabad aye Mohabbat zindabad (Mughal-E-Azam)
  • Mere desh premiyo aapas main prem karo (Desh Premi)

8. Adbhuta Rasa

As soon as a child is born, the awe that it feels while coming across every new act, every new incident is something that is felt for the first time and is a matter to wonder and ponder about. Adbhutha rasa is the curiosity of man, the astonishment caused by something not imagined earlier or felt.  While most if us are lost in the wonder of his voice, Rafi could be vocally lost in the wonder of discovery in other ways –

  • Tumne mujhe dekha (Teesri Manzil, 1966)
  • Nav Kalpana Nav roop se (Mrigtrishna)
  • Chaudvin ka chand ho (Chaudvin ka chand)
  • Maine poocha chand se (Abdullah)
  • Wadiyan mera daaman, raaste meri bahaen (Abhilasha)
Rafi Sahab with Anand Bakshi

Rafi Sahab with Anand Bakshi

9.  Shaanta Rasa

Beyond all these emotions lies the emotion of peace and serenity.Shantha Rasa represents complete harmony among mind, body and the universe. This is a state where the mind is in rest, a state of tranquility. After struggling a lot, when there remains no hassels, calmness prevails.

  • Basti basti parvat parvat (Railway Platform, 1955)
  • Main Zindagi ka saath Nibhata (Hum Dono)
  • Meri dosti mera pyar (Dosti)

In addition to the nine Rasas, two more appeared later:

  • V?tsalya – Parental Love
  • Bhakti – Spiritual Devotion

10.   Vatsalya Rasa

Parental love is usually the province of women in Bollywood. So while you can find a ton of mother-child songs in Hindi films, coming up with one sung by the male of the species is rather rare. Naturally, rare or not, Rafi has his share of parental-love songs! The most famous is, of course, Babul ki duaayein leti ja – a quintessential bidai song.

  • Babul ki duaayein leti ja (Neel Kamal)
  • O Nanhe se farishtey (Ek Phool Do Maali)

11.  Bhakti Rasa

As usual, there is a lot of material to choose from. Rafi has some superb bhajans, Like all classical-based songs, it starts out slow with a short alaap and a slow tempo that quickens pretty soon. The best part is, of course, Rafi’s voice.

  • Duniya na bhaaye (Basant Bahar, 1956)
  • Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj (Baiju Bawra)
  • Insaaf ka Mandir hai yeh (Amar)

I bet all have their own favorites to contribute to each of the eleven rasas – that’s the beauty of Rafi, there is so much to choose from! So, let us explore all great songs that I’ve missed or neglected to mention. When I was thinking up this write-up, I had initially toyed with the idea of doing a navrasas post, but gave it up – I just couldn’t figure out songs for each of the rasas which way to go, then again I tried it out because of my sheer enthusiasm and interest that I have on   Rafi Saab. As I always want to write something different or atleast the unexplored facets of Rafi saab singing prowess.  I do not know how far I am successful in my endeavour, it is upto the readers’ choice to evaluate my work and pass on the verdict.

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142 Blog Comments to “Rafi sings in ‘Navarasas’”

  1. sachin joshi says:

    talking about rafi ji songs, one song always amaze me, “O duniya ke rakhwale”. the high pitch notes in this song sounds so difficult to at the end of the song rafi sahab sings “rakhwale” a couple of times in full strength. And many singers performing either in tv shows or stage show, i haven’t seen yet anyone performing this song, i just love this song, this is my favourite, and i want u gentlemen to throw some more details and lights on this song ” O duniya ke rakhwale, sun dard bhare mere naale”

  2. SS says:

    It’s heartening to see an impassioned discussion on such a prickly topic without any mud slinging, name calling or vitriol. Although this discussion has been done to death (or, rather, to an inevitable impasse) on other forums, it remains a favourite battlefield of the ‘naughtier’ music lovers, like yours truly!

    A lot has already been said and, it seems, an unstated consensus has been reached about Rafi’s superiority as far as high-pitched singing/vocal range is concerned. I would like to challenge that consensus, but let’s first try to winnow the chaff from the grain, and give the discussion some sort of objective order, before I build up my argument.

    Firstly, it’s unfair to compare a male singer and a female singer when it comes to singing high pitches. For the simple reason that the typical female pitch is lower that the typical male pitch. A few crude definitions should come in handy at this moment.

    Human voice comprises many different frequencies with typically different strengths. ‘Pitch’ is the frequency of the most natural voice of a singer. The absolute frequency of the typical female voice is higher than that of the typical male voice by a factor *less* than two. Since musical notes follow a logarithmic, periodic structure, the female voice appears *lower* than the male voice.

    When duets are composed, the tonics have to be matched to avoid disharmony. Usually, the female singer has to shift her tonic up to match that of the male singer. Of course, this is not the only adjustment possible, but the commonly observed practice. Rafi’s pitch was about two notes higher than Lata’s. Making her sing at his pitch would put her at an immediate disadvantage, as would any other female singer! If we hypothetically switch roles, Rafi would have a greater problem singing at Lata’s pitch because of his poor kharaj.

    Having said that, barring ‘dil tera deewana hai sanam’, I do not think Lata sounded uncomfortable in her duets with Rafi. In fact, owing to her vast technical superiority, she, more often than not, came across as the better singer by most objective measures of singing ability. I could elaborate giving specific examples, but let’s not go down that path…for now.

    The fact that music directors persisted in making her sing at “male” pitches even for solos is as amusing as it is unfortunate. Her voice did show signs of strain after 1965 but before that, she was peerless when it came to high pitched singing. Again, I could substantiate my claim with examples, but I’ll hold that for now.

    Rafi was without a doubt the best male singer for high-pitched songs, but he lacked the finesse, precision and control which Lata displayed in her high pitched songs at least till the early 60s. Her vocal range was the widest of all the singers I have heard till date and I have yet to hear a voice which hits notes with better precision. People may not like her voice, but to contest the fact that she was as close to being perfect as one could get in terms of singing technique would be ill-judged.

  3. MB Nair says:

    As a Rafi fan, my chest swells with pride every time Rafi’s voice quality is discussed and praised. It is God’s gift to him.

  4. Nafisa says:

    Some memorable songs of mohammed rafi which i was reminded of, after a long time :

    Subha na aayi shaam na aayi…..
    Link :

    karwan Guzar gaya ghubar daikhtay rahay
    Link :

    Regards to all rafians.

  5. nafisaji,

    true voice – the most humble late mr.swaminathan iyer in 2001 was one of the best write ups – ever written in this dedicated webiste of rafi sahab.

    he was so simple in his expression – even though he had the proud privilege to have interacted with some of the legends and known them at personal levels.

    i have found that people with a lot in them write once in a way and make an impact for ever – rather than acting as an expert.

    i read and re-read that article so many times – as it goads you to learn from these noble souls – how to be simple -but – yet convey a lot.

    probably that only comes with age and immense humility.

    ramesh narain kurpad

  6. nafisa says:

    post 125 :

    Anil Sir,

    Thanx very much for the links and sharing your in depth knowledge with me and indeed with all of us on this site. About the “Dil Tera deewana hai sanam song” it is a very fast paced high pitch song, which was hallmark of S-J. It is an artists own awareness of greatness, which comes with confidence, that she tries to reach the level of the very best. And Lata Mangeshkar is the very best among all female playback singers. I am sure you will agree with me. Of course the comfort level rafi sahab is his forte. He was most gifted and able to sing the most difficult compositions effortlessly.

    Even RDB has exploited this capacity of rafi in songs like “Che khush nazaare, ke khud pukaare hai pyar ki manzil” (Pyar ka Mausam) and ” Are hey Goriya kahan Tera des re” (Caravan).

    About the duet from “Maya” , it is very melodious. I am not aware of any unpleasant incident relating to that song. maybe somebody will care to enlighten me.

    post no. 130 :

    Haldar sir,

    Thanx for your help in understanding the competitiveness among those two legends.

    I have also read the article on “True Voice “(2001) by Mr. Swaminathan, i found the link somewhere. It was his personal experience, having had the fortune of being present in the recording rooms. The article was most enlightening.


  7. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    post 125

    Anil Cherian Ji,

    In ‘Dil Tera Diwana’ song, I suspect the driving force was indirectly Shammi Kapoor’s image!

    Lata ji feels uncomfortable in very high pitch.. she did the same for tum mujhe yun bhula na paaoge… rafi sahab, you see his range varies from lower than most males to higher than even some females! that’s one of the many reasons, I simply love him…

    The classic case is the song from ‘Junglee’: “ehasaan teraa hogaa mujh par”. There are very few Rafi-Lata tandem songs set to Lata’s voice and in those Rafi comes the cropper.

    Yes Rafi Sahab makes it look simple and sings with ease. Very natural as if he communicates in daily ilfe through songs.

  8. P. Haldar says:

    post 134:

    Anil ji,

    Actually, I was about to ask you a question on this qawaali. The original composition is by Fateh Ali Khan, Nusrat’s dad. Rafi starts in the low-mid range and reaches the peak at the end, Sufi style. What’s his range of notes in this song?

    There are three well-trained singers (S. D. Batish, Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle), along with Sudha Malhotra in the first part of the qawaali. And who of course can write such lines other than Sahir? A traditional qawaali has a Sufi motif but Rafi makes his entry with the following words:

    “jab jab krishan ki bansi baaji, nikali radha saj ke
    jaan ajaan kaa maan bhula ke, lok laaj ko taj ke
    janak dulaari ban ban doli, pahan ke prem ki maalaa
    darshan jal ki pyaasi mira pi gai vishh kaa pyaalaa”

    Follow how he emotes the above lines in Hindu bhakti geet style.

    And then within seconds, he shifts to Muslim Sufi style, mentioning the prophets one by one:

    “allah rasul ka farman ishq hai
    yane hafiz ishq hai, quran ishq hai
    gautam ka aur masih ka arman ishq hai
    ye kayanat jism hai aur jaan ishq hai
    ishq saramad, ishq hi masur hai
    ishq musa, ishq kohinoor hai
    Kaaq ko but, aur but ko devta karta hai ishq”

    In addition to managing the difficult notes, he switches styles so beautifully; this, in my opinion, is very difficult. A Sahir-Roshan masterpiece, the mother of all qawaalis.

    P. Haldar

  9. Anil Cherian says:

    Here’s another kaisiki nishadha by Rafi sahab: (at 9.14)
    This might be the most difficult one. He is already at high notes for some time, singing some fast lyrics and emoting very well.

  10. Anil Cherian says:

    Haldar sir,
    We have debated about the overtonal (harmonical) effect of Rafi sahab’s voice before. You are very correct with your observations. I remeber one sound engineer (forgot his name) authenticating your views. Actually the band that tries to pull down Rafi sahab at every turn (you know them very well) brings this into discussion (if they can) as a negative feature of Rafi sahab’s singing (in an effort to prove that some other singer is better). This overtones is one (of the many) facets that makes Rafi sahab’s voice so pleasant to ears. It is also this feature that gives that voice that ‘solidness’ though the voice is not too heavy or ‘booming’. When I said (in my post to Bhushanji), that the ‘thick’ voice should be differentiated from a ‘deep’ voice which in turn should be differentiated from a ‘strong’ voice, I had Rafi sahab’s voice in mind. Rafi sahab’s voice is a ‘thick’ or ‘multi-layered’ voice that can pack a lot of punch when required despite its softness.
    I link a clip here (though the song is a 1970s song, Rafi sahab’s voice is pretty okay here). The overtonal effect is very evident here.
    Apart from Ashaji, I consider Geetaji to have a voice which produces overtones. I am sure you are familiar with the South’s nightingale’s voice which is ‘true-toned’ (like Lataji’s).
    Here’s a clip of her:

  11. P. Haldar says:

    Anil ji,

    There’s another aspect of voice quality that I remember discussing with you. I don’t know if there’s a technical term for it, but I’m going to put forward my views, knowing fully well that I may be off the mark here. The best way to explain it is through musical instruments. As you know, pure classical singers don’t use the harmonium, because the notes it produces are not pure. They prefer to be accompanied by the tanpura, which produces purer notes. The purest note you can produce is through a tuning fork.

    If you imagine the spectrum between a tanpura and a harmonium, I’d place Lata towards the tanpura end and Rafi (and Asha) at the harmonium end. Like the harmonium, I believe Rafi’s voice produces a lot of overtones, in addition to the fundamental notes, that make it really attractive. Lata’s voice is purer in the sense that the notes are not accompanied by that many overtones; they are of higher fidelity. I don’t know if there’s any scientific basis to what I’m saying here, but some day I want to test my theory using an advanced frequency analyzer.

    P. Haldar

  12. Anil Cherian says:

    Naushad saab didn’t say that Lataji’s voice covered 28 notes. Per his statement (quoted by Walijah saab), Lataji could sing in 3 octaves, that’s it. It’s Lataji’s brother who opined that his didi could could cover 28 notes (again, as quoted by Walijah saab). The way he said it, he means 28 full notes, ie 4 full octaves.
    The keyboards have typically 5-6-7 octaves (each with 12 notes, if we count half-notes too). The amateur ones have mostly 5 octaves; the professionals these days use ones with more octaves. Mariah & co goes into the 7th octave and even beyond; but as Walijah saab observed, much of it may not strictly be classified as singing if we go by the Indian classical rules and practices.
    Good observations. The voice quality is probably the single most important asset a singer can possess. When a good voice can cover a wide range of notes and emote well with them, it extends the artistic boundaries of the composers as it happened with the great HFM composers when Rafi sahab and Lataji were around. When composing tunes for singers with narrower range, the MDs had to limit their artistic creativity.
    By the way, both Mannada and Kishoreda had wider vocal range than Talat saab, Mukeshji and Hemantda and all the five were superb singers. Mahendra Kapoorji had, probably, a wider range than them all except Rafi sahab and Mannada. Among the next-gen singers, Amit Kumar had a good enough vocal range as well as a good (kishoresque) voice.; too bad he didn’t take proper care of his career.

  13. P. Haldar says:

    post 124:

    Nafisa ji,

    I am just an ordinary music lover. Anil ji is a musician with a background in Western classical music — he may have been involved with choir music — but of late, he has ventured into Hindustani classical music.

    Please note that when we are talking about Rafi and Lata, we are only talking in relative terms. Both of them were perfectionists and the Lata-Rafi duets are timeless. But they were highly competitive when they were singing together — they were more like muqabalas — and that is why I posed a few questions to Anil ji, who is an expert in the field.

    Now that the India-Bangladesh cricket match is over, I’d like to elaborate on what I had said earlier with an analogy from cricket. You can never beat Lata with pace. The song that Anil ji has cited — dil tera diwana — has a lot of pace but it is also over-pitched. And that is one area where Lata suffered from a little insecurity, albeit only when singing with Rafi. And no music director exposed it more than Shankar-Jaikishan. You can compare Rafi and Lata to the sultans of swing — the two W’s. Who is who, I’ll leave it to you. I’ll keep my mouth shut for now.

    P. Haldar

  14. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    There is a saying in Sanskrit – “Ranjayathi iti Ragah” – which means, “that which colours the mind is a raga.” For a raga to truly colour the mind of the listener, its effect must be created not only through the notes and the embellishments, but also by the presentation of the specific emotion or mood characteristic of each raga. Thus through rich melodies in our music, every human emotion, every subtle feeling in man and nature can be musically expressed and experienced.

    The performing arts in India – music, dance,drama, and poetry – are based on the concept of Nava Rasa , or the “nine sentiments.” Literally, rasa means “juice” or “extract” but here in this context, we take it to mean “emotion” or “sentiment.” Each raga is principally dominated by one of these nine rasas, although the performer can also bring out other emotions in a less prominent way. The more closely the notes of a raga conform to the expression of one single idea or emotion, the more overwhelming the effect of the raga.

  15. LUCKY says:

    Some people have a very short range and still are considered better singers than somebody with a huge range SINGING range was about 1.5 octaves only, he could maybe sing 2 octaves tops, but they were 100% HIGH QUALITY and unique notes, many people consider Kishore Kumar the best male singer ever; his detractors say he couldn’t even sing, but I’m sure more people like his voice than the opposite. Same goes for Manna Dey. His songs were only maybe 2 octaves in general, his whole singing range was “only” some 3 octaves, but the QUALITY and beauty of his voice set him apart from everybody else.

    Michael Jackson had a 3.5-octave range they say, but the quality of his voice was unique, a very pleasing mixture between child-female and male, almost impossible to be imitated, just as the previous two singers mentioned. So, who cares about breaking range records? It’s more about the quality, that is, how pleasing and melodic a voice is. and, as always, it’s a subjective thing.

  16. Man Mouji says:

    “A singer’s true range is measured by the number of notes they can actually SING–not necessarily HIT.”

    People sometimes fail to consider that studio recordings are not necessarily indicative of a singer’s range / ability, as those recordings are often altered or enhanced.

    Technology during live performances can also enable editing of a singer’s output. If you’ve ever played around with mics hooked up to modern sound systems, you’ll know about the various vocal effects you can achieve by modulating a few audio settings.

  17. Bhushan says:

    Dear Walijah ji and Sri Anil Cherian ji,

    One small point in my earlier post – The 21 possible notes actually I was referring was for sa to ni (7 notes) in 3 octaves making to 21 – actually this should be doubled (because we find 2 ri’s two ga’s two ma’s two da’s and two ni’s) thus all indian instruments consist of close to 42 notes strictly speaking. On this range, if the 28 notes factor is considered, it is acceptable (so it is not a strictly 3 octave range as only 28 out of 42 notes are covered) – And as discussed the 18-19 notes voice range, going by this working is close to a range of 38 clear notes. I hope in this calculation shri naushad ji was referring to the 28 note range of lata. Again in this type of working as mentioned earlier, for instance rafi ji’s range of 17 notes will work out to 34 clear notes –

    Anil ji, I am verifying the total notes available on keyboard – will come back again, could you kindly confirm whether the notes on keyboard, if individually considered, exceed the 42 notes as stated above ?

    If this 42 notes range is considered, then Mariah and others as referred above fall within these notes range only and even as per preceding paras, I think there should not be any problem for indian singers with 38 notes clear range to be on par with the singers stated therein. If the range crosses these 42 notes – then that is certainly great and it has to be accepted – for this I await the clarification from sri anil ji regarding total notes on keyboard vis-a-vis indian traditional instruments – veena and violin etc.

  18. Anil Cherian says:

    Let me try to elaborate a bit. Please watch the following clip
    Please compare Lataji’s ‘dil tera deewana hai sanam..’ starting at 3.21 to Rafi sahab’s same line at many places. You will find the strain in Lataji’s voice.
    I am linking the next clip with apologies to all the Rafians who may not want to be reminded about the unpleasant incident related to the song
    Please compare Lataji’s ‘ka-j-ra’ at 1.33-1.34 to Rafi sahab’s ‘ka-dam tere’ at 2.33-2.34). Again Rafi sahab’s voice is firm while Lataji’s is showing some wobbliness.
    When I spoke about ‘staying for some time’ I was referring to the duration the singers spend on the high notes. The first song is an example. Those notes (where Lataji is straining at in this song), she would be normally more comfortable if she has to kind of ‘visit’ those notes and come back to lower notes. But here she has to remain in that territory over one entire line of the song.
    Now, Please don’t get the idea that I’m trying to prove Rafi sahab’s superiority over Lataji. It’s note the case at all. Like Haldar sir, I also think that these two are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to singing prowess. We all must thank the Almighty that he sent the two to our World in the same period so that we could enjoy the greatest male-female singing partnership in HFM (and possibly anywhere).

  19. nafisa says:

    As an ignorant person in written music…… most of what has been discussed above is beyond comprehension. Even so i have tried to follow this thread in the hope of learning something.

    Here are some comments/questions :

    1. Post No. 114

    About lata Mangeshkar : she is a perfectionist through n through. Very rarely i have heard her losing control of the song/feel/her voice/diction/ pronounciation or last but not the least , the actor she is singing for. specially in the older songs as compared to Silsila song which u have given link to, she sounds completely the character singing on screen.

    And i have grown up listening to “AAj phir jeene ki tammanna hai” on radio. The perfect high pitched, spirited, postive and feel good song. I wonder how rafi sahab would have fared in this particular song. but then SDB is not known for such twin songs ( separate male n female version of same song).

    REcording room battles or not, those rafi-lata duets are worth living for in my opinion. can u please elaborate on the following with examples ?
    “it’s only when she competes with rafi, she gets overwhelmed sometimes, not only in the high pitches but in the harkatein and adayen as well.” so that we can try understand with the help of examples.

    Post no 119 :

    Can u please elaborate the following , with examples, for laypersons like us ?
    “i have to add that in a duet (with rafi sahab), lataji’s difficulty starts at around e4/f4 (e5/f5 for her)- since rafi sahab’s voice is rock-solid here but lataji’s (full) voice starts getting wobbly, especially if they have to stay there for sometime.”

    I found a 10 minute long song by Mohammed Rafi (Prince – SJ). Here is a link:
    ” Madhosh Hawa, Matwali fizaa, sansaar suhaana lagta hai”

    As far as i know the songs were recorded at a stretch in those days. Is this within comfort zone of rafi sahab ?

    A trivia about the legend :

    I read somewhere recently that one reason why Rafi sahab is known as “Sahab” is because it was his real surname. I did not know this previously.

    REgards to all rafians

  20. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    Shri Bhushan Ji and Shri Anil Cherian Ji,

    Something interesting on highest vocal notes.

    Georgia Brown is a Brazilian singer noted for her extensive vocal range. She currently holds the Guinness World Records for hitting the highest vocal note and for possessing the greatest range, which spans exactly 8 octaves from G2-G10 using scientific pitch notation. She also has 5 octave of singing voice.

    Brazilian singer Georgia Brown is the Record holder for singing the highest recorded vocal note, a G10

    Georgia Brown of Brazil holds the Guinness World Record for this, I believe the note was G10, that is to say, six and a half octaves above middle C. Whether this could be described as singing is debatable, but is certainly the highest pitch produced by a human voice on record.

    Georgia Brown is an Italian Brazilian singer noted for her extensive vocal range. She was listed in the 2005 Guinness World Records for hitting the highest vocal note and for possessing the greatest range, claimed to be exactly 8 octaves from G2-G10 using scientific pitch notation. However, no recording of this feat exists and it was replaced in the 2007 edition of the Guinness book by Adam Lopez Costa who was recorded hitting a C#8 on a Guinness World Records show in 2005.

    According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Lopez holds the world record for highest vocal note produced by a male. That pitch is designated C#8 in note-octave notation; it is one semitone above the highest note on a standard grand piano or 4435 Hz.

  21. Anil Cherian says:

    Walijah saab,
    Bianca is at bflat5 (the same note as Lataji’s in ‘aa ab laut chale..’ alaap) and she’s hitting it with her full (chest) voice. Amazing effort; she is bound to go places.

  22. Anil Cherian says:

    I have found 3 songs where rafi sahab touches the bflat4 (kaisiki nishadha or the last black piece of the harmonium):
    The first one has been mentioned by Manmouji saab (at 4.02) (the final alaap) (at 4.17)
    There could be more of them; I had a feeling that ‘deepak jalao..’ touched this note, but it is only G#4 (dha) and the Chengiz Khan song touches A4, same as the final alaap in ‘man tarpat..’.

  23. Abhishek says:

    It is perhaps the first time I am seeing some sensible music discussions going on this site by some good music lovers. Good things going, keep it up friends.

  24. Anil Cherian says:

    Haldar sir (post#114)
    You said “just because lata can hit a high note once in a while doesn’t mean that she has a wider range. the main issue is if the singer can do it consistently and comfortably, without showing any strains whatsoever”.
    Absolutely; here’s what Swami sir (in the article ‘true voice) quotes:
    “Yesu said most important is the comfort level over ranges which makes you feel God has been partial to Rafi.”
    Rafi was comfortable in all the notes that he could sing and he could sit on them forever. Lataji’s head-assisted high notes comes in handy only for specific situations and she couldn’t stay on the high octave for a long time. However she had the edge (over Rafi sahab) when it comes to sustained low-notes singing and in low-notes in general.
    Lataji’s edge (you were referring to) could be her superiority in the hard classical songs, in general and its specific components like execution of fast ‘taans’ etc. I hope you’ll clarify it yourself one day (on second thoughts).
    Post 116:
    All calculations correct, except that Rafi sahab post 1960s couldn’t clearly (in my knowledge) hit the F#2, he could manage G#2. I have to add that in a duet (with Rafi sahab), Lataji’s difficulty starts at around E4/F4 (E5/F5 for her)- since Rafi sahab’s voice is rock-solid here but Lataji’s (full) voice starts getting wobbly, especially if they have to stay there for sometime.

  25. Bhushan says:

    Anil ji and Walijah ji,

    Will get back on hearing the songs posted, probably in the night, as I am little busy now.

    Haldar ji – seems to be an excellent analyst – Anil ji, I think some valid points appear in his post.

  26. Anil Cherian says:

    Walijah Saab,
    I am not a big follower of the great art named opera, though I loosely follow the singing part of it. The info you supplied about the tissues around the voice box etc. is all news to me. I would only like to add that the training involved in the opera singing is as rigorous as the one an Indian classical music student has to go through, with various voice drills and breathing techniques.
    Thank you for the link to Bianca. I’ll listen to it and come back to you.

  27. P. Haldar says:

    Anil ji,

    Based on the new information that you have just provided, I have come up with the following calculations.

    1. Lata’s comfort range is in the region f3-f5, around 15 notes.
    2. Rafi can easily go up to around bflat4. Back-calculating from there, with the information that his range is around 17 notes, his comfort zone is in the f#2-bflat4 neighbourhood.
    3. In a duet, when Rafi hits bflat4, lata has to hit bflat5, clearly out of her comfort zone.

    Please let me know if these calculations make sense. If they do, I now understand what happened in Salil’s recording room.

  28. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    Dear Shri Bhushan Ji

    With regard to vocal range of a singer. In post 101 as Anil Cherian ji has given a link on Mariah Carey unthinkable highs.

    Please listen this and tell me your opinion what you will find these on which octaves.

    Bianca Ryan

    Bianca ryan is a girl with an amazing singing voice… she’s a girl her voice is supposed to be high. Also in this song she’s about 11 , I enjoyed this immensely. This is none other than God given talent!!! May God continue to bless her as she Glorifies him with her voice. I think God blessed her with her lovely voice.She has a realy great voice. That kid has the vocal power of an opera singer at the age of 11…

    Her performance of Jennifer Holiday’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” caused panelist David Hasselhoff to declare: “You know what kid? You’re a star.” More prophetic words could not be spoken. Simon Cowell, the shows executive producer, exclaimed “Bianca Ryan is potentially one of the best singers I have ever heard in my life.” Bianca, of course, won the competition and the admiration of millions across the country.

    Here is the original song sung by Jennifer Holliday.

    Jennifer Holliday’s performance of the song, in a style owing much to gospel music singing traditions, was regularly staged to thunderous applause; “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” remains Holliday’s signature song.

    Please listen both versions and tell me what are these amazing vocal ranges fits in which octaves.

  29. P. Haldar says:

    Anil ji,

    I am one lucky Rafian; as I as about to respond to your post, the radio started playing a favourite song of mine with the opening words:

    Haseena likhoon
    Meherbaan likhoon
    Ya dilruba likhoon
    Hairaan hoon ki aap ko
    Is khat mein kya likhoon

    The greatest love letter in the history of Hindi cinema, which did not find a mention in even one of the Valentine Day’s lists! In our days, these words were enough to melt a woman’s heart. A letter that Hasrat wote for his unrequited love, that Jaikishan composed for the gorgeous Pallavi, that Rajendra Kumar used to woo Vyjanthimala and that Rafi sang for thousands of haseenas. And a song that reminds me of our dear friend, Sandeep Nadkarni.

    Two songs later, another surprise. Shakeel’s poetry, Naushad’s immortal creation in jhinjhoti, mere mehboob tujhe, which also didn’t find a mention. It seems that Rafi saab is smiling at us from heaven.

    Coming back to vocal range, it is a well-accepted fact in hindi music industry that no one had a greater vocal range than rafi. Just because lata can hit a high note once in a while doesn’t mean that she has a wider range. The main issue is if the singer can do it consistently and comfortably, without showing any strains whatsoever. Even within the 15 note range you have specified, she has problems matching Rafi, so how can she have a wider vocal range?

    In the song that you had cited earlier from Chengiz Khan, when Rafi reaches the highest notes with “Chali aa”, you will find that his voice will remain strong throughout; it will not quiver one bit. I have not heard this kind of sustained high-pitch singing from any singer, male or female. He does it so effortlessly that it feels like he’s riding a canoe in the high waters of the Bay of Bengal.

    That said, Rafi and Lata are unees-bees in terms of technical skills. Lata definitely has an edge over Rafi in one area, but not with respect to vocal range. You can kill me but I will not say which area it is. You are a musician and you should be able to figure it out yourself. I could give an analogy from cricket but that would give the answer away. However, I’ll reveal an answer to a question I had posed several years ago. When Pandit Bose was waxing eloquent on this forum about falsetto and vibrato, I had made the following statement: “Talat is to vibrato what Chandra is to googly.” Panditji understood my statement, but I didn’t want to say anything at that time out of love and respect to these two gentlemen from two different fields.

    Chandra himself did not know what his next delivery would be like. His fastest ball could be faster than Abid Ali’s, such was his unpredictability. But the googly remained his most lethal delivery and it was enabled by his polio-stricken right hand. If you remember, Pandit Bose had suddenly become very fond of Talat’s vibrato. Like Chandra’s googly, Talat’s vibrato was enabled by a disease, which finally took his life away — Parkinson’s disease. May his soul rest in peace.

    Coming back to the nightingale, I’m posting a song where she beautifully switches from high to low:

    It’s brilliant! And I don’t find any fault with her voice in “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai”. Dada’s Lota would never falter, even for a moment, such was their musical relationship. It’s only when she competes with Rafi, she gets overwhelmed sometimes, not only in the high pitches but in the harkatein and adayen as well. We were not lucky enough to witness those high-pitched battles in the recording room.

    P. Haldar

  30. Anil Cherian says:

    Haldar sir,
    Lataji’s range (in full voice) is not exactly c3-c5, I was only repeating Naushad saab’s words when I said this. He probably meant that Lataji could comfortably sing in all these octaves. Then he goes onto say that Lataji could sing at g of the alto range which is g3. I think the approximate range for Lataji (in full voice) would be f3/g3 to f5/g5 which is only 14-15. It is when we add those head voice notes that her range becomes 18-19 or more. We also have to consider the fact that though Lataji could hit f5 (and probably g5) she wasn’t very comfortable staying at the ‘tharasthayi’ for long. Whenever she did it, her voice showed strain. At the same time, Rafi sahab was very comfortable at f4/g4 (the equivalent male notes) and could stay there as long as he wanted to. He was rather comfortable at a4 too and I feel he could go on to b4, may be he did hit b4 or bflat4 in some song or other, I will have to check some of his high-pitched songs.

  31. Anil Cherian says:

    Here’s the song I was referring to- the Lata duet with very high notes:
    The notes at around 0.24- 0.30 are very high, possibly even higher than the highest in the ‘aa ab laut chale..’. It’s all head voice notes.

    Here are a few Rafi sahab songs with beautiful high notes. The quality of voice at those notes are just awesome. (Watch out for the smooth ascend of the voice from mid to hi)

  32. P. Haldar says:

    Anil ji,

    You said Lata’s voice is in the C3-C5 range, which is 19 notes. You also seem to agree with Bhushan ji that Rafi’s voice range is around 15 notes. As a male singer, Rafi’s lower end will be a few notes lower than Lata’s, say around A2. Add 14 notes to it, you get C4, which should be Rafi’s higher end, exactly one octave lower than Lata’s but the same note. Now, here’s my question: Why would Lata have problems singing in Rafi’s vocal range when her range covers all the higher-pitched notes that Rafi has? Something doesn’t look right here.

    P. Haldar

  33. Bhushan says:

    walijah saab,

    For sure, the opera is a great art as it encompasses many features including acting, dance and singing and which needs a lot of perfection. The word generally assumes importance from the western style of music, and you can find a little similaity between the dramatic performances of olden days in the indian scenario, which also required multi skills as a combination. As the film industry gained importance the dramatic performances importance is gradually reducing/reduced.

    anil cherian ji, – 108

    this is exactly what I was trying to pinpoint for lata ji earlier. To my knowledge, I maintain rafi’s range attractive than lata in high pitches – as you said correctly, rafi’s range is not challenged by singers going even higher. In a nutshell, the compositions are made keeping in view the comfortable vocal range of the singers, by the music directors.

  34. Anil Cherian says:

    Dear Haldar Sir,
    lest some readers mistakenly get the impression that a singer’s greatness is somehow only linked to his or her vocal range, i want to point out that vocal range is just “one” aspect of voice quality. there are many other aspects to a singer’s voice; a singer who can sing 19 notes comfortably is not necessarily better than someone who can sing 17 notes.
    Very true. Actually this point has been wonderfully explained by Swami sir who wrote ‘the true voice’ article.
    Speaking specifically about Rafi sahab, I haven’t heard anyone sounding so sweet, so expressive and so dramatic (when required) in the ‘tharasthayi’. He actually toys around with the notes in the ‘tharasthayi’, giving the same note (let’s say ‘pancham’) different vocal colours; hitting it sometimes with a full chest voice (often criticised by our friends in the ‘other’ site as ‘shouting’), sometimes giving it a lighter colour by going at it with a head voice, quite often pulling off brilliant ‘murkhis’ at such high pitch. Overall, for me, Rafi sahab’s mastery at higher notes is not challenged (even by the singers who might go a few notes higher).
    Let me try (my best) to explain Lataji’s statement. As I was trying to explain earlier, Lataji’s reach with her full (or chest) voice ends probably at about ‘ma’ .Even this note she reaches with a little difficulty; she can go further up only by using her head voice which may have showed a different texture when singing the ‘sahithya’ (though it was good enough in the ‘alaap’ in ‘aa ab laut chale’). So when she sang those two songs she was close to the end of the spectrum in her full voice and to make matters worse both these songs required sustained singing of high notes. By the way, if these songs are given to a female singer with a higher-pitched voice (like Vani Jayram), she will be able to pull it off comfortably. The real problem was not so much that these songs are composed in the male vocal range as that it was composed in the ‘Rafi vocal range’.
    Rafi sahab’s voice has many characters that makes it tenor but from an Indian musical perspective it is difficult to classify singers as bass, tenors etc. I classified Lataji as contralto only for the sake of simplifying it. Similarly one can classify Rafi sahab as tenor to explain certain aspects of his voice. Having said that, a typical tenor wouldn’t be able to sing those low notes that Rafi sahab was able to do.

  35. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    Shri Anil ji and Shri Bhushan ji

    As the fantastic musical discussions are going on. I would like to request you to shed some light on opera singing as well. As the opera singers like any other exacting profession, opera singing is an art of discipline, even for the most gifted singer. Not only must the voice be properly trained, but music theory and ear training must be studied, roles learnt and memorized, foreign languages studied and acting perfected. Opera is, at its core, primarily a musical art. Composers have written operas for hundreds of years with specific voice types in mind to portray their characters, valuing vocal skill, vocal ability, vocal range and accomplishment over size. It is believed that fatty tissue around the voice box and soft palate helps create a mellifluous, warm sound and increases resonance.

  36. P. Haldar says:

    Anil ji,

    Good to see you back on this forum after a long time. I remember reading a discussion on vocal ranges before. Lest some readers mistakenly get the impression that a singer’s greatness is somehow only linked to his or her vocal range, I want to point out that vocal range is just “one” aspect of voice quality. There are many other aspects to a singer’s voice; a singer who can sing 19 notes comfortably is not necessarily better than someone who can sing 17 notes.

    But let’s focus on vocal range. You’ve classified Lata as a “contralto”; would you then classify Rafi as a “tenor”? For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that both voices can span three octaves. Lata should be able to reach a much higher (absolute) pitch than Rafi. In that case, can you explain why Lata made the following comment? (Keep in mind that none of these songs are duets.)

    “I remember Shanker-Jaikishan’s Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar and O mere shah-e-khuba in Junglee and Love In Tokyo were meant for the male vocal range. But after recording them with Rafi Saab Shanker-Jaikishan wanted me to sing them. I advised them against it then. But they would never listen to me. Their attitude was, ‘If she can pull it off, let her do it’. At an unreasonably high pitch my expressions used to be botched up. I was more bothered about staying in key than getting the expressions right.”

  37. Anil Cherian says:

    Rafifan 1ji,
    I concur with Bhushanji on Rafi sahab’s range. I would also add that this is a very impressive range for a male light singer.
    Two points. One, Mariah Carey’s effort in the clip goes well beyond 3 octaves. She is singing in the 6th Octave at 1.19 and 2.09 and in the 7th Octave towards the end. The Indian classical greats wouldn’t be able to reach these notes, because they don’t (or rather trained not to) sing in head or whistle registers. Someone like Sunidhi (a big follower of Western pop) might be able to sing well in the 6th octave but not in the 7th. Second, I would rather differentiate between strong, deep and thick voices and agree with you that only real strong voices can hit very high notes at full (chest) voice. Will continue later.

  38. Bhushan says:

    Rafi fan 1 ji,

    Thanks for your post. Going by the songs of rafi ji (within my knowledge which I have heard including high pitches) I would place the range at clear comfort level of nearly two and a half octaves – clear comfort level i.e around 15-17 notes.

  39. Rafifan1 says:

    Anil cherian ji and Bhushan ji,

    Due regards to the skills of ghantasala and yesudas.

    Which range do you reckon (in terms of octaves) for rafi sahab’s vocals ?

  40. bhushan says:

    Anil cherian ji,

    Yes, I agree with your points about classical indian music vs western music. One thing is strong/deep/thick voices as you said of ghantasala and yesudas, are capable of taking high pitches with comfort and their ability to sustain them at higher notes, due to their in built strong voice structure. The thinner voices, strictly speaking, even if well trained, are difficult to sustain at extreme higher notes. I heard the link of Mariah carey, I am of the opinion that even our indian greats can render the same, as I found the rendition to fit into the 3 octave range well. Hope to see more information from you.

  41. Anil Cherian says:

    Let me address your points about the vocal ranges of singers. Actually this is not a very straight-forward exercise, especially when we apply the Indian classical music rules. In the West, they distinguish between various voices/registers- chest, head, falsetto, whistling. However the Indian classical rules recognises only the ‘true’ voice which is chest voice plus a few notes in the ‘mixed’ voice (ie the end of chest and beginning of head voices). Again, as I mentioned before, for the female voice it is not very easy to distinguish between chest and head voices and therefore I believe we can reckon notes as long as there is no ‘airyness’ in it. Therefore Lataji’s high notes in ‘aa ab laut chale’ is (I feel) perfectly acceptable and I don’t think she is at the end of her vocal spectrum here. I remember a duet (I think with Kishoreda) where she sings some very high notes; let me make some search on that one. So we can fix Lataji’s vocal range as starting from a low ‘ma’ (I believe she is capable of that) to a high ‘sa’ which makes it 19 full notes. But again, I have no doubt that she is well aware of the Western soprano singing and the techniques of head voice singing. If we reckon those notes too (which can only guess), her range would be 3 octaves or even a little higher.
    Coming to male singers, I think we have to talk about light singers and classical singers separately. As you might be aware, the Indian classical music training does increase the vocal range, usually more on the lower side than the upper side. It is usual to find classically well-trained singers with a monster ‘bass’ going deep into the low ‘ga’s ‘ri’s and even ‘sa’s. Even the natural ‘tenors’ end up with huge low-note command, once they go through the rigors of classical music training. Yesu Das sir is a classic example. I would also consider Ghantasalaji as someone with a naturally high-octave voice who developed a good low range through training. Both these South legends have something close to 18-19 notes range. There is a film song ‘hari muraleeravam…’ by Das sir in which goes past the top ‘ni’, but in a head voice. If we reckon them as well, his range is almost 3 full octaves. I am not sure about Dr.BMK’s range, but I have read about his 3 octave range and think that is the case.
    Hope to continue later; for now attaching a clip where you will find Mariah Carey going into unthinkable highs.

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