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The Impact of Mohammad Rafi’s death on India’s music industry

By Nadeem Sundoo

Mohd Rafi with Lata Mangeshkar, Shankar Jaikishan and others

Mohd Rafi with Lata Mangeshkar, Shankar Jaikishan and others

There’s a lot of talk around the net about who is the best singer; Rafi, Lata, Asha or Kishore. And most of the articles are very subjective, the bias to one or another artist is clearly seen, be it pro-Rafi, pro-Lata, pro-Asha or pro-Kishore.

Ignoring the subjective articles there’s also a lot of objective articles comparing the various aspects of singing such as voice modulation, expression, power, sweetness and feelings just to name a few. These articles give a very clear indication about who, objectively seen, is the best singer India has ever produced – if ever there was any doubt. Some articles also talk about Mohammad Rafi’s impact and contribution to the music industry, but I have never encountered any article about the impact of his death on the music industry. And thinking about it I realized that it maybe holds the strongest argument for his superiority over all other Indian singers.

So in this article I will analyze the era after Rafi’s death and see if there‘s any events that suggest his superiority to Lata, Asha and Kishore. I will use the events in this era to answer the following questions:

  • What was the impact of Rafi’s death on the music industry?
  • Would the death of any of the other singers have the same impact?

I will also look at the era from the 50s to his death and see for signs in events that suggest Rafi’s superiority. As I will not be comparing singing abilities of the singers, the indicator I will use to determine the superiority will be the level of irreplaceability. Now, no one is truly irreplaceable; if one singer dies other singers takes his or her place – for better or worse. But we can determine the level of irreplaceability by analyzing the effect of a singers death on the remaining singers and if new singers are required to take his place. I will use the events in this era to answer the following questions:

  • Was Rafi irreplaceable?
  • Were any of the other singers irreplaceable?

Now, most people will say that the answers to the above questions can only be speculation. I beg to differ, we actually have on record events that can shed light on these questions and provide adequate answers. The answers we are looking for are not absolute answers but relative answers; the relative difference between the singers. And for that the events that I will analyze will suffice.

It goes without saying that if you have repeatedly heard a song in your childhood, that song will capture your sweet (or bad) childhood memories. It doesn’t matter who the singer is – that particular song will always have a special place in your heart. The singer’s voice quality doesn’t even need to be good for you to consider the song as one of your favorites. What you value most in the song is not the singer’s voice quality or the lyrics, but the feeling of your childhood that it contains. You think that the nostalgic feeling is produced by the singer, but it is not. In fact, the song could be a very low quality song and you would still like it. That said, it doesn’t mean that the songs from our childhood are low quality – far from it. In fact most of the songs we cherish are good quality songs, partly because they were played a lot (and only good songs are played again and again), and thus settled more subtly in our minds.

Let me first clarify that I, like other people, also have many childhood songs that takes me back to my sweet childhood and thus I’m very much subjective about those songs. I was born in 1968 and I grew up with all the above mentioned singers and thus have a soft spot for many of their songs – songs which hold memories from my long gone childhood. Time and again I find myself spellbound by songs like Mere Naina Sawan Bhado with Kishore or Ae dil-e-nadan with Lata or Husn se chand bhi by Rafi – these songs are in the hundreds, all irreplaceable.

Now, let’s answer the first question: What was the impact of Rafi’s death on the music industry? In my opinion the classic era of Indian Music died with Rafi’s death. His death created havoc in the music industry and left it wounded – a wound that would take a decade to heal. His death in 1980 created an emptiness that could not be filled by any singer (and frankly is still not filled). With his death the public realized how much they cherished and needed him, to such an extent that they tried to fill the emptiness with Rafi-clones (some good and some bad, but never close). It took a decade to realize that he was irreplaceable, and thus the music industry moved on, handicapped – sadly, never to be able to produce the same quality again. Today all the best singers in the industry are but a shadow of what Rafi was. Over 30 years has gone since his death and India with its +1 billion people has not been able to produce another Rafi – that alone speaks volumes of his quality. As a side note it is interesting that neither Mukesh’s death in 1976 nor Kishore’s death in 1987 did spark any frenzy to find a replacement for them.

But the interesting part in all this is the role, demand and popularity of his co singers Lata, Kishore and Asha after his death. With Rafi alive they were all in demand, but with his death their demand and popularity took a serious dive. No doubt that they still sang songs, but please compare the number of hits in the 80s by these 3 singers and the rest of the new singers streaming into the music industry – male and female. In the 70’s Rafi, Lata, Kishore and Asha stood for majority of the hits (probably more that 80%). In the 80s that is certainly not the case; here that figure does not seem to be more than 30%. It is like the public said: “Lata, Kishore and Asha – you are good, but without Rafi you don’t have the extra edge. With Rafi gone the magic is gone – that extra quality is gone. We liked you because you were a part of Rafi’s singing group, but without him you don’t create any magic. For a period you let us to believe that Rafi was replaceable by Kishore, but that spell were broken even before Rafi’s death. His premature death has taken from us the future jewels that he would have given us – for that our hearts cry, but that was the will of God. You however, have taken from us the jewels that should have been ours, by conspiring against him in the early 70s – THAT, we will not forgive! You tried to convince us that he was replaceable, but the fact is the he was the only one amongst you that were not replaceable – the rest of you are all replaceable. Now we will replace you with other singers.”

And thus the music industry focused on the new breed of singers like Alka Yagnik, Anuradha Paudwal, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Suresh Wadkar, Anwar, Shabbir Kumar and Mohammed Aziz and many more. These were good singers, but frankly they did not even come close to Lata, Kishore and Asha. Even so, the public wanted their songs. It was a strange situation; lower quality singers were preferred to the better singers Lata, Kishore and Asha. I feel sad that this could happen, but when I consider what they did to Rafi I don’t feel sorry for them. I remember reading somewhere that Lata had told Rafi that “…you are nothing without me….” Now, I’m not sure if she actually said this, but it basically turned out to be the opposite; it seemed that Lata, Kishore and Asha were nothing without Rafi. Looking back Rafi’s death was the most critical single event in the history of the music industry.

The role, demand and popularity of the 3 singers began a downturn with Rafi’s death. The classic era was dead. And as I will argue below, Rafi’s part in this classical era was far greater than any of the other 3 singers.

Now, let’s answer the second question: Would the death of any of the other singers have the same impact?

Let us start with Asha; this is easy, Asha had been in the industry as long as Rafi and did indeed sing a lot of songs with Rafi, but with Lata around she has always been in the shadows (due to Lata’s aggressiveness). No doubt that she is more versatile than Lata, but with Lata around the loss of Asha would not have been that great. She is replaceable.

Kishore: The Hype about Kishore had ended long before 1980, mainly due to that his singing abilities were limited and thus could not master difficult songs (unlike Rafi who excelled in almost every type of song). But more importantly; the music industry had already had a golden era in the 50s and 60s with Rafi and Lata/Asha (and of cause all the other great male and female singer from these decades), but Kishore did not play any major role in this era. In the early 70s when Kishore was getting the most songs Rafi had to step in for the difficult songs – hardly a sign of an irreplaceable singer. So it’s doubtful that Kishore’s death would do anything else than initiate a Kumar Sanu a bit earlier with a much smaller role of cause; with Rafi around the majority of song would go to Rafi as already apparent in the late 70s. And indeed, Kishore’s dead in 1987 did not create any major emergencies for the industry, certainly not at the level of Rafi’s death. Thus Kishore was also replaceable.

Lata: The argument used for Asha can also be used for Lata; with Asha around the absence of Lata is manageable. But what is more interesting is the period in the 60s with the Lata/Rafi royalty disagreement. In this period Suman Kalyanpur was given the part of Lata in duets with Rafi, in which she performed quite well (and what marvelous duets Lata had lost to Suman Kalyanpur, due to her arrogance). Asha of cause had the usual duet with Rafi in this period, but obviously she was inadequate for some type of songs for which Suman Kalyanpur had to step in. This shows that Asha’s versatility is not total. But having other singers around, that could replace Lata shows that she indeed is replaceable.

So, the facts tell us that Lata, Kishore and Asha had all at some point in time been replaced with no major problems for the industry. Can the same be said for Rafi? From Rafi’s first hit Yahan badla wafa ka to his last songs there was only one period in which another singer was preferred, namely the early 70s as mentioned above. But the remarkable thing here is that even in this period the music directors that preferred Kishore had to turn to Rafi for the difficult songs – no one could sing these songs better than Rafi. This shows that the preference to Kishore did not bound in ability, but was politically motivated. On a side note; what a disgrace that some music directors told Rafi that he should quit singing. Rafi is probably the best thing India has ever produced – luckily Naushad Ali was there to heighten his spirit by playing the song O duniya ke rakhwale and telling him that no one else in the industry could sing this song with the quality level of Rafi. But back to the issue; this show as clear as it can be that even in his worst period Rafi was irreplaceable – this is simply mind blowing! And this answers question number three.

Now, let’s answer the last question: Were any of the other singers irreplaceable?

Let’s start with Kishore: Without Kishore his songs would be song by Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Mahendra Kapoor, or Yesudas and counting. From a voice quality point of view we would certainly not lose anything; at the most we would lose the style and the extra bass that Kishore has in his voice. There cannot be any doubt that these singers would do more than justice to any of his songs.

Asha: Without Asha her songs would be song by Lata, Geeta Dutt, Suman Kalyanpur, Surayia, Shamshad Begum or Usha Mangeshkar. And they would be able to sing them as good as Asha herself. I have to stretch my imagination to consider any loss of quality.

Lata: Without Lata her songs would be song by Asha, Geeta Dutt, Surayia, Shamshad Begum or Usha Mangeshkar. But most of her songs would be song by Suman Kalyanpur, and as Suman has shown she would have done a splendid job.

Rafi: Without Rafi his songs would be sung by Hemant Kumar, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Kishore, Manna Dey, Mahendra Kapoor and Yesudas. Certainly they could sing the majority of Rafi’s songs with a reasonable quality, but none of these could give us the style that Rafi brought; He brought a new style to the 50s and then again in the 60s he brought another new amazing style – totally different from the 50s style, and then again in the 70s he brought an amazing new style – again different from the 60s style. That feature is simply fantastic – who knows what he would have given us in the 80s had he been alive. And then we have songs that could not be sung with a reasonable quality by any other singer; technically extreme difficult or high pit songs like O dunyia ke rakhwale, Mann Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj, Tere Dar Pe Aaye Hoon, Bharoon Phool Barsao, Chahe Koi Mujhe Jungli Kahe, Dil ke jharoke, Ghum Uthane Ke Liye, Husn se Chand Bhi, Jab bhi ye dil udhaas hota hai….and I could go on and on. I imagine that there is 100s of songs with this level of difficulty. Without Rafi these song would probably loose so much quality that they could not become hits.

So as you can see the highest level of irreplaceability goes to Rafi – there’s not even any competition!

So concluding the analysis we found out that

  • Rafi’s death was the most critical single event in the history of the music industry.
  • The severity of the death of any other singer would not be anywhere near the severity of Rafi’s death.
  • Rafi had the highest level of irreplaceability.
  • All other singers than Rafi were replaceable.

Even after reigning for more than 3 decades he seemed to be at his best, who knows what divine songs he would have given us if he has had more time. The above should by now have convinced you about his greatness, but in case you are still not convinced, consider the following question:

Is there any type of song that Rafi cannot sing with equal quality as any other singer?

The answer to this question is a “No”. Whatever song any other singer can sing, Rafi can sing to at least same level and most of the times even better… is there any doubt left the he is the greatest?

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59 Blog Comments to “The Impact of Mohammad Rafi’s death on India’s music industry”

  1. SUDHEER says:


  2. Santanu Bandyopadhyay says:

    The article written above may not be very convincing logically, but rasion de’etre of the contention of the writer is infallible, the fact is, Md Rafi is the greatest Male singer ever to have sung in modern music. However, Mr Jan ke jankaree ke liye, I would like to add although had great Md Rafi been alive today, certainly he would been compared with Saan, Sanu Nigaam, Udit Narayan and many ohter notable singer who had come to the foreground of singing in the 1990. But by that Md Rafi sahab’s position as incomparably greatest singer of India would not have been tarnished. You know ehy? since it has already been compared. For your information, in 2006, 30 most distinguished, famous and able musical experts, ( amongst them lyricist, poets, singer of yesteryears and present day like Manna Dey,Mahendra kapoor, Abheejeet, Santanu Maitra, Sreya Ghosal, Sanu Neegam, along with Gulzar, Javed Akhter, Shankar – loy and all icon composers of the preset era were there) were asked to select 20 ( twenty ) best songs ever to have been sung in the history of Bollywood film by any singer. The period of picking up songs were also marked by the organizer of the programme, and it was organished by ‘ Times of India”. And you know what was the result? amongst first four (4) best songs of the total 20 songs belonged to Md Rafi sahab. First beig Manre to kahen na from ‘ Chandralekha’, then the 2nd was ‘Din dhal jaye haye raat na jaye’ and 3rd was ‘ Tere mere sapne’, both from Guide. 4 the song went only to Kishore Kumar composed by Rd Burman ( Amar Prem ) . Seven of the selected 20 songs belonged to Md Rafi sahab, Lataji obtained position no 2, in terms of being selected for second highest number of songs. There Md Rafi and Lataji emerged to be the most popular singers of India, inclusive of all modern singers reighning the world of singing now. And though beside the point here, but just for a reckonable feature, SD Burman along with Shailendraji emerged to be the most popular composer and lyricist till date. Therefore, Md Rafi sahab with his mesmerizing divine voice has already emerged to be the most prolific, popular and admired singer along with Lataji, after being compared with all great present day singers. So where is the misgiving or point of doubt that he was the gem and greatest of all the singer along with Lataji, amongst all singers, who have sung hitherto in modern bollywood singing?


  3. S srinivasan says:

    Rafi is matchless

  4. dipiti says:

    It is wrong to say that Mukesh was not irreplaceable.

    There never will be another Mukesh.

    Mukesh, the man with the Golden voice.

  5. Vickash Ramsurrun (Mauritius) says:

    Mohammad Rafi for me is like God. His personality, his voice, his singing talent and ability were so unique and marvellous. There has never been any match to him. My greatest regret is not having been able to know (meet) him.

    If anyone gets only 1 percent of his voice and singing ability, that person will become a mega singer in our era!!!

    Anyone who has kown him (i mean, meeting and talking with him), can you please tell us a few things about it? It would be like knowing him through you…

  6. shammi says:

    I would just like to say that if any comment is a load of tripe than it has to be jaan’s, and I would like to know why he is wasting his time on this website when he knows it’s for people who appreciate good music and Mohd Rafi fans. There are plenty of web sites I’m sure for fans of modern trash some people may called music.

  7. J K Khanna says:

    There has never been any other playback singer of Rafi Sahab’s calibre and there will never be a singer of his level in future.

  8. dipiti says:

    Rafi has sung many songs for KK.
    KK did not object.
    KK knew, as the music directors as O.P.Nayyar and Madan Mohan, that KK
    did not have the versatility of Rafi.

  9. swarna says:


  10. Jaan says:

    A poorly written article & full of tripe. The writer uses a lot of repetition with his opinions assumption based. Has clearly used no source to back his argument. No person is ever irreplaceable in this world. Rafi represented the era of his times. If he was alive today, there would have been no way he would have competed with the 90s style of music that can only be sung by the likes of Sanu, Narayan & Abhijeet.

  11. umesh vasudeva says:

    who was greatmuhammad rafi sahib. belive it even god or allah has no
    ansur. it appears there is another force above them. such a mind blowing
    voice entered our plannet and selected our great nation india for a breif pd
    and changed theory &culture of music industry. a true spirtual human being.
    genration or generations will not hear such a honey laced voice.
    i simply remember this voice of god with closed eyes & tears rolling out feeling he choose the right time to chek out this selfish world

  12. shammi says:

    I love this article thank you nadeemji agree with it whole heartly.

    Also Binu nairji love your comments (16).

    I think it’s important for lata to realize that just because she is famous does not mean she is popular and any respect i had for her has long gone, I can’t believe that she would bring up matters dating back from over 30 years when the person in question has long gone. It beggers believe and disgusts me.

    God bless mohd rafisaheb’s soul and long live his son and his family!

  13. Abdulla ALMAZEM says:


    I am an Arabic person from UAE

    I leaen hindi because Rafi sab songs alwyes the gratest

  14. Paul says:

    Dear Rafi fans,

    The person has given us very informative, critical and an extremely accurate analysis. Hats off for your efforts in bringing about plus providing an accurate, elaborate and sensible analysis taking into account all of the most important issues and events of that time & persons. Couldn’t agree any more with your analysis. It is a job well done mate. Great job !!!!


  15. Indian says:

    Dear All

    I would like to add as follows

    1) Let us list No of singers who have sung and many of the song became a hit , starting from Devotional Song to Kavvali to love songs to Classical to “Desh Bhakti” songs. Please list them and you have answer.

    2) Please list singers who have sung songs and many of the songs became hit, for Grandfather as a Hero ( Prithivi Raj Kapoor) to Grandson ( Rishi Kapoor). Again you have the answer.

    3) Please list singers who have sung songs and many of the songs became hit for Various Heros ( please list Nos) . Again you have an answer

    4) Please list singers who have sung songs and many of the songs became hit, which are Fast and Slow paced, Which are very High Pitch and whispers. Again you have answer.

    5) I remember one episode , its was a song competition in TV, and SP Balasubramaniam was judging ( this was in Tamil Channel). After the competition he was asked to comment, he said that the singers should sing with heart in the music. They need to put themselves inside the song. He said that even if the singer humms the song ( forget the Lyrics) the audience should get the feel of the song. He was telling the youngsters that this part was missing in many new singers ( maybe he was referring to those participants only) .Then, as an example he hummed the initial humming part of the song of “Deewana Hua Badal”. He did not sing, and then said remember this song, so well sung that the moment you hear this Humm you remember the song and smile comes to your face, you start feeling happy. That’s the final Tribute.

    6) Tell me how many Male singers are remembered by every Indian ( different Religion, Different Language, Clubbed with Indian regional Politics etc etc) for songs sung in Hindi. Again you will have answers.

    7) By telling Sun does not have sufficient light, no effect is going to be imparted to sun. The individuals will be making fool of themselves. Likewise, why compare Mohammad Rafi with Others , specially people like Shabbir , Aziz etc. I am sure, even Shabbir and Aziz must be laughing at people who are comparing them with Rafi.

    8) Listen to the song of “Too mere Samne Hai , Teri Zulfein hain Jhuki…..” , the song definitely brings in bad intentions on your loved one. At the same time, the popular song of Aradhara, “Roop tera Mstana….”, unless you have the scene , you do not get aroused. That is the difference we are talking about.

    Hope the results of these listing will prove what this blog wants to say. Mohammad Rafi was, is and will be the greatest. No comparision.

  16. Santhanakrishnan S says:

    Dear Rafi fans,

    There is a couplet in Tamil which says, “When one has lot of good things to say about a person, if we choose one thing that is not bad, is likened to when there is a ripe and tasty fruit to eat, one chooses to eat the stuff that is not yet ripe”.

    Let us forget Lata and focus on listening to Rafi. Rafi’s greatness comes from the fact that he is a very good soul and gets reflected when he sings – especially when he sings Bhajans (man tadpat, ab to bata de avagun mere paon pada hun shyam) or Sufi (usko manzil mil gayi jisko kinara mil gaya, Ilahi tu sun le hamari ) songs. It is true of a person who has transcended the boundaries of religion.

    Rafi did not look for royalty as a way of earning money as he said that the singers do not take any risk. (If the movie did not do well and the produced made a loss, the singers never returned the money). It is true of a person who was content with what he was doing – that is putting the talent that he was blessed with to good use.

    Naushadji mentioned that Rafi saab refused to take money for a song saying that he considerd the being considered to sing that song was more than getting paid! The duo Laxmi-Pyare were helped a lot by Lata (music school, and singing all their songs). But they hold Rafi in high esteem – refering to him as a Farishta. There was one occassion, when they did not have any money on them, he gave Rs. 500 to them for use. (They did not spend it and kept it as a souvenier). There are many fresh music directors who Sapan Jagmohan, Lachiram Tamar, GS Kohli, Bipin Babul, Dulal Sen etc. did not have money to pay Rafi, but he sang for them accepting just Re 1 per song to give them the lift they need. One may not be surprised that Lata has barely sung for these people. These music directors went to Asha, Suman, Sudha Malhotra, Mubarak Begum, etc.

    Rafi was truly an upasaka of goddess Saraswati, protecting and supporting Talent wherever he saw.

    So just enjoy singing good qualities of people ignoring what is not worth commenting upon!

    Good day to all!

  17. khaja Aliuddin MD says:

    WAS, Janab Nadeem Sahab,
    Thanks for your quick response. Please do the changes as you said and e-mail me at my e-mail address.
    Thanks and best regards.
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  18. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    ASA Aliuddin Sahab,

    Knowledge is the lost property of every muslim, thus you do not need my permission for bringing this information to a wider public. But thank you for your courtesy.

    As this article was written quite hastily, I feel that it needs some polishing; nothing that would change the overall message, but here and there some additional explanation or clarification is needed. I could make the changes within a week. Is that ok?


  19. khaja Aliuddin MD says:

    ASA, Janab Nadeem,
    May I have the odosity of asking you to give me the permission to print this beautiful article in the English Section of Weekly “Urdu Times” publish from North America, on or before our Rafi Sahab’s birthday.
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin,

  20. the era of the rafi age: by extension of my above contribution; Mr. Nadeem Sundoo, you said “thank you” and to this I respond: “You’re welcome”. As for the media, well, I’ll let every one know that this entity uses a tactic referred to as “slanting”. slanting is an angle they adopt when they want to brainwash their propaganda on the masses. ask any journalist maybe they will tell you more. thanks to all again. soni

  21. The Era of the RAFI age: good day to all. Hello mr. Nadeem Sundoo, worry no more, here is my bio-data: name: sonilal bedasie Sex: M, well that’s about it I guess.

  22. Nadeem Sundoo says:


    Yes, this a good example. When hearing this song (and other songs by Shabbir) I always have the feeling that Shabbir will go out of surr at any moment! Yes, I agree that he got better, but by then the shocked public was coming to it’s senses and it was too late.

  23. lightmusiclover says:

    Here’s an example of the ‘gap’ you were mentioning-
    Actually Shabbir did pick up a bit towards the late ’80s but as he was beginning to reach ‘acceptable’ level (in terms of singing), he got badly neglected.
    As for Aziz, I agree that he was qualitatively better but was pretty ordinary with light/romantic/peppy songs.
    One has to agree with your findings- that Rafi’s death marked the end of an era. Even KK, a relatively fresher face, began to feel the pressure of the new ‘wave’ in the form of Shabbir, Aziz, Suresh Wadkar, Anwar and his own son Amit. I don’t have the data but I suppose Shabbir’s or Aziz’s individual output from 82-87 outnumber KK’s by some margin.
    Ditto with the Mangeshkar sisters. As you rightly pointed out, the public wanted to tell them- ‘without the company of Rafi, we don’t prefer you, An Anuradha or an Alka would do for us’.

  24. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Post 25, Dear Mr. Padmanabhan NR

    As can be clearly seen from your comments you have an insight that many people (me including) does not have. I agree with your comments with the limited understanding I have, but due to my lack of knowlegde in the area you talk about I cannot comment intellectually. I apologize for that.

    Thank you very much for sharing your insight and for your appreciation 🙂

  25. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Post 23,

    Lightmusiclover; Indeed, LP created an illusion with what resources they had – I have never looked at it that way! What puzzles me in this is the more frequent use of anurada, kavita and alka compared to Lata/asha. I suppose that we both agree that Lata and Asha were at that point both the best female singers. But despite of that other female singers were preffered to them. One could argue that the reason for this could be that the qualitative difference between Lata/Asha and the new male singers was to huge and thus low quality female singers were required to make a better match (and thus keep the illusion). In Shabbir’s case that could be true (as in my opinion he lacks proper surr), but not so Aziz. The qualitative gap between Lata/asha and Aziz is “manageable”. So, we could still have Rafi/Lata like duets in Lata/aziz. But no, lata/asha’s role as the preffered singers was over. What a downfall from being the preffered singer(s) for more than 30 years!…and they say that there is no justice in this world!

    Thanks for your comments 🙂

  26. Padmanabhan NR says:

    Dear nadeem Saahab,

    Assalaam alaikum.

    A very well researched, focussed and analytical article that is easy to understand and go along with. That there is a big void after his death was never evident more than it is today. so many new singers get introduced, make hay for a while and then peter out into wilderness.

    There are a host of reasons why rafi saahab never became type cast and operated in spaces which were considered strongholds of his contemporaries like talat, mukesh, kishore, manna da, hemant da etc. here was a man who served music, not a particular style or mood; here was humble but a keen student, who wanted to do well in each of his subjects – and within the subjects, each of the chapters. never did he say that it did not suit his ‘style’ or comfort levels. In fact, where others failed to tread, rafi saahab nonchalantly walked along those thorny paths – and he would do so unobtrusively, without hurting anyone’s sentiments. as if serving the cause of music was one way of serving the mankind, which is a creation of god himself. he was an assimilator of different emotions and deliver them in a manner that would give deep inside into those sentiments to a connoisseur as much as it would give a plain listening pleasure to an uninitiated, just casual listener.

    This is precisely what is his greatest asset is – to captivate the knowledgeable and not so richly endowed in terms of understanding music, at the same time. This also explain why when the shelf-life of all other singers will come to an end one day or the other, rafi saahab’s melodies will always be current, contemporary and captivating.

    khuda ka karam hai ki rafi saahab ki ibaadat mein ham shareek hain
    Baksh dena khuda unko bhi jo naadaan hain aur jo naa-shareek hain

    Padmanabhan NR

    Rafi foundation, hyderabad chapter.

  27. khaja Aliuddin MD says:

    Janab Nadeem Sahab,
    ASA, Bahut khoob, I am impressed.
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  28. lightmusiclover says:

    Nadeemji (Post 22),
    The impact of Rafi’s death on RDB’s career has always interested me. Here’s one MD who depended so much on another singer but who virtually fell apart since Rafi’s demise. “you are nothing without Rafisaab”- a correct assessment. Rafi was the ‘enricher’ of RDB’s music- someone who RDB turned to when composing a ‘classical/ classy’ song.
    Contrast RDB with LP who managed to stay on top for another decade even after the demise of their most trusted singer. What LP did mainly was to relatively simplify the tunes and entrust them with Shabbir, Aziz, Anuradha & co, thereby creating an illusion (that Rafi is not being missed, that we still have Rafi-like singers, that we even have Rafi, Lata-like duets). They also kept on emplyoing KK the way they did in the ’70s.

  29. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Salaam to everyone.

    Thanks for your interest in my article and your positive feedback – it means a lot to me. With so many replies I feel I must reply every one personally:

    Post 1, Mr. A.Kutty: That actors could be given playback for movies is an indicator of the low difficulty of the song, is not something I have ever reflected on. And you are absolutely right; no actor could sing “Pardha hai pardha”, even to a mediocre level.

    And yes, what an irony (as others have pointed out) that the downfall of RDB was his dependability of KK. It seems that Mohammad Rafi was not only the lifeline of Lata, Kishore and Asha, but also the lifeline of RD Burman and other music directors. In a way history said to RD Burman: So you think that Mohammad Rafi is not good enough for you. Think again, He is not only good enough, he is BETTER than you deserve, in fact without him you are NOTHING! RD Burman should have heeded to Rafi’s song “Waqt se din aur raat……Aadmi ko chahiye, waqt se dar kar rahe, kaun jane kis qadi waqt ka badle mizaaj……….”

    I have never made any comparison of identical Lata and Rafi songs: This could be a good case for an article.

    Mr. A. Kutty, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 2, Mr. Salim K: Yes, I had heard about Rafi’s Hajj and subsequent “retirement”. But that does not necessary mean that the story about some md’s telling Rafi to quit is incorrect. I am not sure but it could have happened when Rafi tried to come back. And I am sure that he at least at that time was struggling to get songs – is there anyone in this forum that can shed some light on this? The fact that some music directors preferred a technically much weaker KK to Rafi (the ultimate benchmark of singing) is certainly at least on a metaphorical level like saying “Rafi, go home and retire”.

    My personal favorite singer of the 80’s is Mohammad Aziz – I think he did a splendid job. Sadly, like other singers, he did not have the ability to change his style with the times and thus faded out of the scene. And I have myself often wondered how a low quality singer like Shabbir kumar could have a career at the top. I don’t think I have heard a song with him where he is not out of surr at least one time in the song – even an average Indian Idol top 10 contestant is better than him.

    Mr. Salim K., thank you for your comments 🙂

    Post 3, Mrs/Ms Jyoti Mohanty (I am guessing that Jyoti is a female name – pardon me if this is not the case): Yes, I also myself feel the absence of appreciation of Mr. Rafi again and again, when watching various tv-shows. Whenever some other singer is mentioned it is almost like they know that they should mention Mr. Rafi, but purposely omit any mention of him (or the other great singers of the golden age of hfm; the classical era). This is sad, but around the world in millions of homes parents are keeping Mohammad Rafi’s music alive by playing and singing his songs, thus as long as Hindi/Urdu music is alive, Rafi will be at the top. And that comforts my heart.

    Mrs/Ms Jyoti Mohanty, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 4, Mr. Khaja Aliuddin: Walaikum asalaam, Bahut khoob soorat sher hai aap ka. Duniya ka har Rafi fan har ek line ki gavahi de ga. Ye sach hai ke…..

    Yahan Badla wafa ka bewafai ke siva kiya hai,
    Lekin is bewafa duniya mein, a Rafi, tere wafadar bhi bahut hain

    As a muslim you would agree with me that everything around us (if reflected upon properly, points to Allah Almighty). In that sense Mohammad Rafi’s perfect surr and his humble personality constantly reminds us of that there must be a creator behind his perfection. And how can something that reminds us of our Creator ever go out of fashion! As long as there will be humans speaking the Hindi/Urdu languages, Rafi will be remembered.

    Mr. Khaja Aliuddin, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 5, Mr. Sonilal Bedasie (Again, I am guessing that Sonilal is a male name – pardon me if this is not the case): Of all the posts your post have had the greatest effect on me. Because when I wrote this article (as a revolt against Lata’s recent comments; this made me say ”Enough is enough!”) I was unsure if it at all was something people would like to read about or if the whole thing was too vague to conclude anything from. So, your comment that I had “hit the nail on dead center” was really very comforting – I thank you deep from my heart for that.

    I fully agree with you that Rafi’s abilities, be that his perfect surr or his humbleness, is certainly a gift and a lesson to us from God Almighty.

    Yes, and the fact that Mohammad Rafi is the Greatest singer know today is, as you say, something we all feel in our hearts – no matter what the media wants us to believe.

    To your comment that “…from the crowd you stand out, sir” I will take inspiration from MR. Rafi and say: It is not my ability, it is a gift from God”

    Mr. Sonilal Bedasie, My thanks to you – deep from my heart 🙂

    Post 6, Mr Rajiv M Nair: I myself am not a singer and thus do not comprehend the technical specialties of singing and music. How much more you are able to understand and thus appreciate Mr. Rafi – I envy you that. I must confess that I have been moved to tears by songs of other singers than Rafi, but the number of Rafi songs that cross my threshold for tears are far far greater. The fact that the void that Rafi sahib left has not been filled by any one yet, is a testimony to his greatness. He is the only singer that has been on top in the industry throughout his career WITHOUT submitting to dirty tricks! Please note that Lata and Asha was no longer at the top after Rafi’s death. I agree with people that say that Mr. Rafi does NOT need the Bharat Ratna – A polished diamond is NOT in the need of a certificate for people to recognize it.

    Mr.Rajiv M Nair, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 7, Mr. R.L. Arora: Yes, Mohammad Rafi cannot be replaced. My thanks and regards to you 🙂

    Post 8, Mr. K. P. Hassan: Yes, the list of Rafi songs, that are of such a high quality, that you want to listen to them again and again, is simple breathtaking long. I dont hav the exact count, but I think that my personal list is over 200 songs. That is simply fantastic! Way ahead of any other singer. How can any music lover ignore this fact! My question to any hindi/urdu music lover on the planet is: How can you prefer any other singer over Mohammad Rafi, if you are sincere and hold the level of surr as the ultimate parameter of judgment? That is simply not possible!

    Mr. K. P. Hassan, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 8, Mr. Naushad: Thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 10 + 11, Mr. Yateesh: I like Mukesh as well, but personally I prefer Rafi’s sentimental songs to Mukesh’s, but that is obviously a very subjective opinion. Let me point to the song Ramaya Wastavaya; in this song we hear both Rafi and Mukesh. This song is from my childhood and thus it occupies a place in my heart. So my mind started processing this song before it had any real idea of surr whatsoever. But almost intuitively I prefer the Rafi part to the Mukesh part. Rafi’s part brings me to an almost ecstatic level, not so with Mukesh’s part (please note that this is not in any way to belittle or downplay Mukesh – he is a great and unique singer).

    Yes, I agree that we lost something by the western influence and some songs can sadly be characterized as garbage. That said, new influences can bring good things also, but yes, the best quality of Indian music I think is in the 50’s and 60’s. With Sonu Nigam we still had the reflection of the classical quality, but with him almost gone and the influx of the new screaming singers the future of a surr based music industry seems bleak – very sad indeed! This is indeed like destroying a wonderful culture. And thanks for your offer – I may make use of it.

    Mr. Yateesh, thank you very much for your thoughts and offer 🙂

    Post 13, Mr. Kazi Jahir: Thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 14, Mr. Rao Randhir Singh: As stated earlier the best quality of Indian music I think is in the 50’s and 60’s. If you value surr and sweetness, then Rafi is like the sun where other competent singers are like the moon – he cannot be ignored. If someone ignores him it is his/hers own loss. What pleasures they are missing!

    Mr. Rao Randhir Singh, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 16, Mr Binu Nair: Yes indeed, why bring in Kishore Kumar, when he openly acknowledged Rafi as superior? It is simply because some people consider him as Rafi’s equal. Most people in this forum I know does not. But in case there was any doubt, my comparative analysis should have settled that matter.

    Mr. Binu Nair, thank you for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 17, Mr Nasir: Yes, it is a fantastic feature that we have had people I our lifetime that had such lofty ethical standards. I myself has been blessed by Allah Almighty and does not have to struggle financially. I also practice charity on a regular basis, but the level of charity practices by Mohammad Rafi is simply on a Momeen level – a beautiful example for people to see. I myself will take inspiration and implement that into my life. We praise Allah for showing us such beauty – both on musical and ethical level.

    Mr. Nasir, thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 20, Mr. Akbar Y. Khorakiwala: Thank you very much for your appreciation 🙂

    Post 21, Mr. Pinakesh: As a muslim I would not equal anything with God. But I would certainly say that Rafi showed us some things that made us think of God’s favors to Mankind 🙂

    Mr. Pinakesh, thank you very much for your comments 🙂

  30. pinakesh says:

    Rafi is 90 % of music industry, rest are 10%
    There are God gifted voice like Lata, Asha,Mukesh,Kishore but Rafi is God of music.

  31. akbar y.khorakiwala says:

    excellent article…!!!!

  32. Syed Pasha says:

    Mr Binu Nair,
    Ref Post 16,

    Indeed very informative and reflects the respect Rafi sahab’s contemporaries had for him. KK was truly gifted and had a versatile personality.

    Thanks for enlightening us with the anecdotes.

  33. krishna says:

    Hi frinds, rafi sahab k jaisa koi nahi hai aur na hoga …. kishore k gane koi b ga sakta hai lekin My Favorite rafi sahab k gane koi nahi ga sakta hai……………… industry me chahe kitne hi singer aa jaye koi b rafi sahab ki barabari nahi kar sakta ………… I LOVE YOU RAFI SAHAB

  34. Nasir says:

    Thanks for the brilliant article written on an intellectual level.
    We look forward to reading more of such articles in the future.
    Among the other impacts, one cannot contradict the fact that many small-time music directors and composers lost a great personality and singer who could have helped them in dire needs had he lived longer. In fact, only when the cheques stopped coming did they realize that it was Rafi sahaab who had been sending them monetary help incognito. Additionally, who knows how many unknown and less fortunate music directors would have become immortal by using Rafi Sahaab’s voice. And so on….

  35. Binu Nair says:

    Harvinder ji………Post 15.

    Lata has told a blatant lie and she has No Rafi saaheb apology letter as it was Never given.
    She is Old now and she must be having fading memories and also suffering from solitude. That’s whe she repeatedly annouce that ‘she will Never stop singing. ‘ Who will want to listen to her broken voices now. She cant gracefully resign now and she is seen complimenting Sachin Tendulkar when ever he hits a Century. That also which has become Rare.

    Why to bring in Kishore Kumar in to account here as the singer was a known bhakt of K L SAIGHAL AND MOHD RAFI.

    i was on face book ten minutes back and conversing with a friend of Leena Chandavarkar. She has confirmed that KK would keep aPicture of Rafi saaheb in his room and also told her to respect Rafi saaheb saying : “Aisa ek insaan hamare Industry me nahi hai”

    Rafi saaheb was way ahead of all these singers……….without doubt.

    Enjoyed reading the same.

  36. Harvinder says:

    Here is the link to Lata’s remark about feud with Rafi Sahab. This is a much older interview with Amin Sayani. She does says that Rafi Sahab gave written apology – true or nnor ?. The interview that caused uproard is recent Sept 2012. Judge for yourself, if such remarks are required !


  37. Rao Randhir Singh says:

    Hi Folks,

    I was really glad to read this article by Nadeem. He has researched really well. I have been following Rafi Saaba nd only Rafi saab eversince I was born He is irreplacable and unmatched by all means. It is disheartening though, that people of our generation either follow newer music more or a RD Burman kind of song(which is close to new era songs, full of musical support) sung by Kishore Kumar. But, I am sure that every true music lover would agree that thr quality of singing that Rafi Saab induced during 60′ and 50’s can never be chased closer to ever. Salute to him and greetings again for coming up with such a factual and Logical article!!!

  38. Kazi Jahir says:

    Thank you very much Mr.Nadeem.

  39. Yateesh says:

    For all of us who love our oldies:

    I have a list of about 6,000 MOVIES made from 1932 to 2000 and will provide it any one who wishes to have a copy. If each film averages 5 songs, there are probably 30,000 songs (but I do not have the actual songs) – you have to do your own search.

    I would have attached the list here but I cannot seem to be able to do it.

    E-mail me at


  40. Yateesh says:

    I think for sentimental songs, Rafi cannot compare to Mukesh.

    Having said that, Rafi is probably more versatile.

    It was indeed sad when India’s music industry started to adopt western styles about 1970/1980. Personally, I think the new songs are real garbage – they sound like wild dogs fighting over a carcass.

    I am from Guyana in South America, my grandparents having emigrated from India about 100 years ago. Yet, the songs in our family (my brothers and I) are from the 1940’s to probably the late 1980’s. We do not have new songs.

    Shouldn’t the musicians, song writers and singers of today be tried for treason – destroying a wonderful culture?

  41. Nadeem Sundoo says:

    Salaam to all,

    I thank you all for your warm comments – it’s nice when people appreciate and agree with you.

    This article was in fact triggered by the comments that Lata made lately regarding Mr. Rafi – I was, to put it mildly, not amused. I felt I had to do something and this was my way of “getting back to her” (yes, childish, but human). After writing the article I felt that maybe it was a bit harsh to the other singers, but then again this is actually the facts and we ought to be able to talk about those freely. And please do not take this article as a disrespect for the other singers – I respect them as singers and they all have their respective places in the singers hall of fame and in my heart.

    This was my first article in this forum and because of your supportive comments it will not be my last.

    Regards to you all.

  42. Naushad says:

    Greetings to all, I am totally Agreeable to the facts and figures pointed out by the writer.hat`s off and thx.

  43. K P Hassan says:

    Dear Nadeem,
    thank u for en-lighting the image of my beloved mohd.rafi saheb through your interesting article. It is true that rafi saheb is most respected singer of our country even today. I always noticed that the younger generation also want to hear the songs of our golden era, especially the songs of rafi saheb. songs like, o duniya ke rakhwale, chahe koi mujhe jangli kahe,kya hua tera wada, ye duniya ye mehfil,chulene do najuk, teri pyari pyari,khilona…, anese uske, etc. etc.are still popular. The voice quality of rafi saheb cannot be compared to any other singers. Rafi saheb can sing all types of songs very perfectively whether it is classical,semi classical,gazals, qawalis,bhakti song,partiotic songs,sad songs,romantic songs,comedy songs etc. I heard that kk had also used the voice of rafi saheb for his film as the song was in classical type. from the analysis, it is established that rafi saheb is the most efficient and famous singer of our country and he cannot be replaced by anyone. rafi saheb will remain in the hearts of every music lovers of this universe for ever.

  44. r l arora says:

    Rafi Saab, as i hv many times said is unreplacable. No singer whether male or female can replace a distinguised and Godly sent Rafi Saab.

    My regards to Nadeem saab.

  45. Rajiv M Nair says:

    Dear Nadeem, excellent well researched article i would say. As a singer myself, i can say that a singer should be judged by his versatiltiy, voice quality, feel and voice modulation. On this parameters, i feel that Mohammed Rafi saab and Asha Bhonsle are above the rest. No wonder both of them have sung the maximum number of duet songs together. However, when u count the number of popular of superhit songs, yet again Rafi saab’s tends to have no equal. He is way ahead of the rest. As far as i can remember on Rafi saab and to some extent Mukesh can make us cry. Mohammed Rafi saab is an extremely rare phenomenon when it comes to perfection in all type of songs. I have heard simple songs sung by Mohammed Rafi saab, whose melody and beauty is enhanced by Rafi saab’s vocal abilities. No wonder that almost all music directors wanted Rafi saab, as he could deliver the song better than what the music director has perceived. In the modern world i have only heard Sadhna Sargam and Shreya Ghoshal being praised by reputed music directors like A. R. Rahman and Jayachandran.

    Therefore it can be certainly said and proved that even after 32 years the void left by Rafi saab’s demise has not been filled. It is really surprising why the Bharat Ratna is yet to be conferred on this singing genius or god!. May god bless Rafi saab’s soul and family.

  46. Greetings to all. I must say, I have been following these articles on Moh’d Rafi for the longest while and this writer REALLY hit the nail on dead center. Mind you, There still are those who cannot accept the TRUTH and they will re-incarnate repeatedly, in the same mind-set. We are Humans , one of the many life forms that exist on the 3rd plane and what sets us apart, is that we were graced with an inner consciousness. Our lives in this existence is short , don’t you think we should enjoy the best of eveything that is beautiful that the Supreme Creator has placed here for us to enjoy. If I was told that I have my last hour to live and what is my final request, I definitely would say: “give me the VERY best please”. ‘And what will that be?’ I’ll answer: 1 hour of songs by MOH’D RAFI. Mr. Moh’d Rafi IS The Greatest and the Best. The media dictates and wants it to be that every one should say: “One of the best or one of the greatest”, but people, deep down in your hearts and in your inner self or your inner consciousness, you know, this cosmic fact CANNOT be changed by any media that tries to re-arrange words. Moh’d Rafi is NOT one of many; He is a higher force that mingles with mankind. Mr. Nadeem Sundoo, you have said it like no other, and I salute you for this. I must say that your insight is hard-hitting and on target, and from the crowd, You stand out, SIR. Thank you people, and a reminder: Physical life is short, so DO enjoy the best of everything. Soni. Respect to Moh’d Rafi.

  47. khaja Aliuddin MD says:

    ASA, Nadeem,
    Bhut khoob, unique and very interesting article.
    Hearty congratulations.

    Jahan mausiqhi me aap sa rutba Rafi Sahab
    Na pahle tha, na hai aur na kabhi hoga Rafi Sahab
    Tabassum se kabhi khali na dekha aapka chehra
    Takallum aap sa ham ne nahi paya Rafi Sahab
    Zamane bhar me charche hain tere akhlaqh ke ab bhi
    Sakhawat aur sharafath ka the tu darya rafi sahab
    Jagaya aap ne duniya me woh aawaz ka jadoo
    Huwa bas aapka har shaqhs girweda Rafi Sahab

    With regards to aal Rafi lovers,
    A die-hard fan of Rafi Sahab,
    Long live Rafi Sahab,

    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  48. jyoti mohanty says:

    Dear Sir,An exreamly nice and informative article.As it is said, every one is entitled to their choice,but having said that,rafisaab, is always considered as the best to have happened to hfm till date.Surprisingly,it seems as if the nation has forgotten the others like talat,hemant,kls and the living legend manna dey.there is an attempt to make us believe the old and golden era existed in 70s and 80s and beyond that no music.Even the great asha in various forums never forgets to mention the names of rdb and kk are the best.!!! and her memories never cross the boundary of 70.Inexplicable but disheartening though!!

  49. salim k says:

    Nadeem bhai, thanks for taking the trouble to write this. I fully agree that the music industry was in tatters after the death of Rafisaab. Many music directors faded out and some had hardly any work and ironically one of them was RD Burman.

    The statement that some MD’s asked Rafisaab to retire is incorrect. This is not the fact, that fact is after Hajj, Rafisaab became a very spiritual person and on advise of a religious teacher decided to retire from singing which he did by not accepting any assignments for most part of that year that affected his output.

    Further, RD Burman and LP were the MD’s who were getting most of the work. We know where the loyalties of RD Burman were but LP did give many singing assignments to Rafisaab and as you rightly pointed out Rafisaab was called for many difficult songs due to the limited ability of Kishore Kumar who was a fine singer but in his own admission not in the league of Rafisaab.

    In 80’s ironically Shabbir Kumar and Mohd Aziz had more output than Kishore Kumar something that you also have hinted to. RD Burman gave Shabbir Kumar the songs for Sunny Deols first film and also used Shailendra for Nasir Husain films in 80’s.

    LP used Shabbir , Mohd Aziz and Anwar for many songs in 80’s. The loss of Rafiisaab was so badly felt that MD’s tried in vain to fill that loss with Shabbir and Mohd Aziz.

    Manmohan desai an ardent fan of Rafisaab for his film Coolie had Shabbir as the lead singer who he later labelled a Besura singer.

    Rajesh Roshan who used to use Kishore more also was using other singers in the 80’s. Lata’s output dropped and so did Asha’s as you rightly said and Suman phased out from the scene.

  50. Ahamed Kutty says:

    the article is so interesting.Congradulations Mr.nadeem for
    such a wonderful article.

    rafi saab changed the style of hfm through the greatest
    song “oh duniyaa ke rakwaale” and still it remains a other singer could bring such a song
    so far.that is why singers are coming and going without
    any effect to the music industry.

    it is a fact that kk became popular during 70s but it
    was not because of his singing capacity rather the
    luck since the films of rk became super hits.thus
    the producers thought of giving more chances to
    kk for the success of the films.the type of songs
    kk had sung can be sung by anybody and that is
    why amithabji given playback for his films.we
    cannot imagin rishi kapoor to sing ‘pardha hei
    pardha.’ that is the difference between rafi saab
    and kk and that is why we did not get any song like
    ‘pardha hei pardha’ again until today.we have seen
    that so many music directors including lp come up
    because of rafi saab and at the same time we have
    seen the tragic end of rdb as he depend kk than any
    other singer.songs have been given to rafi saab which
    was supposed to sing by kk due to kk’s inability to sing
    and there is no vice versa.

    lataji cannot say to rafi saab “without me you are nothing”
    since the same songs rendered by both,rafi saab’s songs
    have become more popular than her.

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