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The Rise & Fall of Melody

This article is written by Anmol Singh.

I remember long ago it was 25th June 1983 when the Cricket World Cup final between India & West Indies was being telecast. As the match was progressing there was a failure in telecast of the match in Mumbai Doordarshan. This failure resulted in a repeat telecast of Baijju Baawara songs sang by Mohd. Rafi himself with Naushad Saab as the compare of the program. The original telecast of the recording was in 1976 on Mumbai Doordarshan.

Rafi Saab sang “O Duniya Ke Rakhvalee”, “Mann Tadapat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj”, “Mabhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re”, “Meri Kahani Bhulane Wale” & “Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki”. Naushad Saab gave a brief description of every song & the Raag in which the particular song was composed. Rafi Saab voice gave an ultimate grace to every song he sang. All the songs sang by Rafi Saab sounded to be better than original.

That was the day that made me a die-hard fan of Rafi Saab. 25th June 1983 was indeed a great day for me and for India, as India had won the World Cup that day.

After becoming a Rafi Fan I listened as many songs he sang. Rafi Saab of course sang in many other languages. Rafi Saab sang for almost every music composer from Shaam Sunder 1944 in Gul Baloch to Laxmikant-Pyarellal 1980 in Aas Paas. In his career of almost four decades Rafi Saab diversified in his style of singing with time. Initially singing with Noorjahan in Jugnu on the lines of K L Sehgal composed by Naushad Saab. K L Sehgal was an inspiraton for many singers in the 1940s and 1950s including Mukesh & Kishore Kumar. Later singing classical based songs in Baiju Bawaraa for Naushad. Naushad Saab utilized Rafi Saab for all classical based compositions in the 1950s. Many of Naushad Saab’s compositions were picturized on Dilip Kumar and Bharat Bhushan.

The late 1950s saw the rise of Shammi Kapoor era. Rafi Saab sang for O P Nayyar and Shankar Jai Kishan. Here Rafi Saab moved from serious to enthusiastic songs. O P Nayyar specialzied in Punjabi Folk music and making the most effective use of Dholak (Mridang). Rafi turned and twisted his voice to the maximum to suit Shammi’s mode. Rafi Saab sang the best romantic songs for Rajendra Kumar more popularly known as jubilee star in 1960s. Apart from that Rafi could reorient his voice to suit the body language of various artists. Johnny Walker – “Jane Kahan mera Jigar Gaya Ji” & “Sar Jo Tera Chakraye” and Mehmood – “Hum Kale Hain to kya hua dil wale Hain”.

Another quality about Rafi was that he has sung for many below average actors who appeared in hardly one or two films. Looking at the picturization I observed that his voice could enhance the personality of an unknown actor. Songs of film Dosti & Parasmani are very examples. “Chahunga Mai Tujhe Saanj Saware”, “Rahi Manvaa Dukh Ki Chintaa Kyun Sataati Hai”, “Wo Jab Yaad Aye Bohut Yaad Aye” etc. These films built Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s career.

Late 60s and early 70s saw the rise of Kishore Kumar after release of Aradhnaa in 1969. Perhaps the rise of Rajesh Khanna. Kishore Kumar’s voice suited Rajesh Khanna very much. Rafi has given many play backs for Rajesh Khanna under the music composition of Laxmikant Pyarelal. Many songs were big hits as well. “Itnaa To Yaad Hai Mujhe” “Ye Jo Chilman Hai” “Ana Meelo Sajnaa” to name a few. During Kishore’s dominance Laxmikant-Pyarelal gave preference to Rafi.

After watching the picturization of these songs, I observed that no doubt Kishore suits Rajesh Khanna, but Rafi’s voice does not appear unusual on Rajesh either. But the media projected Kishore Kumar as the only voice for Rajesh Khanna. This encouraged filmmakers to give Kishore Kumar first preference over Rafi, not only for Rajesh Khanna but for many other actors as well. Another factor that went into Kishore’s favour was the westernised musical compositions of R D Burman, which provided Kishore an edge over other singers. But Rafi never expressed his anger on Kishore’s rise; he commented every individual lives ones destiny. In fact Rafi had once suggested to Kishore to conduct stage shows during his tough times.

Kishore’s success affected other singers much more viz. Mukesh, Manna Dey & Hemant Kumar compared to Rafi.

The rise Amitabh Bachhann saw the end of Rajesh Khanna era in 1973. The trend of filmmaking was shifting from love stories to violence. Amitabh was projected as the angry young man by the media. The rise of Amitabh again favoured Kishore Kumar.

There were many other factors that went against Rafi in the early 70s. One such incident was Rafi was initially selected to sing for Rishi Kapoor in the film ‘Bobby’. Later a new comer Shailendar Singh was selected; perhaps the reasons are unknown. Shailendar gave playback for Rishi Kapoor in several movies later.

Rafi made a comeback in 1977 with release of “Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahi”. The song “Kya Hua Tera Waada” is rated one the best songs of 1970s. This song fetch him a National Award. This once again changed the trend of songs in favour Rafi. Eminent filmmakers of 70s like Manmohan Desai gave first preference to Rafi over other singers. In the late 70s Amitabh also preferred Rafi’s voice to Kishore. Infact Rafi’s professionalism and commitment was highly appreciated by Amitabh. After 1977 to 1980 it saw complete dominance of Rafi till his death in 31 July 1980. Though Rafi left us 1980, but his songs which were recorded earlier, could be heard till the mid 80s through new release of films.

Rafi’s contribution to Punjabi regional music is also great. Rafi and Shamshad Begum combination takes us to the rural Punjab. Being a Sikh myself what fascinated me most was his contribution towards Gurbani (Religious scriptures from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji – Holy Granth of the Sikhs). When Gurbani is sung it is known as Sabads. The Sabads ‘Mitar Pyare Nu’ from the film ‘Nanak Naam Jahaj’ & ‘Koi Bole Ram Ram Koi Khudaae’ from the film ‘Guru Maneo Granth’ sung by Rafi Saab fascinate me the most.

After Rafi’s death his absence was deeply felt by Music Composers and filmmakers. The result of which singers like Shabbir Kumar, Anwar & Munna Aziz got due consideration due to some similarity in singing. These singers sang till early 90s, but their works were no were near to Rafi. Anwar was out of the three who was personally complimented by Rafi for his song “Kasme Hum Apne Jaan Pe” in film ‘Garam Hawaa’ released in 1973. But unfortunately he didn’t last long. Rafi also inspires singers in present times. Sonu Nigam is one such example.

Analysing the destiny of Rafi Saab I would comment a perfect voice made for the perfect era. In late 1940s saw the movement of music from various Gharaanas to the masses in which Naushad Saab played a very vital role. Late 40s also witnessed the rise of Rafi as well. Similarly the quality of music started going down in the late 70s and went worst in the 80s. 1980 saw the end of Rafi. Rafi Saab passed away at the age of 55. Possibly I think he could have sung for another 5 years at least. But with the music standards going down in the 80s, it could have been a betrayal or insult of a great voice. Though Rafi could have still given his best to sub standard songs, but may be this was not acceptable to the Almighty. God could not witness the betrayal of His ultimate creation. It’s like his entry saw the rise of melody and his exit witnessed the end of golden era.

It’s been almost a quarter century since Rafi Saab left us, but his great voice still continues to generate fans all over the world till date. A Great Soul.

Taareef Karun Us Khudaa Kee Jis Ne Rafi Saab Ko Banaaya.

Proclaim your love for Rafi Sahab on twitter

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3 Blog Comments to “The Rise & Fall of Melody”

  1. Suheil Kazi says:

    This is a well researched article. A true Tribute to Rafisaab whose voice has painted the canvass of Indian Films with all colours and hues to suit all the moods of masses.
    It is only Rise, the Fall will never happen, as Rafisaab is not only enjoyed by this generation but also emulated by likes of Shabbir Kumar to Sonu Nigam, so he continues to live.

  2. suhail ahmed ansari says:

    Yes Rafi Saheb entry saw the rise of melody and his exit witnessed the end of golden era.

    Rafi Saheb voice was like a wine which goes on maturing with the passage of time. The more it is old the more it is tasteful and intoxicant. Rafi Saheb the immortal being. Rafi the great.



  3. Vishal Kulshrestha says:

    Have you heard Vinit singing on Sa re ga ma pa show?

    Just wanted to comment that he is the only singer I have heard who has been able to sing Rafi songs pretty well. Overall he makes you feel good when he sings Rafi Saheb’s songs…

    Others may be singing more like Rafi, minus the mazaa that you get…

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