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Travels with Mohammad Rafi

An article on Rafisaab by Syed Badrul Ahsan as it appeared in NEW AGE, Dhaka (Bangladesh) – mohanflora.

If you have heard Mohammad Rafi, if you recall his songs, you do not need much more to convince yourself that his was an age of glory. He was the glory and the age was his. Think of the duet he sings with Lata Mangeshkar, Kabhi Raat Din Hum Door They / Din Raat Ka Ab Saath Hai, and you will have all those feelings of pristine passion rise up in your soul. People like you, like me, grew up listening to some of the best songs around us. Expand the idea a little, and what you have is the feeling, the knowledge that we have all been part of a world where cultural diversity has meant an enhancement of our sensibilities. Yes, we are speaking of the Indian subcontinent, of India as we knew it in the days before the division of the land. For all the political segmentation of the land, we have remained conscious of the common heritage we as a people, all the way from the mountain passes of the North-West Frontier through the plains of the Deccan to the beaches of Cox’s Bazaar, have been heir to.

It is within such an ambience that we recall the times of Mohammad Rafi. Remember that he has been dead for a quarter of a century and yet you know that he lives in the deepest recesses of your mind. There was in him the pain that came of knowledge of tragedy. In songs like Tootey Hue Khwabon Ne / Hum Ko Ye Sikhaya Hai, you have emerging before you, in the manner of the pale moon on a cold winter night, all the heartache that you have gone through. You hum the song and then find yourself moving into a new phase of expressive sadness through the inimitable Yaad Na Jaye Beete Dino Ki. It is Rajendra Kumar and Meena Kumari you glimpse in the old mirror of memory. It could well be someone you miss, a lover who remains out of reach. When you hear Rafi sing, it is a broken soul going through its own distinctive purgation of feelings somewhere deep inside you. The emotions that come in Rafi’s sad music often elevate themselves to a higher plane of feeling. His pain is transferred to Guru Dutt, who in turn injects the feeling into us. The song that we hear is Kahan Hain / Kahan Hain Muhafiz Khudi Ke / Jinhe Naz Hai Hind Par Wo Kahan Hai.

You move, soon, from the patriotic to the spiritual. How many songs have you heard, in all of the languages that you know, that possess the sublimity of Parwardigar-e-Alam Tera Hi Hai Sahara / Tere Siwa Jahan Mein Koi Nahin Hamara? That is where Rafi’s essence lies embedded. There was versatility in the man, there were in him qualities that are truly rare in artistes in these times of the banal and the inconsequential. He could be flippant and yet he could be dead serious in his romantic expression of love. If the 1960s song, Kanto Mein Phansa Anchal / Zulfon Mein Phansa Yeh Dil / Hai Ho Gayee Mushkil, made us feel like men just stepping out of our teens and into initial love, the 1950s number, Mohabbat Choome Jinke Haath / Jawani Paon Parhe Din Rath / Suney Phir Haye Wo Kis Ki Baat took us through a process of graduation in studies of the heart. The poetry, rich and sensuous in its quality, was the work of men who observed the world in terms of verse. In the delivery of the poetry, it was the melody in Rafi that carried the day. The Bahadur Shah Zafar ghazal, Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon / Na Kisi Ke Dil Ka Qarar Hoon, only added a new dimension to Rafi’s songs. He was the singer and yet he was more than that. He became the emperor, imprisoned and lonely in the strangeness of foreign territory. But Rafi as emperor could quickly evolve into Rafi the revolutionary, depicted in the image of Dilip Kumar proclaiming before the multitudes, Apni Azadi Pe Hum Sar Jhuka Sakte Nahin. Move on, move on, until you spot Rafi reaching out to the little child enmeshed in her birthday celebrations. In Ayee Hain Baharen Mitey Zulm O Sitam / Pyar Ka Zamana Aya Door Hue Gham / Ram Ki Lila Rang Layee / Shyam Ne Bansi Bajayee, there is a purity of spirit that comes through the trembling sentiments of an avuncular soul. You could go back home and sing the song to your children, to all the children you accost on the way home.

There are few in our generation who will easily forget the songs Rafi sang for the movie Aan. Yes, Dil Mein Chhupa Ke Pyar Ka Toofan will always be there, but try recalling that slower number, Takra Gaya Tumse Dil Hi To Hai / Roye Na Ye Kyun Ghayel Hi To Hai. You will then remember once again, after all these years of passing from youth into middle age, the pleasure that once came of your being in love with women who did not quite understand the ache in your wildly beating heart. And that, by the way, is the cruelty the world has generally dealt its lovers. Which is when we can only sing a song like Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya / Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Urhata Chala Gaya. But not all love promises to be a fleeting, tragic beating of the drums at night. There are those that keep alive the spirit of youth, as if for ever. How else would you explain the permanent scars that have been left on your being by such Rafi numbers as Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Hi Rang Hain or Aaj Ki Raat Ye Kaisi Raat / Ke Humko Neend Nahi Aati? Or there is the song that Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore share, Diwana Hua Badal / Sawan Ki Ghata Chhai / Ye Dekh Ke Dil Jhuma / Li Pyar Ne Angrhai. Or there is that fabulous point in love when Dev Anand and Sadhana croon, as twilight descends around them and the town lights loom in the distance, Abhi Na Jao Chhorh Kar / Ke Dil Abhi Bhara Nahin.

There, ladies and gerntlemen, is Mohammad Rafi for you. He created and then inhabited, all by himself, a whole world. The ability in him to transform himself into a voice suiting the moment, the sheer zeal to make men on the screen come level with him through his music was a quality that remains unmatched to this day. He lived in an era when giants —- Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Manna De —- made their own, singular contributions to the world of song. And yet Rafi stayed ahead of them, for there was in him the extraordinary capability of singing songs that lifted the heart to deeper levels of tragedy, as in Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Halaat Pe Rona Aya, or to push it into deeper stages of pregnant passion, as in Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya / Baithe Baithe Jeene Ka Sahara Ho Gaya.

We could go on and on talking of Rafi and singing his songs. No one who understands the culture of this subcontinent can ignore the impact Rafi has had on our lives. He forced us to think of music as food we could not do without. He informed us, through the deep tenor of romance in his voice, that it was necessary to fall in love, to lose the women we thought we could take along with us on a journey to the ends of the universe. We lose, yes. All the love, all the poetry we compose dissipates into nothingness as night falls. Yet in the brightness of a gathering twilight we sing Chalo Dildar Chalo / Chand Ke Par Chalo.
No journey could be more resonant with meaning than a timeless travel through the starry spaces of creation. And, of course, through the valley of music.

(Mohammad Rafi died on 31 July 1980)

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11 Blog Comments to “Travels with Mohammad Rafi”

  1. A S MURTY says:

    Wow !! What an article. Written in a manner only the best of writers can. Besides the subject of the article – Rafi Sahab – the article is by itself a gem of a creation. What lovely language. No inhibitions in expressions. Perfect and classic example of verbal prose. CONGRATULATIONS in the first place. I also went through the other comments and they were excellent too. I stumbled upon the Omani Mohd. Rafi who sings almost exactly like the legend. What a revelation ?? The idea of a Omani singing Hindi songs and that too like our Rafi Sahab has perplexed me to no end. Can you please give his email address and other details ?? Does the Rafi foundation formed at Mumbai know these details ?? And then there is Mr. Mehtab. Sir Mr. Mehtab, I too had this idea of a 24 hour music channel (either FM band radio or a tv channel) which played only Rafi sahab’s songs. It would be the perfect gift we rafi fans can give to a humble person who gave us all the happiness that this world can generate through his soft and sweet voice and in the form of thousands of masterpieces. Float the idea around in your comments to other articles too on this website and perhaps someone someday will pick up the threads. Like you Mr. Mehtab, I am also willing to do everything possible from my end for such a project. May it take shape. And last and certainly not in the least, Mr. Mohanflora, you are really a true devotee of Rafi Sahab. I have been reading most of your comments on almost all the articles that have appeared on this website and you are unmatcheable. I do not know when you will get to read this comment from me, as the newspaper article submitted by you may not be visited by many of our regular readers and rafi fans these days. But hats off to you for your valiant efforts in putting together the articles from different sources for the benefit of all music lovers. As I can see, the last comment before mine was in January 2007. Goodbye and thanks verymuch to you all good Rafians.

  2. irony80 says:

    no singer is perfect. every singer has certain limitations. some are expert in ghazals only, some can sing only classical and so on. as i said, no one is made perfect, so rafi saab was not perfect either. but he is probably the only singer in this subcontinent if not in the whole world, who is the closest to perfection. he could sing all types, you name it! even lata (declared as india’s no. 1 singer ever) can’t sing all types. i truley believe only rafi saab deserve the praise that lata is getting. lata is no way near to rafi.

    some kishore blind fans dare to compare their guru with rafi. some of them are even renowned singers like kumar sanu, abhijit, babul supriyo and etc etc. and trust me whenever you discuss with them about indian singing or abour rafi-kishore matter, they bring kishore’s other activities like writing, directing, acting. i want to tell those great idiots that we are talking about singing and rafi’s singing was enough. he didnt need other stuffs to do.

    rafi’s singing >>>……>>>>……>>>…kishore’s singing+acting+writing+directing+…whatever(not interested a bit)

    south indian peopel dont even think kishore as a singer. he is a joker. they think sp bala is close to rafi and some even rate bala higher, well that’s out of emotion, cause even bala says no one is half way near to rafi.

    so its crystal clear that almighty so far has not made anyone who can beat rafi. but i am not saying that rafi is ultimate. all depends on almighty. may be today right now a child is born who after 20 years will show that he is next rafi or even better, who knows! all depends of almighty. but at least, its clear that so far rafi is the ultimate destination of singing. one may reach manna dey or sp bala’s standard, not rafi.

    recently some 30 singers and musicians voted rafi and lata the greatest singers ever and “maan re tu kahe” from chitralekha sung by rafi the best song ever in indian history. but they forget “dekhi zamaneki yaari” [the most touchable song], “o duniya ke rakhwale” [the most difficult song], “chahunga mai tujhe”, “app ke pehlu”, “teri ankho ke”, “mere mehboob”, “tumhari zulf ke”, “pookarta chala hu”, “kabhi khud pe”…and so on and on and on. if you make top 50 or 100, 95% or more songs will be those sung by rafi.

    people may like his singing or not, i am not bothered. truth might hurt them. i am with truth. and truth is clear.

  3. mohanflora says:


  4. mohanflora says:


    Don’t you believe? This Mohd Rafi is an Omani

    By Visvas Paul D. Karra
    Tuesday, December 12, 2006 11:59:25 PM Oman Time

    MUSCAT — They say that legends are only born once. But Oman is about to produce a legend in the form of Mohammed Rafi Qasim Al Balushi, a versatile and talented singer who is named after the legendary playback Indian singer Mohd Rafi.

    However, on first glance, you would hardly expect Mohammed Rafi Qasim Al Balushi, an Omani, to speak Hindi, let alone sing Hindi film songs.

    That’s why one will hardly believe one’s ears when Mohammed Rafi Qasim Al Balushi begins to sing a Mohd Rafi number.

    Not only is he named after the late Indian singer, stunningly, he sings nearly in the same voice.

    “My father was a great fan of the late Mohammed Rafi so much so that when I was born, he named me after him. He had also met the great singer personally many times and on one occasion, he mentioned to the singer that he has a son whom he has named after him,” Mohammed disclosed.

    Mohammed Rafi was the runner-up in the recently held Muscat Idol singing competition beating 14 other Indian singers in their own game in the high-voltage talent hunt. It crowns the efforts and dedication of Mohammed Rafi, a self-taught musician and singer, who lives, eats and breathes Indian music. And now, Mohammed Rafi has one goal, that is to become a playback singer for Indian films.

    “I am deeply involved in Indian music and my desire is that I get an opportunity to sing for Hindi films. Insha Allah, God will give me that opportunity,” Mohammed said.

    Many of Mohammed’s friends, who are into music, are specialising in Arabic and English songs but Mohammed decided to follow a different path, a path which was dictated by his passion years ago, irrespective of the rewards or accolades.

    This passion was born during his childhood when he used to sing Hindi songs in the school canteen and also among friends.

    “One day, while sitting in a restaurant, I was singing a Kishore Kumar (another famous playback Indian singer) song and an Indian sitting nearby told me ‘your voice is like the voice of the great singer Mohd Rafi!’.

    From that day, I started reading about Mohammed Rafi and singing his songs and since then there has been no turning back,” Mohammed recollects.

    Because of his passion for Hindi songs, Mohammed began watching Hindi television special programmes featuring ‘ragas’ molodies. He used to take notes about the various ‘ragas’ and sing them during his spare time.

    During the Muscat Idol competition, Indipop star Bali Brahmbhatt, who was one of the judges, was very much impressed by his talent. Not only that, Bali was bowled over by the striking resemblance of his voice to that of the late Mohd Rafi.

    Now with the help of Bali and Mahesh Mankodi, another friend, Mohammed has a plan to record an album by singing Mohd Rafi’s songs.

    “An album of Mohd Rafi’s songs sung by Mohammed Rafi, will create a stir and make the Bollywood industry to sit up and take notice of my talent,” says Mohammed hopefully.

    In the meanwhile, the bespectacled Mohammed Rafi has been invited by Pakistan TV to sing for their Bolan channel.

    Extraordinary people are those who win, no matter how the odds are stacked against them. That’s Mohammed Rafi Qasim Al Balushi for you.

  5. mohanflora says:

    Relax, Guys!

    Enjoy this song from THe Train by Rafisaab:


  6. irony80 says:


  7. unknow1 says:

    Sir administrator,
    would u please answer me why at in Our websites there is kishore Kummar name is the first name but at kishore site it is like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????
    Our Websites
    Asha Bhonsle
    Hamara Forums
    Hamara Photos
    Mohd Rafi
    We Love Hollywood
    also there was vote at this site before but not more,if i am not wrong Mohd Rafi got 69%.Sir if u don’t mind please put Vote at other websites like KK or Asha site.

  8. mohanflora says:

    Dear Anmol and Mehtab,

    Thanks for your good words. I am really thankful to the original writers of the articles who give so much of their time and thoughts to Rafisaab’s work and do not hesitate to allow browsers like me to contribute. Of course, Anmol,you are yourself well on your way to become an expert on Rafisaab and his work, but I must say, some of the treats and analysis on Rafisaab given by many writers are really thought provoking. I am trying to write an article on the” rediscovery “of Rafi from a layman’s point of view but don’t seem to find time to put my brains to it. Thanks to people like you who find time- other than fulfilling the daily chores- to enlighten people about Rafi and what his music means to his fans.

  9. Anmol Singh says:

    Dear Mohan,

    Great Article, Great analysis of songs. Thanks for the contribution.

  10. mehtab says:

    Respected Mr. Mohan Flora,
    Good Morning!
    You have done really a great job by sending this article of Sayeed Badrul Ahsan from ‘New Age’ (Bangla Desh). It is a great pleasure for the fans of Rafi sahib that he is being remembered all over the world and You, Mr. Mohan Flora, have become a bridge between two countries. Actually, it is the power of the greatest Rafi sahib that can break all the barricades of political divisions among various countries. It is a fact that any political division can’t impose a bar upon Rafi sahib’s magic. His contribution is so memorable that can’t be forgotten till centuries. We can together make all efforts in this regard. We should also endeavour to establish a Music University (as I have earlier said), 24 hour TV Channel ; which may relay only the songs of Rafi Sahib and other constructive programmes; a Newspaper or a Magazine ; which me depict all the prospects of Rafi Sahib. Can these dreams of the fans of Rafi Sahib become a reality. If any NRI or any financially capable Indian person reads and likes these suggestion, he or she may take such initiatives. It will really be a great contribution to the mankind. If such a project starts, I’ll be the first one, who shall offer to dedicate services to it. May these desires soon become a reality.
    MEHTAB (Chandigarh. +9815703226,

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