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Short biography

From Wikipedia.

Mohammed Rafi is perhaps the most famous Hindi playback singer of yesteryears. Rafi still remains popular in South Asia and in countries like UK, Kenya, West Indies etc. where South Asian immigrants have settled. He continues to inspire many new Bollywood playback singers like Sonu Nigam.

Along with Lata Mangeshkar, he shares the record for having sung the greatest number of songs, approximately 26,000 during his film career spanning 40 years (from 1940 to 1980) But less than 5,000 songs can be verified. Rafi has also sung a large number of songs with Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhonsle.

His songs ranged from classical numbers to patriotic songs, sad lamentations to highly romantic numbers, qawaalis to ghazals and bhajans, and from slow melancholic tunes to fast fun filled songs. He had a strong command of Hindi and Urdu and a powerful range that could accommodate this variety.

He sung for Rajendra Kumar and Jeetendra, the tragedy heroes, Dilip Kumar and Bharat Bhushan, comedian Johnny Walker and many more. His voice personified the rebellious image of the star, Shammi Kapoor and also gave expression to smaller and younger heroes like Biswajit and Joy Mukherjee. Rafi has also sung for singer-actor Kishore Kumar in a few movies like Raagini, Baaghi Shehzaada, and Shararat.

Early years

Rafi was born at Kotla Sultan Singh village near Amritsar in Punjab, now in Pakistan to a middle class Muslim family. At the age of 14, he moved to Lahore and learned Indian classical music from Ghulam Ali Khan. Rafi started imitating his idol G. M. Durrani and became a playback singer.

Rafi’s first song was in Punjabi for the film Gul Baloch – it was a duet with the singer Zeenat Begum. The song was Soniye nee, Heeriye nee, composed by Shyam Sunder. Shyam Sunder was impressed with his voice and gave Rafi seven songs in another film Bazaar. Rafi’s talent was noticed by composer Firoz Nizami, who found him a job at Radio Lahore. Rafi’s first hit song was yaha badla wafa ka, composed by Firoz Nizami. It earned Rafi fame. Producer of film Amar Raj, J B Wadia went looking for him because he wanted only Rafi to sing songs for his film.

Rafi also did brief roles in movies like Laila-Majnu (1945) and Jugnu. In Laila-Majnu, he was seen singing tera jalwa as a part of the chorus.

Years with Naushad

Rafi’s big time came when he met the composer Naushad in Bombay. Rafi’s first song for Naushad was Hindustan ke hum hain (We belong to Hindustan) for the film Pehle Aap in 1944. Rafi and Naushad struck a chord. The first hit for the duo was the soundtrack of the superhit movie Anmol Ghadi (1946). Before Rafi, Naushad’s favorite singer was Talat Mahmood. Once Naushad found Talat smoking during a recording. He was annoyed and hired Rafi to sing all the songs of the movie Baiju Bawra. After the Partition of India, Rafi and Naushad decided to remain in India. Whenever Naushad required a male voice in the songs composed by him, he would approach Rafi and nobody else. This attitude of Naushad was criticized by many people, but he continued his patronage for Rafi. Naushad used Rafi’s voice for almost actors of that time including Bharat Bhushan and Dilip Kumar.

Rise to fame

Soon, Rafi became favorite singer of other composers too, notably O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan and Sachin Dev Burman. Rafi became voice of Dev Anand with soul-stirring songs composed by S. D. Burman. Rafi sang songs of all moods for S. D. Burman, picturized on Dev Anand – the romantic dil ka bhanwar, the drunk hum bekhudi mein, the free-spirited khoya khoya chaand. Rafi and S. D. Burman teamed up with Dev Anand’s Navketan production house to produce hit tracks in many movies – Kala Bazar, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, Guide among others. S. D. Burman also got Rafi to sing for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhana and Amitabh Bachchan in Abhimaan. Rafi and S. D. Burman also produced soulful songs for Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, C.I.D. and Kaagaz ke Phool.

O. P. Nayyar used Rafi and Asha Bhosle for most of his songs. Together they created beautiful music in the 1950s and 60s. O. P. Nayyar was once quoted as saying “If there had been no Mohd. Rafi, there would have been no O P Nayyar”. He and Rafi created many songs together including the famous Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan. O P Nayyar was so impressed with Rafi that he got Rafi to sing for singer-actor Kishore Kumar – Man mora baawara for the movie Raagini. The team will be particularly remembered for the songs picturized on Shammi Kapoor. The song Jawaaniyan yeh mast mast and the title song Yun to humne lakh hansee dekhe hain, tumsa nahin dekha’ (Although I have seen a lakh beauties, but never saw one like you) of the film Tumsa Nahin Dekha became instant hits. They were followed by hits like Taareef karoon kya uski jisne tumhe banaya (How should I praise the one who created you) from Kashmir ki Kali. As the famous ghazal singer Jagjit Singh mentions, Rafi was extremely versatile and could take on the personality of the Shammit Kapoor or for that matter, any other hero on whom the song was picturized.

Shammi Kapoor himself gives a large credit for his success to Rafi. Shammi’s image of young, rebellious, carefree man can be attributed to the famous song Yahoo! Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe, kehne do ji (Let people call me wild, I don’t care) sung by Rafi and composed by Shankar Jaikishan. Shanker-Jaikishan also created beautiful songs with Rafi. The team will be remembered for the ones picturized on Rajendra Kumar – Baharon phool barsaao and others. Shanker-Jaikishan also got him to sing Ajab hai yeh dastaan from Sharaarat, picturized on Kishore Kumar.

Rafi was also composer Ravi’s first choice for playback singing. He got Rafi to sing the famous Rock-n-Roll number from the movie China Town Baar Baar Dekho, picturized on Shammi Kapoor.

Madan Mohan was another composer whose favorite singer was Rafi. They teamed up to produce many superb ghazals including the intoxicating teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai (There’s nothing in the world except your eyes), the sad Yeh duniya yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahin (This world, this party is not of any use to me) and the romantic tum jo mil gaye ho. Madan Mohan used Rafi’s voice in many films like Chirag and Laila Majnu.

The famous composer duo Laxmikant Pyarelal (“L-P”) also used Rafi as their male voice in 1960s and 70s. When L-P were new in the industry, Rafi sang for them, although he was the numero uno singer in Bollywood at that time. They got Rafi to sing for their first hit film Paarasmani. Both Rafi and L-P won the Filmfare Awards for the song Chahoonga main tujhe shaam savere from the superhit movie Dosti. The song was to be sung by L-P’s favorite singer Lata Mangeshkar, but then producer of the film decided to hand over the song to Rafi. L-P weren’t amused with the idea. But when the recording was finished, Rafi also became their favorite singer.

In 1965, Rafi was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Sri award.

The lean years

In the year 1969, Bollywood witnessed the rise of a new superstar, Rajesh Khanna in the movie Aradhana. Aradhana was the beginning of the era of another great singer Kishore Kumar. The Rajesh Khanna rage coupled with the complete sync of Kishore’s singing voice on Rajesh Khanna brought the first serious set back in Rafi’s career. As Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar soared to super stardom towards the early 1970s, Rafi’s career began to spiral downwards. The careers of many other superstars and singers got affected during the early ’70s as a result of the Kishore Kumar-Rajesh Khanna wave, but such was Rafi’s predominance in the field of playback singing in the pre-1970s era that his became the most obvious and talked about grapevine in the industry circles and the media.

Also, the older lot of Rafi-centric composers like O. P. Nayyar, Naushad and Shankar Jaikishan were replaced by the talented Rahul Dev Burman, marking a beginning of a new era of hindi film music. Other composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal, were also forced to prefer Kishore over Rafi due to producers’ demands. From Rafi’s perspective, it was the rise of R D Burman which affected his career the most, as Kishore was R D Burman’s favourite singer. It is ironic though that it was with Rafi that Rahul Dev Burman stormed into Bollywood, with his first notable super-hit score Teesri Maanzil released in the year 1966.

However, even during his lean phase, the few songs that Rafi recorded for Rahul Dev Burman, Sachin Dev Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Madan Mohan are considered as Bollywood classics.

Last years

Rafi did manage a grand comeback towards the late 1970’s. His song Kya hua tera waada from the movie Hum Kisise Kum Nahin fetched him the national award and Filmfare Award for the year 1977, ironically again this song was composed by none other than R D Burman. His songs from the films sung towards the late 1970’s Laila Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony and Sargam, became huge hits. Laxmikant-Pyarelal the famous music director duo were instrumental in Rafi’s comeback, as they began to churn out hits after hits from Rafi during the late ‘1970s. His dard-e-dil, dard-e-jigar, composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and filmed on Rishi Kapoor, in the movie Karz, became a rage amongst the youngsters.

Rafi’s magic never go down (it come up in fact) even his demand went down in those time, but he made a grandiose return with amazing songs in movies like Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin, Karz.

On the day of July 31, 1980 After composing a song for the movie Aas Paas with L-P, Rafi said “Should I leave?”. L-P were surprised because Rafi had never said anything like this before. While leaving, Rafi said once again “OK. I will leave.” Rafi passed away at 7.30 PM on the same day due to a massive heart attack.

Rafi the person

Rafi had four sons and three daughters. He was a teetotaller, a highly religious and extremely humble person. He was a devout Muslim. Once, when a lesser-known composer, Nisar Bazmi (who migrated to Pakistan in early 1960s), didn’t have enough money to pay him, Rafi charged a fee of one rupee and sang for him. He even helped producers financially. As Laxmikant (of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) once observed – He always gave without thinking of the returns. Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar had a major debate over the issue of royalties in 1960s. Rafi believed that once a recording was over and a singer has been paid, he or she should not ask for more. Lata, on the other hand said that singers should be paid royalties for their works, over and above the amount given for the singing. This led to a fall out between them. They refused to sing songs together. At the instance of Nargis, Sanjay Dutt’s mother, they finally made up at a stage concert and sang Dil Pukare from the film Jewel thief, composed by S D Burman.

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25 Blog Comments to “Short biography”

  1. Sunaina says:

    First of all I find incorrect information. Shame on Wikipedia who published wrong information the Most Patriotic Indian Mohammad Rafi ji who was born in India Kotla Sultanpur Amritsar which is still in India not in Pakistan.. He never wanted or ever moved to Pakistan. He was pressurized to Move in Pakistan . He din’t. I Salute to the Proud Indian Mohammad Rafi JI the Legend of Indian Sub- Continent. .None of the Singer ever got or get jealous of Rafi ji .

  2. Jabbu says:

    @praveen, what was wrong with Lata’s reply? She sung his song in the casset called ‘Shradhanjali’ & attributed her respect to him.
    Rafi sahab too was not very ‘Dudh ka dhula’, during royati meeting he turned to Mukesh and said pointing finger towards LATA ‘Ye Maharani kuch bolna chahati hai’ & during arrgument he declared that he will not sing with her .
    Offcourse he withdraw his decision after 3 yers because he was unable to manage without LATA. LATA managed with all other male singers very well.
    After Aradhana Kishore was no 1 & LATA gave many super hits with kishore.

  3. tt_great says:

    We love artist for their art ; we never think how good he or she is a good human being. We love Nana Patekar as an artist we do not bother about his shrewedness. Samething applicable to LATA; rate her as an artist. If you want good human being then go to Mother teresaa’s ashram. Artist are bound to be moody and that too super talent like LATA . Industry could do without Rafi but not without LATA! She was replace by Suman but solo song from that every film went to only LATA . Suman also would have sung those numbers. People hate lata only on basis of communal difference nothing else !

  4. shlomo salomon says:

    i looking songs from film laila majnu 1945
    my email is

  5. shlomo salomon says:

    i looking songs from filem laila majnu 1945

  6. ZAFFER BAIG says:

    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE SEND ME THE SONG LYRICS for jagwala mela yaro -film is laachi – thisis a punjabi song

    my email is


  7. binus2000 says:

    but but when we talk of people with a large heart helping her
    colleagues and industry wallahs, her name will appear – at the rear
    of the list.
    Undoubtedly rafi saab leads the charts as the legend used to say,
    ” i am a namazi and i am happy man “.

    i am reminded of the income tax raid at peddar road and large amount
    of cash was seized in the seventies.

    lata ji said : this “cash” is a loan taked from out side financers for
    building a house. as usual, i suppose the case was buried as vip ‘s
    have their masters in delhi and at several high places.

    no one should be jealous of lataji as said by narayan ji but having
    a big heart is surely an asset – which humanity will ‘never’ forget..

    rafi saab leads……. by far.., i must say.

    binu nair.

  8. binus2000 says:

    Lata ji is great and she was replaced by many female singers when
    there was a break with rafi saab. her songs for those three years
    came down by almost 35% whereas rafi saab continued the magic
    ” throughout “.

    lataji ‘s voice is godly but her personal conduct in the industry is
    so poor that only a few will talk about her openly about her human
    please do not forget that she crushed people n hit people very hard
    and even today i have met singers who talk frightfully about the

    binu nair….

  9. anonymous says:

    I wonder if Lataji has “forgiven” Rafi Sahab for the Guiness Book of World Records fiasco? I think she did.

  10. Narayan says:

    Hey Parveen ,

    don’t belive what third person is writting about Lata and Rafi. Lata always respected Rafi for his voice. Jelious people wants to spoil her image but they will never get succed. Why Naushad hold the recording till lata returns from foreign ? Why NArgis, Meena kumari, Madhubala prefered Lata’s voice ? Any anwer ? Why Rafi himself used to say ‘Aaj bara bari ka mukabala hai ‘ during duet recording with Lata ? She reached the position today with her magical unparallel voice. People speak bad about God ! She is human being after all.

  11. parveen says:

    i am shocked about lata reply to sonu.

  12. Hussein Sheikh says:

    I fully agree with Binu Nair ji.

  13. Anuj says:

    Hey, why querreling. Lata jee, Rafi Saheb and Mukesh Saheb.. all three are legend. I dont have capability to find out who is better. Ooooofff it is impossible for me.

  14. binus2000 says:

    raghav ji: u are partly right..

    rafi saab excelled as a singer and was great example of
    piety, simpleness, honesty and sincerity. greed too was alien to
    lataji is the greatest female singer agreed. but , where does she
    stand as a human being..? Not much can be said..

    Binu Nair.

  15. unknow1 says:

    offourse Lata Ji is great singr but not great human as Mohd rafi was the bigest exp is when SJ used voice of suman kalyanpurs lata said she will not going to sing for SJ also she didn’t singed for SD burman about Mohd rafi when RD and LP they back to Mohd Rafi Mohd Rafi didn’t said no also when Madan Mohan came to Mohd rafi for flim Laila Majnu the flim maker and actors wanted KK that was the greatness of Mohd Rafi he said that he should use KK boz all want that but that was greatness of Madan Mohan who said no one else will sing than u..we have the answer

  16. raghav says:

    lata is never jeaulous of any one. everyone has there own style. lata n rafi are compeltly diffrent personalities. lata is singing diva and rafi too is.without them we cant imagine indian film music.we should pay them respect as we are nothing before them.

  17. sarfaraz says:

    exactally lata was jealous of rafi sahab she never wanted him to go very famous but rafi sahaab is still famous after his death.Lata is not a great singer actually her voice is very bad i think that suman kalyanpurs voice very melodious than lata.

  18. M.Zaman says:

    Dear mr. sagar,
    you have truley said that Ms.Lata mangeskea is still worry after 27 years of the magical voice of rafi sahab. the information given by Ms.Latamangesker to the gunise book of the world record ware absolutely false. or else the rafi sahab woul’d have raised the objection on it. First you have to be a good humanbeing than a good singer or actor or doctor or so & so.
    Ms. Lata madam a good singer no doubt on it , but not a good humanbeing.
    we have seen her atidute just only last year about a bridge construction near by her flat.

  19. Suresh says:

    I feature Mohammed Rafi regularly on my radio program ” Dharkan Sangeet”

    His humaneness comes through in his singing and his passion for peace was evident is this english verse…tuned to “Baharon Phool Barsao”.:

    ” Although we hail from different lands,
    We share one earth, and sky, and sun,
    Remember friends, the world is one…”

    A few favourites include:- (There are way too many to list)

    Tera Husna rahe mera…from Do Dil
    Surahidar Gardan….Aman
    Pehele Mile….Zindagi
    Aap Naraz….Pyar Mohabbat

    There will be no other…quite like Mohammed Rafi



    Mohammed Rafi’s singing is like the ideal companion for a traveler who encounters different situations, different circumstances. His voice is like a medicine that provides instant relief, especially for the aching heart. I’ve presented Mohammed Rafi on numerous Radio programs and find not only solace but fulfilment in the knowledge that his singing and his songs often heal deep wounds in human habits. Many have come and gone but MOHAMMED RAFI shall forever live in my heart. Though my ancestors came from GORAKHPUR in 1903 to the sugarcane plantations of Trinidad, I feel a sense of closeness with such immense sub-continental talent. GIDEON HANOOMANSINGH, Television Journalist.

  21. Jameel Ahmed says:

    How many times of that song ” suhani raat dhal chuki, na jane tum kab aaoge” I listen it simply makes me to listen again and again. He sung this from his heart to the hearts. Thanks Rafi saab. My great tribute to him. The versatile Legent of Music

  22. mohanflora says:

    Post – 1976 (where RD’s Mehbooba was the sole saving grace), RD could only give one score – Nasir Husain’s Hum Kisise Kum Naheen – of the calibre he possessed, his swan song 1942-A Love Story excepted. Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand and Shakti Samanta all came back to him, only to leave him again, thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned that the sensitive Pancham could never again work with them at the same ‘pitch’. After 1975, the number of truly memorable Kishore Kumar songs for RD can be counted practically on one’s finger tips : Mere naina saawan bhadon (Mehbooba), Aanewala pal (Gol Maal), Rimjhim gire saawan (Manzil), Hamein tumse pyar kitna (Kudrat), Kiski sada ayen mujhko bulaaye (Red Rose), Yeh vaada raha (Yeh Vaada Raha), Hamein aur jeene ki (Agar Tum Na Hote), Saagar kinare (Saagar), Kahin na jaa (Bade Dil Wala) and Jaane kis din kab kahan (Shakti). As can be seen, most of these songs were duets. LP, on the other hand, delivered success after success, and having warded off all challenges, helped Rafi back into the reckoning – as he suited their style more – with Manmohan Desai’s backing in 1977. But right till the end they were never really unfair to Kishore Kumar. ‘But Kishore Kumar would always complain that we never gave him our best songs,’ Laxmikant told me once. But the singing phenomenon never realized that LP had made him their prime weapon in upstaging Pancham, and in the process had demolished myths of Kishore’s narrow range, and given him and themselves some of their finest compositions. Compositions which included the not-so-popular classy (and classic) creations like their songs from Dost, Imtihan, Mile kahin do ajnabi (Manchali), Main aaya hoon leke saaz haathon mein (Amir Garib) Maine kuchh khoya hai (Mere Sajana), Yeh mausam aaya hai (Aakraman ) Tere baghair jaan-e-jaana (Anari), Har raat ek si hoti hai (Aadha Din Aadhi Raat), Aaja ho aaja ke mere dil ne tadap ke (Anurodh), Ek ritu aaye (Gautam Govinda) and Mere hosh le lo (Bandish) before they gradually sidelined the singer in the 80’s. Unlike RD, they neither were trapped in an image, nor did they allow the versatile Kishore to be tied down by a false image.

    (source:Sajjad Qadar’s collections)

  23. Sagar says:

    Dear Mohan Sahab,

    As you have mentioned about LATA – NIGHT TINGLING, when she said that ARTISTS LIKE RAFI ARE NEVER BORN … she meant it other way round…. She is a mean crooked lady … when she was asked by Sonu Nigam to sing few lines for RAFI SAHAB she just said ” I HAVE ALREADY GIVEN HIM SHRADHANJALI ” this is what her EGO … 26 years after his death she still is afraid of that DIVINE VOICE … Also Sonu asked about S.D.BURMAN and she said ” HE WAS DIFFERENT MD ” …. She is a OLD BITCH will never give credit to people like RAFI SAHAB.

    So even if she says RAFI SAHAB was great she means other way round.



  24. mohanflora says:

    I just came across this ad on the web:

    Best Deal At Amazon !

    I Love Rafi T- Shirts

    In Stock, Free Shipping: orders over

    $25 …….. at Amazon

  25. mohanflora says:

    In a recent tribute to the legend, Lata Mangeshkar said, “Singers like Rafi aren’t born every day.”

    Nobody can sing like Rafi, said the never-ageing Rekha after recording the immortal Rafi number, ‘Din dhal jaye, raat na jaye’ from Guide, in her own voice for her upcoming film.

    A tee-totaler and family man to the core, Rafi is the shining example of a singer who lit the way and blazed the trail for numerous aspiring singers, from Mahendra Kapoor to Anwar, Shabir Kumar right down to Sonu Nigam. Music director Uday Majumedar, of Buniyaad fame, says, “Rafi would never cancel a recording even when struck with a sore throat or illness since he rightly believed in not depriving the musicians of their day’s earnings.”

    Rafi would eventually return to the studios with a better throat and re-record the song at a later date. An exhaustive pictorial book on Mohd. Rafi, the legend, is slated to be released on the great singer’s 82nd birth anniversary, on Dec 24, this year.

    Personalities from the music field like Sonu Nigam, O.P. Nayyar, Pyarelal, Ravi, and others will contribute to this book .

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