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The King of melody

This article is by Mr. Binu Nair. It has been published at

Even if belatedly, music lovers have now appealed to the government to honour Mohammed Rafi with the Bharat Ratna posthumously. A singer par excellence and a paragon of humility and piety, Rafi strode the musical landscape like a meteor, enchanting generations of music lovers and transcending geographical borders. The melody and vocals Mohd Rafi created, crafted and pioneered during his reign have withstood the test of Time. The mellifluous vocals rise like a glorious tide, caressing the soul with songs for every mood and occasion.

Mohammed Rafi has sung them all, with grace and unsurpassable elan – be it ghazals, bhajans, classicals, soft romantic numbers, bhangra, sad songs, duets, nazms, and high-pitched fast numbers.


Mohd. Rafi was born to Haji Ali Mohammed and Allah Rakhi in Kotla Sultan Singh village, a town near Amritsar on December 24, 1924. A disciplinarian father disapproved of Rafi’s passion for singing but the child had the blessings of his mother, according to Rafi’s youngest son Shahid Rafi, now in the business of garment exports in Mumbai.

The story goes that as a young boy, Rafi used to hear a fakir passing by the house, ektara in hand, singing to glory. The young lad would follow the fakir, sit with him under a tree and hear him to his heart’s content. This mendicant was the first to plant the singing bug in young Rafi’s mind. The ubiquitous radio too played its part, Rafi being glued to it when not attending primary school. At 14, Rafi’s family moved to Lahore for good, where he discreetly trained under Ustad Barkat Ali Khan.

Music composer Shyam Sunder, impressed by the lad’s voice, gave Rafi his first break – a duet – in Gul Baloch. The song ‘Soniyo ni heeriyo ni teri yaad ne sataaya…’, was recorded in 1942 in Lahore and thus became his first recorded song. Composer Feroze Nizami duly got for young Rafi his first job – through Radio Lahore in 1943. Thereafter, along with elder brother Hamid (who helped Rafi get major singing assignments in the early struggling days) Rafi reached Mumbai.

The brothers took up a ten-by-ten-feet room in the crowded downtown Bhendi Bazar area. Probably, to make ends meet Rafi also faced the camera in two movies, but his heart was set on singing. Long hours of early morning riyaaz mainly at the Chowpatty sea-face followed. As destiny would ordain, Shyam Sunder was now in Mumbai and again provided an opportunity to Rafi – who got to sing a duet with GM Durrani, ‘Aji dil ho qaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi…’, for Gaon Ki Gori, which became Rafi’s first recorded song in a Hindi film. Rafi’s stars were looking up now. National recognition soon came from the runaway hit, composed by Firoz Nizami, ‘Yahaan badla wafa ka…’ with Noorjehan, then reigning queen of Hindi playback singing for Jugnu. Many other popular songs followed and music composers were now convinced of Rafi’s phenomenal voice range.

In 1948, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the team of Husanlal Bhagatram-Rajendra Krishan-Rafi had overnight created the immortal song ‘Suno suno ae duniyawalon, Bapuji ki amar kahani…’, which became a national rage. Mohd Rafi became a household name.

It was perhaps Baiju Bawra (1952) that brought real fame to Rafi and riches never even dreamt ever by this God-fearing lad who was on his way to becoming India’s topmost singer. ‘Man tadpat Hari darshan ko…’, ‘O’ duniya ke rakhwale…’, ‘Tu Ganga ki mauj…’ all became chartbusters. It heralded the era of the Naushad-Shakeel-Rafi team the musical works of which later reflected young India’s dream of a ‘secular and noble’ India.


The then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru while viewing Baiju Bawra, enquired about the singer of the devotional songs from his secretary. When the PM was told it was a singer by the name of Mohd. Rafi, he was invited to dinner with the PM himself. Rafi was duly honoured and hugged for his singing feat by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He was all of 28 years then and thus started the annual visit to the PM’s house and the tradition of singing for Prime Minister Nehru and several dignitaries.

Rafi Sahab and his wife with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, O.P. Nayyar, C.Ramachandra, Hemant Kumar and Ravi now began composing great numbers suited to Rafi’s vocal range. Rafi’s clear rendition, perfect sur and bhaav, unparallelled expression and impeccable diction placed him way above the other singers of his time.

However, despite fame and adulation, Rafi’s life and routine remained unaltered. The recording room-to-home itinerary never changed. No film parties, no vices, retiring at 9 pm and doing riyaaz from 4 to 7 in the morning were some strict norms laid by the maestro for himself. The only ‘luxuries’ Rafi indulged in and looked forward to were sports like carrom, badminton and flying kites along with family members and close friends.

Rafi became quite adept in singing in languages like Marathi, Kannada, Konkani, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and English. He would rehearse for days before each recording – driving perfection into the numbers.

When Aradhana happened (and Kishore came in due to the advent of R.D.Burman as its associate music director and later hit centerstage), a section of music composers wasted little time in prophesizing the end of the road for Rafi and his salability as a playback singer. This hurt the gentle Rafi no end. Believing this to some extent, he thought of retiring and settling down with his sons in London. But Naushad, Rafi’s mentor and friend, urged Rafi to stay on and not run away from the scene as – he had considerable talent to face the heat of the times.

Rafi, Kishore Da and Manna Dey

At this stage, composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal was in top creative form and not getting typecast in a specific musical mould like R.D. Burman. LP also did not forget Rafi’s huge role in their success in Parasmani, Dosti and many other films and his support when they were making their transition from assistants to music composers.

In due course, Rafi regained his confidence and once again was on top reckoning form with hit numbers from films like Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Sargam and many others.

A teetotaler 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 and Shabbir Kumar down to Sonu Nigam. Mahendra Kapoor was his disciple and both shared a guru-shishya relationship till the very end.

Rafi Sahab with Mahendra Kapoor, Mukesh and Asha Bhonsle

Rafi came from a family where humility was equated with worshipping the divine. He had a lovable nature, no enemies and perennial humility.

Help would often go to artistes fallen on bad times – without the world knowing of it. He sang more for the song than for the money – the money would come later or never from struggling producers – but satisfaction always arrived at his doorstep. He would often waive his singing fees from debutant composers with no resources – charging one rupee as a token for a song. If he liked a song he would waive his fees too, citing his satisfaction as his payment. Rafi was content with the remuneration he received for his recordings. He did not chase money like some other artistes of the day.


Did the Indian government give due recognition to Mohd Rafi, asked a Bangladesh journalist in, a website dedicated to the legend. The Padma Shri was conferred on Rafi and a nondescript tiny marquee with the sign “Mohammed Rafi Chowk” stands on Mumbai’s arterial SV Road in Bandra, the suburb in which he lived. But Rafi’s biggest award perhaps is the place that he has carved in people’s heart in many corners of the world.

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173 Blog Comments to “The King of melody”

  1. देश में रफी साहब का आखिरी सार्वजनिक कार्यक्रम छत्तीसगढ़ में भिलाई स्टील प्लांट की खनिज नगरी दल्ली राजहरा में हुआ था। ब्यौरा इस लिंक पर

  2. Mohd Basheer says:

    ‘Ye Kya Ho Rahahe’, one of Rafi ‘s comments quoted somewhere. Yet today ‘Wohi Ho Rahahe’. Puthla hi Puthla ban gaya sare Adhikhari Log, the recognition of Music World as The Singer of the Millenium even 35 years after The Legend’s Demise’. That too going on while the nightingales still roaming in the streets.

  3. Ishwar Singh says:

    I am also a great fan of Mohd. Rafe Saab. He is a God gifted singer & also a very good human being. All world love him very much & his songs till date very popular like, “Aaj mere yaar ki sadi hai, Cholo re doli uthao, Baharo phool barsao” many other. No single one indian marriage complete without these songs. He will be always ruled in our hearts.

  4. shaker says:

    i big fan for rafi sahab is a beautiful voice he is the king world

  5. jaayega jab yahaan se kuchh bhi na saath hoga Mohammed Rafi, Madhubala Zaveri
    I want to see this movie or the scene of this song, the song is with me,but I want to see with scene, if any one help me in this I will be thankful to him. I am 80 years old and wants to see with scene this song.

  6. It is my great wish that before leaving this world I want to see and listen with original scene of the song of Moti Mahal (1952)
    Jaayega Jab Yahan Se’ A due to Raffi Sahib with Madhubala Zaveri.

    I am 77 years old if any one fullfill my this desire I will be thankful to him even if he inform me from where I get this film or this scene. I have song with me but I want to see with scene.

  7. A. Hussain says:

    Rafi had an unlimited range.

  8. Thomas Abraham says:


    You see, to give a comment about the meledious songs of Raffi saab is very difficult to an ordinary music loving person. He always stand at the top of any singner and his voice has the charisma to attract anybody to attention, whereby one foregts everything and anything except enjoying it. Frankly, I have very high esteem and warm affection for this grate person and his ever memorable musics, specially those songs sung for Shammi Kapoor.

  9. binu nair says:

    Mohd Rafi’s favourite SONG :

    RAFI SAAHEB’s favourite song according to his close friend mr.vijay nafde is from the movie moti mahal.

    the words are : “jayega jab yahan se, kuch bhi na saath hoga, do gaz kafan ka tukda, tera libaaz hoga”

    sung with madhubaala zaveri yesteryear female singer. the music is by the indomitable composer hansraj behl.

    the song is so much appealing that we played it live at our event and guess who was the v.i.p. guest listener.

    madhubala jhaveri – herself.

    appealing to rafi lovers/collectors to send this song to me or to mr.saifullah of dubai by mail.

    binu nair, mumbai.

  10. Jeri Ohayon says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

  11. abdul salam pk says:

    dear sister bina,
    the death of rafisab was a great pain to his family and to his fans.still hurting.but,apologizing everybody,i think god called him back at the right moment.especially when we hear the voice of lataji now.

  12. Binu Nair says:

    Rafi Lovers :

    The next programme “Aasman Se Aaya Farishta” of Mumbai Rafi Foundation will be held on :

    the programme will include rare songs from the fifties and few songs from c.ramchanra too.

    Sunday, Feb. 15 at 6.00 p.m at Naushad Hall, Owners Colony, Koliwada Next to Shanmukhananda hall.

    there will be a feast of mohd rafi songs and admissions is only for members of rafi foundation.
    Please get in touch : cell : 9833 250 701

    mumbai rafi foundation.

  13. Mohd. Yaqoob Khan says:

    rafi sahib was the greatest singer of all time there is no match with the other singers with him exept lata mangeshkar, other male singres like mukesh ,manna day,talat,kishore ,mahindra kapoor ,sonu nigam,uditya narayan& kumar sanu are far far bihand him. rafi sahib had sung lots of unforgottable songs from the period of 1951 to 1980, nearly three dacads .could any singer sung a patriotic song like rafi sahib answer is no ;you remmbered those songs AWAZ DO HUM EK HAI ; APNI AZADI KO HUM HARGIZ MITA SAKTE NAHI; WATAN PAR JO FIDA HOGA; KAR CHALE HUM FIDA JANO TAN SATHIYO is there any match or comprision of these songs IN THE TIME OF WAR AGAINST CHINA AND PAKISTAN these songs were awaking petrotism in indains in film MERE MEHBOOB the song mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam ,film BHEEGI RATyou compere with lata mangeshkar you will your selves feel that how the range of rafi WAS ?

  14. umakant panda says:

    i read some comments on writer about his sight on rafi,kisore,rd,ip ,sj ect. i am also fan of kisore kumar. his song of masti is excelent and he proved in sad songs also . but when u compare with mohd. rafi no doubt then his name will taken after rafi.indian music got some great and uncomparable singer like kisoreda,lata ji ,mukesh ect.but if u have to compare,then rafi is best forever.

  15. umakant panda says:

    rafi sahab dilo me baste hen unki jadui awaz amaer he aur raha award ka sawal to sahi he rafi sahab ki awaz kisi bhi award ki mohtaz nahi aur kisi singer ke pas bhale hi award jada hon per populerity , telent , voice and persion rafi sahab jeaa kisi ka bhi nahi.rafi is best forever.

  16. Mohd Rameez says:

    Mohd Rafi sahab jesa artist kisi award ka mohtaj nahi unki awaz ka jadu hum sab ke liye award hai

  17. juhi biswas says:

    I do also feel whole heartedly that Rafiji should be honoured with Bharat Ratna. Let’s all pray so that this all time great singer and a very noble human being person get the due respect.

  18. Binu Nair says:

    The Hindustan Times has published an article on the Rafi Foundation in its issue dated 13 June.
    The article is about 600 words and has pictures on singer Mohd Asiz with our members.
    We will publish it in the websites for readers who would have missed the story.

    Binu Nair, mumbai.

  19. Binu Nair says:

    Rafi lovers wanting to contribute articles/anecdotes/pictures about the life and times of Rafi Saaheb and about milestones in music by music creators for publishing in Sargam Magazine may send it to :

    the second issue of Sargam is being published in July – so please hurry up.

    P.S. Contributors and rafi lovers may send in their pictures too and about 200 words tribute to rafi saaheb with their brief information which would be published.

    Binu Nair,

  20. Binu Nair says:

    Saturday night “rafi” fever is again on June 14th at naushad hall, sion-koliwada, mumbai from 6.30 p.m.
    this day we would take up “live” the songs of Laxmikant Pyarelal and roshan saaheb and this will be part I.

    All are welcome and rsvp : cell No. 9833 250 701 .

    binu nair. rafi foundation, mumbai.

  21. neeraj says:

    A poll to select your favourite mohd rafi website

  22. Binu Nair says:

    Saturday night ‘rafi’ fever on may 10th at 6.30 p.m. at Naushad hall, koliwada near the canara bank, mumbai.. pls attend and enjoy 30 great duets and solo of immortal rafi saaheb.

    rsvp. binu nair : 0 9833 250 701. or

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