Mohd Rafi Sahab : A singer of no substitute

Mohammad Rafi day for Hindi film music lovers all over the world. There never was, and never will be, another Rafi. Even the heavens cried for him when his funeral procession in Bombay as drenched by the rains. And Manoj Kumar had remarked: “They are the tears of Saraswati”.
Even during Rafi’s time there were imitators like Mahendra Kapoor wholented singers themselves but were not able to set themselves free from the Rafi grip. Later we had singers like Anwar(Hum se kaa bhool hui..; Teri ankhon ki chaahat.. and Kasme hum apni jaan ki…)who did well for themselves to begin with but faded away quickly when it was noticed that all they could be poor copies of the great master. Then Shabbir Kumar and Mohammad Aziz who are echoes of the genius but mere echoes, no matter how successful they are in today’s dhoom-dhamaka music age.

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Born in Sultan Singh, a small town of Lahore, Pakistan, on December 24, 1924, Rafi grew up to be a great fan of “Fakir Baba”, a town minstrel who had mesmerised the little boy. He would follow im around as if he the Pied Piper. His father was quick to notice the little child’s fascination for music and became his greatest source of inspiration. His elder brother, Hamid, then began giving him taalim seriously and had him trained under Ustab Abdul Wahid Khan of the kirana gharana, Ustad Chhote Ghulam Ali Khan and Pandit Jivanlal Mattoo; After he grew up into a young lad, it was Kundan Lal Saigal, by then a legendary name in the fand acting, inder whose influence he came. It was Saigal who keep recommended him wherever he could and introduced him to Lahore Radio. Then came music director Shyam Sundar, considered the man who “discovered” Rafi who made him sing for his first film Gul Baloch (1940) in Punjabi. Rafi verbalized his love passion in the famous love lore,Soniye, Heeriye, teri yaad ne bahut sataya … but he had to wait for a while before he could soulfully lament about his unrequited love with the singing sensation of the, Noor Jehan (Yahan badla wafa ka…).
This Jugnuduet brought Rafi’s voice to wide notice and interesting, Rafi used to do bit roles those days to supplement his income and had played a comic role of Dilip Kumar’s friend in Jugnu. Rafi did not sticj to this dual role and thus created a major headache for Talat Mahmood who was the reigning singer then. Naushad’s musical score in Baiju Bawara changed all the known equations and Rafi with his O duniya ke rakhwale, Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj…, and Tu Ganga ki mauj main Jamuna ka dhaara…(the last, a duet with Lata Mangeshkar) made it very clear to everyone who care to listen that the voice was here. Baiju Bawara started an unending shower of seeetness which was to last till 1980, or as fans would prefer to say till eternity.
It was his Baiju Bawara colleague Lata who was to say decade later that Rafi ws “one of the wheels of the chariot of film music.” The great poet and lyricist, Sahir Ludhaianvi, who diest in the same year as Rafi, had remarked once: “The capability Rafi possessed was of acting with his voice.If he was to sing for some revolutionary character then his voice would take on the spirit of a revolutionary and when he sang for a drunkard, his voice likewise would take on a drunkard’s tilt. Ihe sings fro a dejected lover his voice would sing into sorrow and indignation and for a religious man he would immerse itself into Bhakti.
In other, simpler, words, Rafi sang with great feeling. And he had phenomenal versatility, something which always made him score over every other. Whether it was the religious fervour of the Baiju Bawra songs, or the Yahoo exuberance of Junglee; whether it was the drunken drawl, tinged with sorrow, of Hum bekhudi mein tum ko pukare chale gaye…(Kala Bazar) or the drunken naughtiness of Chal chal mere bhai..(Naseeb), or Mujhe duniya walon sharabi na samjo…(Leader), it was Rafi all the way. Take, then, his soft, romantic Maine chand aur sitaron ki tamanna ki thi… (Chandrakanta) or his rock-n-roll belting out of Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera…(Teesri Manzil). Or his patriotic Awaz do hum ek hain…(non-filmy) and his rollicking Aasman se aaya farishta…(An Evening In Paris). And then contrast it with his feathery Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar…(Tere Ghar Ke Samne) or Meri duniya mein tum aayee..(Heer Ranjha).
It was Rafi to sing O duniya ke rakhwale, who without caring for the blood flowing from his mouth, completed the recording till the recording staff didn’t stop the recording and the sound of hue and cry could be listened at the end of the song. So many singers will come but the devoted singer like Mohd Rafi will never.

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