Mohammed Rafi: The golden voice that lives on and on

Mohammed Rafi, the Best Singer of the Millennium, is still alive in our life with his immortal songs. His contribution towards Indian Cinema can not be quantified or understood by his achievements and awards in the field of music. Join CalcuttaTube in an EXCLUSIVE tribute to Mohammed Rafi

Mohammed Rafi: The golden voice that lives on and on
Mohammed Rafi, the Best Singer of the Millennium, is still alive in our life with his immortal songs. His contribution towards Indian Cinema can not be quantified or understood by his achievements and awards in the field of music. Join CalcuttaTube in an EXCLUSIVE tribute to Mohammed Rafi, the singer who will remain glorious in many years to come. Article by Mithi Chinoy.
Mohammed Rafi-A Tribute
Mohammed Rafi-A Tribute

Trained under the classical masters Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwanlal Matto and Firoze Nizami, Mohammed Rafi loved singing from a very early age. He would love to imitate the chants of the fakir of his village Kotla Sultan Singh, near Amritsar, Punjab where he grew up as the youngest of six sons of Hajji Ali Mohammad, who ran a men’s salon.

[ReviewAZON asin=”1843534339″ display=”inlinepost”]In 1936, when he was 12 years old, his father decided to move to Lahore and took the family with him. It was here that Rafi’s brother in law spotted his singing talent and encouraged him to take it up professionally. The following year, he made his singing debut at a concert to honor the legendary singer, K. L. Saigal. However, Rafi refused to sing due to a power failure at the venue. The audience grew restless and it was Rafi’s brother Hamid who used this opportunity to request the organizers to let him sing until the electricity was restored.

The organizers agreed and Rafi regaled the audience with his singing to such an extent that the legendary composer Shyam Sunder recognized his great talent and potential for greatness and invited him to Bombay to record a song. This was the beginning of the most eventful journey Rafi undertook—of singing and entertaining people, no matter where they lived. Under the guidance of Shyam Sunder, he debuted as a playback singer in the song, “Soniye nee, Heeriye nee” with Zeenat Begum for the Punjabi film Gul Baloch. Soon, All India Radio, Lahore, invited him to sing for them.

Early years in Mumbai-Mahammed Rafi
[ReviewAZON asin=”B000NXVPAS” display=”inlinepost”]Two years later, he moved to Mumbai where the renowned poet Tanvir Naqvi introduced him to the top film producers of the time such as Mehboob Khan, Abdul Rashid Kardar, and Nazeer and the highly reputed music director Naushad. Naushad took him in as a chorus singer and then gave him his first song to sing, titled, “Hindustan ke hum hain” along with Alauddin, Shyam Kumar, etc, for A. R. Kardar’s Pehle Aap (1944). In the following year, he sang the song “Aji dil ho kaaboo mein” for Gaon ki Gori—his first song in Hindi!

In 1949, he sang the melodious and unforgettable “Suhani raat dhal chuki” for Dulari and the song was such a huge success that it was the turning point for Rafi. After this, there was no looking back for him and he went on to become the undisputed singer of Hindi films through the 60s and 70s.

In 1945, Rafi married Bashira, his cousin in his village. Within that year, he featured in the film Laila Majnu and sang “Tera jalwa jis ne dekha.” The success of these songs spurred Naushad to choose him for a number of his songs as a chorus member, including “Mere sapnon ki rani, roohi roohi” with K. L. Saigal for Shahjahan (1946). He also sang “Tera khilona toota balak” for Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi (1946), followed by a duet with Noor Jehan for the film Jugnu (1947) titled, “Yahan badla wafa ka.”

This was the year of Partition when Rafi chose to stay on in India and called his family to live with him in Mumbai. In 1948, he caught the attention of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for singing the very popular song, written by Rajendra Krishan, “Sun suno aye duniya walon Bapuji ki amar kahani.” He was invited to the Prime Minister’s house to sing for him and in the same year, he received a silver medal from Nehru on Independence Day. Since then, Rafi sang solo songs for big music composers such as Naushad, (Chandni Raat, Dulari and Dillagi), Shyam Sunder (Bazaar) and Husnalal Bhagatram (Meena Bazaar).

In his long journey of achieving milestones in singing, this was but a small achievement. The best was yet to come. His close association with Naushad helped him establish himself as one of the better singers of Hindi cinema. In 1952, he shook up Bollywood with his songs from Baiju Bawra such as “O duniya ke rakhwale” and “Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj” to such an extent that Naushad who always chose Talat Mahmood for his songs, now leaned toward Rafi for practically each of the songs he composed. Out of a total of 149 songs, Rafi sang 81 only for Naushad.

Glorious achievements-Mahammed Rafi
[ReviewAZON asin=”B00000GBZG” display=”inlinepost”]In his four decade-long career, “Rafi Saab,” as he was lovingly called, the 60s were his years of glorious achievement. This was the time when he sang for the best composers of the decade such as S.D. Burman, O.P. Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan. Burman tunes were set to many of Dev Anand’s movies, making Rafi the playback voice of this legendary actor. Many of these were Pyaasa ((1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Tere Ghar ke Saamne (1962), Guide (1965), and for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhana (1969) and Amitabh Bachchan (1973).

O.P. Nayyar also composed a tune for the song “Man mora baawara” to be picturized on Kishore Kumar in Raagini. Following the success of this, he also sang for Kishore Kumar’s other films such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat.

He found an excellent singing companion in Asha Bhonsle and in the years to come, they sang many foot-tapping songs for Naya Daur (1957), Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), and Kashmir Ki Kali (1964).

In the 60s, he teamed up with music directors Shankar-Jaikishan to produce the most melodious and lively numbers for Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. In his entire career, Rafi was the recipient of six Filmfare awards of which three were set to music by Shankar-Jaikishan and were “Teri pyari pyari soorat ko,” “Baharon phool barsao” and “Dil ke jharokhe mein.”

Who can forget Rafi’s trademark song that only he could have sung for Shammi KapoorYahoo! Chahe koi mujhe junglee rahe” with such natural ease, as if it was sung by the actor himself. Set to music by Shankar Jaikishan, Rafi’s voice and a fast-paced orchestra brought out the verve and vitality that marked Shammi’s character in the movie. Together, they gave the world many hits from these films: Junglee, Basant Bahar, Professor, Brahmachari, Suraj, An Evening in Paris, Yakeen, Dil Tera Deewana, Prince, Bete Bete, Love in Tokyo, Dil Ek Mandir, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Gaban, among others.

He won his first Filmfare award in 1960 for the title song, “Chaudhvin ka chand.” IN 1968, he won his first Government honour, a National Award for the soul-stirring song sung with passion and in a teary voice, “Babul ki duaen leti ja” from the film Neel Kamal (1968). Both these award-winning songs were composed by Ravi, who produced several other hits too, for films such as China Town (1962), Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966).

Composer Madan Mohan also teamed up with Rafi to make this a decade of the golden voice of this tuneful singer such as “Hum ishq mein barbad hain barbad rahenge” (Ankhen, 1950), and other songs that have come down the generations to us even today such as “Teri aankhon ke siva,” “Yeh duniya yeh mehfil,” “Rang aur noor ki baraat”and “Tum jo mil gaye ho.”

Another musical duo, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, also shared good renditions with Rafi right from their first film, Parasmani (1963). It was for the song “Chahoonga main tujhe saanjh savere” for Dosti that both Rafi and this duo won the Filmfare Award (1964) and the  National Film Award in 1964.

In the 70s, his singing prowess decreased as Kishore Kumar rose to fame but Rafi bounced back with some beautiful all-time hits such as “Baaghon Mein Bahaar hai” and “Gunguna rahen hain bhanwre” from Aradhana. He is also remembered for these hits:

“Yeh duniya yeh mehfil” (Heer Ranjha, 1970), “Jhilmil sitaron ka” (Jeevan Mrityu, 1970), “Gulabi aankhen” from (The Train, 1970), “Yeh jo chilman hai” and “Itna to yaad hain mujhe” (Mehboob Ki Mehndi, 1971), “Chura liya hain tumne” (Yaadon Ki Baarat, 1973), “Tum jo mil gaye ho” (Hanste Zakhm, 1973) and “Aaj mausam bada beimaan hai” (Loafer, 1973).

Right through the 70s and till the end of the decade, he gave us sometimes soul-stirring songs and at other times lilting melodies.

Awards and honours-Mahammed Rafi

In 1966, he won the National Film Award for “Baharo phool barsao” (Suraj); in 1967 for “Babul ki duaaen” (Neel Kamal); and in 1977, for “Kya hua tera vada” (Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin). He was also the recipient of the Padma Sri award, and a seven times Filmfare award winner for various songs sung from 1960-77.

He was also honoured by the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association in 1965 as Best Male Playback Singer for Dosti; in 1966 as Best Male Playback Singer for Arzoo and in 1957, again in the same category for the song “Jawaniyan ye mast mast bin piye” from the film Tumsa Nahin Dekha.

In 2001, he won the title of Best Singer of the Millennium jointly by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine.

Other melodies, other languages-Mohammed Rafi

Apart from singing in Hindi, he also sang in Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Sindhi and Telugu, and in English, Persian and Creole. Though he is best remembered for his Hindi songs, he dominated the musicscape of the 40s right through till the 80s, and was ably supported by other singers such as Manna Dey, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar.

Rafi’s niche

Though he carved a niche for himself in songs that showed a range of emotions, he was also known for yodeling, till then a domain dominated by Kishore Kumar. Rafi introduced yodeling as part of his playback singing and in fact, a good example of this is the song “Hello sweety seventeen,” “Dilke Aine main,” “O Chale ho kaha,” and “Unse Rippy Tippy Ho gayee,” sung with Geeta Dutt.

Achievements after death-Mohammed Rafi

  • His song “Jaan pehchan ho” from Gumnaam (1966) was used for the soundtrack of Ghost World (2001).
  • His song “Aaj mausam bada beiman hai” is featured in the film Monsoon Wedding.
  • Films Division of India is making a documentary on his life.
  • In 2008, a double CD with 16 songs of Rafi was released by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, sung by playback singer Sonu Nigam.
  • In 2007, artist Tasawar Bashir unveiled a shrine to Rafi in Birmingham.
  • His achievements are mentioned in Cornershop’s homage to Indian playback musicians, titled “Brimful of Asha.”
  • In Mumbai’s suburb, Bandra, a crossroads is named after him called The Padma Shri Mohammed Rafi Chowk.
In 1980, he died of a massive heart attack. He left behind a large family of four sons, three daughters and 18 grandchildren. His was a life dedicated to his one and only passion—singing—which he treatd like a religion and born of that reverence, he always blended energy with passions and emotion to give his singing style soul. His spirit lives on in his songs.
Article by: Mithi Chinoy

1 thought on “Mohammed Rafi: The golden voice that lives on and on

  1. those people who have sense of music believes that mohaamad rafi is best &vice versa take e.g. of all legendary singers opinion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *