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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2966

The voice that continues to entertain millions remembered!

By S.H.Moulana

It is going to be 38 years since Mohammed Rafi passed away on July 31, 1980, several years too early for a man who was only 55 years. His impact on Hindi cinema and his contribution to the Hindi film song cannot be outlined in a few hundred or thousand words.

The magic of his voice and its versatility are celebrated, even venerated. His effortless singing is almost impossible to match and complex to follow.

Rafi was a teetotaler and extremely a humble man who refused to comment on other singers. Rafi sang as many as 7405 songs in 19 languages including in Sinhala.

He received 6 ‘Filmfare’ Awards and one National Film Award in 1967 and he was honored with the ‘Padma Shri’ by the Indian government.

His voice was notable for versatility and range, and his songs varied from fast peppy numbers patriotic songs, sad numbers, highly romantic songs, Qawalis to Ghazals and Bajans to classic songs. Singers like Sonu Nigam, Mahendra Kapoor,Shabbir Kumar, Mohammed Aziz and Udit Narayan were influenced by Rafi’s style of singing and they adored him.

The most popular singer of the South S.P.Bala subramaniyam confessed that he considers the legendary singer Rafi as his guru.

He exclaims ‘what a voice! how expressive! the grace with which he molds his voice for different actors is unbelievable. I learnt a lot from him and still I learn by listening to him. He will live as long as music lives. I bow my head to him with reverence and love.’

With all his emotion he said ‘When I think/listen/Rafi I break down and cry.’ ‘During my days at the engineering institute I used to cycle to college and stop on the way for breakfast at a tea kiosk, where I listen to ‘Radio Ceylon’ Binaca Geeth Mala.

A particular song was played almost daily in that program made me to cry and that was by none other than the one with the divine voice, Mohammed Rafi and the song was ‘Deewana hua baadal’ under O.P.Nayyar’s music’ recalled SPB.

Jesudas another reputed singer expressed the same sentiment. Any singer can be an idol for the general public but Rafi was an idol not only for the public but for the singers of high echelon too.

I personally like all Rafi’s songs but especially the one from the film ‘Dil Ek Mandir’ under the music direction of Shanker Jai Kishan; ‘Yad na jaaye’.

When Jai Kishan died in 1971 this song was played in all radio stations in India. I have lost count of the number of times I have listened to this touching masterpiece, even while writing this I can hear the song being played ….. Who can sing better a song so soulful like this other than Rafi?

When Mohammed Rafi made his first visit to Sri Lanka, I was still in school. I took all the trouble to meet him at the GOH–later known as Taprobane, in Fort where he stayed.

When I asked him about the songs he was planning to sing at the live concert that evening at Town Hall, he told me that it will be entirely on the request of the audience.

Luckily, I was one of them and there was a popular request for his hit number then, in the film Baiju Bawra ‘O duniyake rakwale’. When he started to sing this hit number the entire audience stood up to give Rafi a thunderous applause and none sat on his or her seat until the end of the song. The crowd became delirious. This is an experience I will never ever forget. One had to be there to believe it.

The legendary singer who mesmerized the world, Mohammed Rafi, died at 10.25 PM on 31 July 1980 following a massive heart attack. His last song recorded was for the film ‘As Pas’ which was recorded under music director Laxmikant – Piyarelal and the song was ‘Shaam Phir Kun Udaas Hai Dost/ Tu Kahin Aas Paas Hai Dost’. However, 'Jis raat ke khawab aye' from an unreleased film 'Habba Khatoon' under Naushad's music direction is regarded as the legendary singer Rafi's last song. This song is actually a Ghazal. The softness of Rafi's voice remained until his death.

According to Naushad, Rafi refused to receive any money for this song and surely, we guess, he wanted to give a nice gift to all of us while he was leaving this world. The rendition of this Ghazal by Rafi will make anyone to shed tears.

Rafi was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery, in Mumbai with millions of all faiths attending his funeral defying a thunder shower. The government of India declared two-day-public holiday to mourn the death of the best ever singer the country has produced.

The only singer whose songs are still loved and listened to, even 38 years after his death is only Rafi. Music director Bappi Lahiri said ‘No singer can come even within 5000 sq. feet of Mhammed Rafi.’ Shammi Kapoor for whom Rafi rendered his voice in all his films said in his program ‘Shammi Kapoor Unplugged’ that when he heard about Rafi’s sudden death he said ‘I felt as I lost my voice’ and he started weeping like a small child.

Singers may come and go but Rafi's death anniversary is being commemorated every year all over India with great reverence. No doubt, his scintillating voice will keep entertaining all his fans all over the world forever!

- Asian Tribune -

The voice that continues to entertain millions remembered!
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