It was the year 1957 when Gramaphone records were the only source of entertainment other than the radio which would play your favourite numbers on the odd occasion. As an eight year old boy, my tender heart would dance with joy whenever I heard the melodious waves of a song "Chal Udja Re Panchi" which would echo from a pair of loud speakers placed on the roof of a cinema hall in our village where I was born. I didn't know who the singer was but in those days the song signaled the commencement of the second show movie. And people would rush to theatres on hearing this song.
As I turned older, my hunger to hear more songs by the same singer grew as I would hear most of my family members hum his songs either in the bathroom, kitchen, or garden. Later, I learned that the singer with the sweetest voice was none other than Mohammed Rafi Saab whose songs would tug at my heartstrings each time I heard them. In my opinion, legends are not made but a divine blessing.
As I delved deep into the musical world, Rafi Saab stood as a rock of Gibraltar whose memories can hardly be erased. His enchanting music has to be felt to be experienced. This musical genius has left an indelible mark in the hearts of millions of music lovers. The immensely talented artiste could evoke a range of emotions all at the same time with his rendition of a single song. Be it romantic, ghazal, Qawwali or even melancholy—Rafi Saab used to sing with great versatility. He started his singing career at All India Radio Lahore in the year 1941.
One unforgettable incident was when he sang “Chahunga Mein tujhe" on an occasion when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was present among the audience. The Prime Minister could hardly suppress his emotions on hearing this song and was in tears.
On another occasion, when the great K L Saigal refused to sing at a gathering, saying there was no electricity to enable the loud speakers, Rafi Saab sang much to the delight of the crowd and earned applause. The Baiju bawra number "Duniya ke rakhwale" was an all-time hit during my younger days. "Din dal jaaye" from the film Guide, is a soulful rendition of Rafi Saab who has given the song all it deserves. "Dil ke jharokhe mein" from the film Bhrammachari earned him a Filmfare award besides "baharon phool barsaon" from the film Suraj.
The best thing about Rafi saab was that no matter what kind of song he rendered, be it a foot-tapping number or a slow number with a classical touch, he would give it his all. And the result would be a masterpiece which instantly captured hearts of fans.
For those who didn't know, Rafi Saab's renditions were not limited to Hindi alone. He sang in several languages including Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi, Odia, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Sindhi and Konkani among others. He also lent his voice to numbers in Dutch, Creole, Persian, Sinhalese, English and Arabic languages.
He even created some beautiful songs with OP Nayyar who had once remarked that he couldn't have done it without Rafi. OP Nayyar has delivered some unforgettable duets of Asha and Rafi including "Ude Jab Jab Zulfien Teri" and "Deewana hua badal".
He has innumerable awards to his credit including the Padma Shree from the government of India. Though Rafi Saab had his share of ups and downs after he was ignored during the reign of Kishore Kumar post "Aradhana", he made a brilliant comeback by winning a Filmfare award and a national award for the song "kya hua tera vaada" which he sang for the movie "hum kisi se kum nahin". A few other songs which come to my mind which I often hum depending on my mood include "hum tumse juda hoke", "phir miloge kabhi is baat ka vaada karlo", "pukarta chala hoon mein", "Raahi manava", "jaane waalo zara", "Abhi na jaaon chodkar", "tumne mujhe dekha" and the list goes on and on.
The golden voice fell silent on July 31 1980 at 10:25 pm. Thousands of fans mourned the sudden demise of the singer whom they so adored. An irreplaceable loss to the world of music. However, his songs live on and continue to touch the heart of billions for whom just one Rafi track is enough to uplift their mood and spirit. His Last rendition was for the film Aas Paas and the music director Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The song was "Shaam Phir Kyun Udaas."
During one his morning walks, a person sought money from Rafi saab. Without a second thought, he grabbed what was in his pocket and gave it to the man. The friend who was accompanying the singer asked him “Kya aap yun kisi ko bhi bina gine hi rupaye de dete hain?” (How could you give money without even counting)
And Rafi's reply stunned his friend. Rafi saab is believed to have said:“Jab khuda mujhe bina gine rupaye de raha hai to main uske kuchh zaruratmand bandon ko bhala gin kar rupaye kyon doon?”
(When god doesn't count the money that he gives me why should I)
Rafi saab cared about his voice so much that he was cautious about what he ate. Once Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru asked to have some chats. However, the legendary singer politely refused. Check out the conversation between the two.
Rafi: Maaf kijiyega main ye nahi le sakta
Sorry, I can't eat this
Nehru: Are main aap ko kuchh khilaunga nahin, le lijiye
I want to offer you something to eat, please have
Rafi: Pandit ji agar meri aawaz sirf meri hoti to main zaroor kha leta lekin ab meri aawaz sirf meri nahi rah gayi hai, ab ye pure Hindustan ki ho gayi hai, jiska khyal mujhe rakhna hi padta hai.
My voice is not mine alone. It belongs to the entire population of India. So, I have to protect it.
No prizes for guessing what happened after this. Yes, Pandit Nehru was so impressed with Rafi saab's humility that he gave him a hug and a pat on his back.
On his death anniversary today, here are some unforgettable songs of Rafi Saab for you.
Deewana Hua Badal-Kashmiri Ki Kali
Teri Pyari Pyari surat ko - sasural
Dilka Bhanwar Kare Pukar - Tere Ghar Ke Samne
Abhi Na Jaao Chodkar - Hum Dono
Khoya Khoya Chand Kala Bazaar
Ruk Se zara naqab - Mere Huzoor
Teri Aankhon ke sivaa - Chirag
Jab bhi ye dil udaas hota hai
Chahunga main tujhe - Dosti
Dil Ke Jharoke Main - Brahmachari
Kaun hai jo sapnon main aaya
· Tharalenthaga Merisenu
· Naa Madhi Ninnu Pilichindi
· Iddari Manasulu
· Entha Vaarukani
· Devudu Okkade
· Nuvvu Navvuthunnavu
· Sharabhi Kallatho
· Reyi Aagiponee
· Neekela Inta Niraasa
Have your own favorites? Add to the list...