The Legendary Mohammed Rafi was born on December 24th 1924, was an Indian Playback singing.
Maestro. He is considered as the greatest and most versatile singers of all time. Mohammed Rafi belongs to the family originally from Kotla Sultan Singh, a village near present-day Majitha in Amritsar district of Punjab, India.
Mohammed Rafi was one of the most popular singers of the Hindi film industry. Rafi was notable for his voice and versatility, his songs ranged from classical numbers to patriotic songs, sad lamentations to highly Romantic numbers, Qawwalis to Ghazals and Bhajans. He was known for his ability to mold his voice to the persona of the actor, lip-synching the song on screen in the movie.
Family of Mohammed Rafi:
Mohammed Rafi was married twice in his lifetime and had 4 sons and 3 Daughters, Namely Saeed Rafi (from first wife) Sons – Khalid Rafi, Shahid Rafi and Hamid Rafi and Daughters – Parveen Rafi, Yashmin Rafi and Nashreen Rafi.
Mohammed Rafi Career:
Mohammed Rafi, whose nickname was Pheeko, began singing by imitating the chants of a fakir in the streets of his native village Kotla Sultan Singh where his family lived. Rafi’s father moved to Lahore in 1935, where he ran a men’s salon in Noor Mohalla in Bhati Gate.
Mohammed Rafi learnt classical music from Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo and Firoze Nizami. His first public performance came at the age of 13, when he sang in Lahore featuring K. L. Saigal.
In 1941, Rafi, under Shyam Sundar, made his debut in Lahore as a playback singer in the duet “Soniye Nee, Heeriye Nee” with Zeenat Begum in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch (released in 1944) under music director Shyam Sunder. In that same year, Rafi was invited by All India Radio Lahore to sing for them.
Mohammed Rafi’s debut film was ‘’Gaon Ki Chori”
Between 1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in the Hindi film industry. Rafi is primarily noted for his songs in Hindi, over which he had a strong command. He sang around 7,405 songs in many languages.
Mohammed Rafi sang in other Indian languages including Konkani, Bhojpuri, Odia, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada, Gujarati, Telugu, Magahi, Maithili and Urdu. Apart from Indian languages, he also sang songs in English, Farsi, Arabic, Sinhalese, Creole and Dutch.
Life in Bombay (present day – Mumbai)
In 1944, Mohammed Rafi moved to Mumbai. He and Hameed Sahab rented a ten-by-ten-feet room in the crowded downtown Bhendi Bazar area.
Poet Tanvir Naqvi introduced him to film producers including Abdur Rashid Kardar, Mehboob Khan and actor-director Nazeer.
Shyam Sunder was in Mumbai and provided the opportunity to Rafi to sing a duet with G. M. Durrani, “Aji dil ho kaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi”
For ‘’Gaon Ki Gori’’, which became Rafi’s first recorded song in a Hindi film. Other songs followed. Rafi’s first song with Naushad was “Hindustan Ke Hum Hain” with Shyam Kumar, Alauddin and others, from A. R. Kardar’s Pehle Aap (1944).
Around the same time, Rafi recorded another song for the 1945 film Gaon Ki Gori, “Aji Dil Ho Kaaboo Mein”. He considered this song to be his first Hindi language song. Rafi appeared in two movies. In 1945, he appeared on the screen for the song “Tera Jalwa Jis Ne Dekha” in the film Laila Majnu.
Mohammed Rafi sang a number of songs for Naushad as part of the chorus, including “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani, Roohi Roohi” with K. L. Saigal, from the film Shahjahan (1946).
Rafi sang “Tera Khilona Toota Balak” from Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi (1946) and a duet with Noor Jehan in the 1947 film Jugnu, “Yahan Badla Wafa Ka”.
After partition, Rafi decided to stay back in India and had the rest of his family flown to Mumbai. Noor Jehan migrated to Pakistan and made a pair with playback singer Ahmed Rushdi. In 1949, Rafi was given solo songs by music directors such as Naushad (Chandni Raat, Dillagi and Dulari) Shyam Sunder (Bazaar) and Husnalal Bhagatram (Meena Bazaar). Besides K. L. Saigal, whom he considered his idol, Rafi was also influenced by G. M. Durrani. In the early phase of his career, he often followed Durrani’s style of singing, but later evolved his own, unique style.
He sang with Durrani in some of the songs such as “Humko Hanste Dekh Zamana Jalta Hai” and “Khabar Kisi Ko Nahiin, Woh Kidhar Dekhte” (Beqasoor, 1950). In 1948, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the team of Husanlal Bhagatram – Rajendra Krishan-Rafi had overnight created the song “Suno Suno Ae Duniyawalon, Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani”.
Mohammed Rafi was invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to sing at his house. In 1948, Rafi received a silver medal from Jawaharlal Nehru on Indian Independence Day.
Working with Notable Music Directors:
Naushad claimed that, Mohammed Rafi came to him with a letter of recommendation from his father. Rafi’s first song for Naushad was “Hindustan Ke Hum Hain” (“We belong to Hindustan”) for the film Pehle Aap in 1944.
The first song for the duo was the soundtrack of the movie Anmol Ghadi (1946). Before Rafi, Naushad’s favorite singer was Talat Mahmood. Once Naushad found Talat smoking during a recording.
He was annoyed, and hired Rafi to sing all the songs of the movie Baiju Bawra. Rafi’s association with Naushad helped the former establish himself as one of the most prominent playback singers in Hindi cinema.
Songs from Baiju Bawra (1952) like “O duniya ke rakhwale” and “Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj” furthered Rafi’s credentials. Rafi ended up singing a total of 149 songs (81 of them solo) for Naushad.
In the 1960 film Mughal-E-Azam, Mohammed Rafi sang “Ae Mohabbat Zindabad”, composed by Naushad, with a chorus of 100 singers.
S.D.Burman used Mohammed Rafi as a singing voice of Dev Anandand Guru Dutt. Rafi worked with Burman in 37 movies, including Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Kala Bazar, Nau Do Gyaran, Kala Pani , Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969), and Abhimaan (1973).
Mohammed Rafi partnership with Shankar Jaikishan was among the most famous and successful in the Hindi film industry. Under Shankar-Jaikishan, Rafi produced some of his songs for actors like Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. Out of six Filmfare awards, Rafi won three for S-J songs – “Teri Pyari Pyari Surat Ko“
The song “Yahoo! Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe” was sung by Rafi, only to be matched a fast-paced orchestra and a composition by Shankar Jaikishan.
S-J had Rafi give playback for Kishore Kumar in the film Shararat “Ajab hai daastan teri yeh zindagi”. Rafi sang a total of 341 numbers (216 solo) for Shankar-Jaikishan.
Among the films of this combination are Basant Bahar, Professor, Junglee, Suraj, Brahmachari, An Evening in Paris, Dil Tera Deewana, Yakeen, Prince, Love in Tokyo, Beti Bete, Dil Ek Mandir, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Gaban and Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai.
Madan Mohan was another composer whose favourite singer was Rafi. Rafi’s first solo with Madan Mohan in Ankhen (1950) was “Hum Ishq Mein Barbad Hain Barbad Rahenge“.
They teamed up to produce many songs including “Teri Aankhon Ke Siva”, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil”, “Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho”, “Kar Chale Hum Fida” and “Meri Awaz Suno“.
Laxmikant – Pyarelal
The composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal (L-P) patronized Rafi as one of their singers, right from their very first song by him from the film Parasmani (1963). Rafi and L-P won the Filmfare Awards for the song “Chahoonga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere” from Dosti (1964).
Rafi rendered the highest number of songs for the music director duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal: 369 numbers (186 solo) for L-P.
Once, when composer Nisar Bazmi (who had migrated to Pakistan) didn’t have enough money to pay him, Rafi charged a fee of one rupee and sang for him. He also helped producers financially.
As Laxmikant (of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) once observed – “He always gave without thinking of the returns”.
Mohammed Rafi Other Contemporary Singers:
Rafi associated with several of his contemporaries, singing duets with them and sometimes for them (as in case of Kishore Kumar who was also an actor). Mohammed Rafi sang the highest number of duets with Asha Bhonsle (female), Manna Dey (male) and Lata Mangeshkar (female).
In the song “Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar KyaKarein” (Amar Akbar Anthony)
Mohammed Rafi sang one song with Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, and Mukesh, the most legendary singers in Bollywood. This was probably the only time that all of them rendered their voices for one song.
Mohammed Rafi Saab’s Legacy:
Singers like S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Sonu Nigam, Mahendra Kapoor, Shabbir Kumar, Mohammed Aziz and Udit Narayan were influenced by Rafi’s style of singing. Anwar (singer) also imitated Rafi’s voice.
On 22 September 2007, a shrine to Rafi designed by artist Tasawar Bashir was unveiled on Fazeley Street, Birmingham, UK.
The Padma Shri Mohammed Rafi Chowk in the Bandra suburb of Mumbai and Pune (extending MG Road) is named after Rafi. In the summer of 2008, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra released a double CD titled Rafi Resurrected comprising 16 songs by Rafi.
Bollywood playback singer Sonu Nigam provided the vocals for this project and toured with the CBSO in July 2008 at venues including the English National Opera in London, Manchester’s Apollo Theatre and Symphony Hall, Birmingham.
In June 2010, Mohammed Rafi along with Lata Mangeshkar was voted the most popular playback singer in the Outlook Music Poll, conducted by Outlook magazine. The same poll voted “Man re, tu kahe na dheer dhare” (Chitralekha, 1964), sung by Rafi as the No. 1 song.
Three songs were tied for the No. 2 place: Two were sung by Rafi. The songs were “Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hain“
(Guide, 1965) and “Din dhal jaye, hai raat na jaye” (Guide, 1965). This poll was published in Outlook. The jury included people in the Indian music industry.
As well as an award winning documentary titled Dastaan-E-Rafi directed by Rajni Acharya and Vinay Patel (which took 5 years to make) was released to commemorate his 92nd birthday which was later released on DVD.
It featured over 60 interviews of various Bollywood personas and closely recalled his story through his songs and the personal recounts. Many biographies and documentaries continue to be written and made on him.
Mohammed Rafi Academy:
Mohammed Rafi Academy was launched in Mumbai on 31 July 2010 on the 30th anniversary of the singer’s death, started by his son Shahid Rafi to impart training in Indian classical and contemporary music.
After his death, numerous Hindi movies were dedicated to Rafi, including: Allah Rakha, Mard, Coolie, Desh-Premee, Naseeb, Aas-Paas and Heeralal-Pannalal.
A song in the 1990 Hindi film Kroadh “Na Fankar Tujhsa” picturized on actor Amitabh Bachchan and sung by singer Mohammed Aziz was also dedicated to the memory of Rafi.
Rafi is one of the recording artists mentioned in the 1997 hit British alternative rock song “Brimful of Asha” by Cornershop.
Rafi’s song from the film Gumnaam (1965), “Jaan Pehechan Ho“,
Was used on the soundtrack of Ghost World (2001). The film opens with the lead character dancing around in her bedroom to a video of Gumnaam. The song has also been used for Heineken’s 2011 “The Date” commercial.
Rafi was commemorated on his 93rd birth anniversary by Search Engine Google which showed a special doodle on its Indian home page for him on 24 December 2017.
“Aaj Mausam Bada Beiman Hai“
It is featured in the 2001 film Monsoon Wedding. His “Kya Mil Gaya” (Sasural, 1961) has been used in The Guru (2002), where Ramu and Sharonna sing a version of the song.
His song “Mera Man Tera Pyasa” (Gambler, 1970) has been used as one of the soundtracks in the Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet starrer Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
This song is played in the background in Kate Winslet’s character’s home while the lead pair are having a drink (at approximately 00.11.14 runtime).
Naushad – Hindustan Ke Hum Hain(Pehle Aap), Anmol Ghadi, O Dunia Ke Rakhwale (Birju Bavra),. S.D Burman – Pyaasa, Kaaguz Ke Phool, Kaalaa Bazaar, Nou Do Gyaruh, Kaala Paanee, Tera Ghur Ke Saamne, Guide, Aaradhna, Ishk Pur Zor Nuhee, Abhimaan. Shankar – Jaikishan – Teree Pyaaree Pyaaree Soorut Ko, Buhaaron Phool Bursao, Dil Ke Jhurokhe Men, Yahoo! Chaahe Koee Mujhe Junglee Kuhe, Ajib hei daastaan teri yeh zindugi, An Evening in Paris, Dil Tera Deewana, Yakeen, Prince, Love in Tokyo. Ravi – Chaudvin Ka Chand, Baabul Kee Duaaen Letee Jaa. Madan Mohan – Teree Aankhon Ke Sivaa, Yeh Duniyaa Yeh Mehfil, Tum Jo Mil Guye Ho, Kur chule hum fidaa, Meree Aawaaz Suno, Aap Ke Pehlu Mein Aakur.
Awards and Nominations:
National Film Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Kya Hua Tera Wada.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Teri Pyaari Pyaari Surat Ko.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Chahunga Main Tujhe.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Baharo Phool Barsao.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Dil Ke Jharoke Mein.
Filmfare Award for Best Playback Male Singer – Kya Hua Tera Wada.
Bengal Film Journalists Association Awards – Tumsa Nahin Dekha.
Bengal Film Journalists Association Awards – Dosti.
Bengal Film Journalists Association Awards – Arzoo.
Sur Srinagar Award – Chitralekha.
Mohammed Rafi received a silver medal from the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the Indian Independence Day – 1948.
Honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India – 1967.
Rafi was honoured with the “Best Singer of the Millennium” by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine – 2001.
Rafi won the CNN-IBN poll for the Greatest Voice in Hindi Cinema – 2013.