Mohammad Rafi (December 24, 1924 – July 31, 1980) was an Indian recording artist who is considered by many to be one of the greatest Indian playback singers of the Hindi film industry. In his lifetime, he was awarded the National Film Award, Best National Singer Award and six Filmfare Awards. In 1967, he was honoured with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India. In 2000, the Stardust magazine named him the “Best Singer of the Millenium. His singing career spanned about 35 years. Rafi is noted for his ability to sing songs of different moods and varieties: They ranged from classical numbers to patriotic songs, sad lamentations to highly
romantic numbers, qawwalis to ghazals and bhajans. He is best known for romantic and duet songs and, as a playback singer, his ability to mould his voice to the persona of the actor lip-synching the song.
Rafi is primarily noted for his songs in Hindi-Urdu, over which he had a strong command. He sang in other Indian languages including Assamese, Konkani, Bhojpuri, Oriya, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada, Gujarati, Telugu, Maghi, and Maithili. He also recorded a few songs in English, Persian, Spanish and Dutch. From available figures, Rafi sang 4,516 Hindi film songs, 112 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 private (non-film) songs from 1945 to 1980.
Mohammed Rafi was the second youngest of six brothers. His father was Hajji Ali Mohammad. The family lived in Kotla Sultan Singh, a village near present-day Amritsar in Punjab, India. Rafi, whose nickname was Pheeko, began singing by imitating the chants of a fakir in his village. Rafi’s father moved to Lahore in the 1920s where he ran a men’s salon in Noor Mohalla in Bhatti Gate. His elder brother, Mohammad Deen, had a friend, Abdul Hameed, (future brother-in-law), who spotted the talent in Rafi in Lahore and encouraged him to sing. Abdul Hameed later convinced the family elders to let Rafi move to Mumbai; he accompanied him in 1944.
Rafi learnt classical music from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, 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 Sunder, 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). In that same year, Rafi was invited by All India Radio Lahore station to sing for them.
He made his professional debut in the Shyam Sunder-directed 1941 Punjabi film Gul Baloch and the earliest debut in Mumbai film was Gaon Ki Gori in 1945.
In 1944, Rafi moved to Bombay. He and Hameed Sahab rented a ten-by-ten-foot 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 GM Durrani, “Aji dil ho qaabu 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 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. He 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 Bombay. 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).
Rafi was influenced by the singers of that time like K. L Saigal and, most notably, by G. M. Durrani on whose style he based his singing. He sung with his idol in some of the songs such as “Humko Hanste Dekh Zamana Jalta Hai” (Hum Sab Chor Hain, 1956) and “Khabar Kisi Ko Nahiin, Woh Kidhar Dekhte” (Beqasoor, 1950), etc.
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”. He was invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to sing at his house. In 1948, Rafi received a silver medal from Nehru on Indian Independence Day.
Recording career in the 1950s and 1960s
In his early career, Rafi associated with many contemporary music directors, most notably Naushad. In the late 1950s and 1960s, he worked with other composers of the era such as O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, S.D. Burman and Roshan.
Association with Naushad
As per Naushad, Rafi came to him with a letter of recommendation from Naushad’s 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.
Association with S D Burman
S. D. Burman patronized Rafi as the singing voice of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt. Rafi worked with Burman in movies like Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969), and Abhimaan (1973). S. D. Burman was also another music director besides Naushad who used Rafi prolifically to sing for most of his songs.
Association with Shankar-Jaikishan
Rafi and Shankar Jaikishan was a very famous and successful partnership 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 Soorat Ko”, “Baharon Phool Barsao”, and “Dil Ke Jharokhe Mein”. 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 made 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.
Association with Ravi
Rafi got his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), composed by Ravi. He got National Award for the song “Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja” from the film Neel Kamal (1968), also composed by Ravi. Rafi wept during the recording of this song. He admitted this in his interview to the BBC in 1977. Ravi and Rafi produced several other songs in the films China Town (1962), Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966).
Association with Madan Mohan
Madan Mohan was another composer whose favorite 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” and “Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho”.
Association with O. P. Nayyar
Rafi and O. P. Nayyar created music in the 1950s and 1960s. O. P. Nayyar was once quoted as saying “If there had been no Mohd. Rafi, there would have been no O. P. Nayyar”. He and Rafi created many songs together including “Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan”. He got Rafi to sing for singer-actor Kishore Kumar – “Man Mora Baawara” for the movie Raagini. Later, Rafi sang for Kishore Kumar in movies such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat. O. P. Nayyar used Rafi and Asha Bhosle for most of his songs. The team created many songs in early 1950s and 1960s for movies such as Naya Daur (1957), Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), and Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Rafi sang a total of 197 numbers (56 solo) for Nayyar. The song “Jawaaniyan yeh mast mast” and the title song “Yun to humne lakh hansee dekhe hain, tumsa nahin dekha” of the film Tumsa Nahin Dekha. They were followed by songs like “Taareef karoon kya uski jisne tumhe banaya” from Kashmir ki Kali. Rafi and OP had a fallout during the recording for movie “Sawan ki Ghata”, as disclosed by OP during one of his interviews.
Association with 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, Chaila Babu-1967. Rafi honoured the affection and commitment of the duo by accepting no payment for the song “Tere pyaar ne mujhe gham diya” . Rafi and L-P won the Filmfare Awards for the song “Chahoonga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere” from Dosti (1964). Rafi rendered the maximum 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”. Between 1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in Bollywood. He sang for many male stars in Hindi films. In 1965, he was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Sri award. Rafi recorded two Hindi songs in English on 7″ release in 1968. He also sang a song in Creole while on his visit to Mauritius in the late 1960s. Rafi recorded two English albums as well. One of them is Pop Hits.
Association with his 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). Rafi sang the maximum number of duets with Asha Bhonsle (female), Manna Dey (male) and Lata Mangeshkar (female). In the song “Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar Kya Karein” (Amar, Akbar, Anthony), Mohd Rafi sang with Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh – all in one song. This was probably the only time that all of them rendered their voices for one song.
Singing career in other languages
Rafi sang several hit songs in Chris Perry’s Konkani album Golden Hits with Lorna Cordeiro.
Guinness World Records controversy
During his last years, Rafi was involved in a controversy over Lata Mangeshkar’s entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. In a letter dated June 11, 1977 to the Guinness Book of World Records, Rafi had challenged the claim that Lata Mangeshkar has recorded the maximum number of songs (“not less than 25,000” according to Guinness). After receiving a reply from Guinness, in a letter dated November 20, 1979, he wrote, “I am disappointed that my request for a reassessment vis-a-vis Ms Mangeshkar’s reported world record has gone unheeded. In an interview to BBC recorded in November 1977, Rafi claimed to have sung 25,000 to 26,000 songs till
After Rafi’s death, in its 1984 edition, the Guinness Book of Word Records gave Lata Mangeshkar’s name for the “Most Recordings” and stated, “Mohammad Rafi (d 1 August 1980) [sic] claimed to have recorded 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980. According to the available figures, Rafi has sung 4,516 Hindi film songs, 112 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 private (non-film) songs from 1945 to 1980. The Guinness Book entries for Rafi and Lata were removed in 1991. In 2011, Lata’s sister Asha Bhosle was given the title.
On Thursday, 31 July 1980, Rafi died at 10:50 p.m., following a heart attack. His last song was “Shaam phir kyun udaas hai dost” (Aas Paas), which he had recorded with Laxmikant-Pyarelal few hours before his death. Rafi was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery. It was one of the biggest funeral processions Mumbai had ever witnessed, with over 10,000 people attending. In 2010, his tomb was demolished to make space for new burials. Fans of Mohammed Rafi who visit his tomb twice a year to mark his birth and death anniversary use the coconut tree nearest to his grave as a marker.
1948 – Rafi received a silver medal from the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the Indian Independence Day.
1967 – Honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
2001 – Rafi was honored with the “Best Singer of the Millennium” by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine.
Source : WIKIPEDIA