Mohammad Rafi remembered

04 Aug 2020


One of Rafi Sahib’s numbers being performed at the event.—White Star
One of Rafi Sahib’s numbers being performed at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: To pay tribute to the legendary Indian playback singer Mohammad Rafi on his fortieth death anniversary, a programme titled ‘Tujh Ko Pukarein Tere Geet’ was held at T2F on Friday.

Shakil Jafri, executive director of the cultural space, said Rafi sahib was born on Dec 24, 1924 in a village called Kotla Sultan near the city of Amritsar in undivided India. When he was 11 years old, he heard a faqir singing songs in the streets. Rafi sahib liked it. He would follow him whenever the faqir came to the village. When the old man noticed the boy’s interest in musical notes, he prayed for him and predicted that the young Rafi would one day earn a formidable name in the field of music.

Sultan Arshad, founding member of the musical group Amateurs’ Melodies, was the main speaker of the event. He claimed the subcontinent hasn’t produced a versatile voice like Rafi sahib’s. Referring to the singer’s first ever public performance, which Mr Jafri had also touched upon — at a function in Lahore where K.L. Saigol was to perform but due to technical problems was asked to appear late, and the young Rafi was given an opportunity to sing — he said music composer Shyam Sundar was also present in the audience. He heard Rafi sahib croon, spotted the talent and made him sing three duets with Munawar Sultana and Zeenat Begum as a playback singer for a Punjabi film Gul Baloch in 1944. This was his beginning in the film industry. During this period (from the time his family shifted to Lahore in 1935 to his break in the movies) Rafi sahib acquired formal training in music from Ustad Waheed Khan, Pandit Jeevan Lal Mattoo and Feroze Nizami.

‘The subcontinent hasn’t produced a versatile voice like Rafi sahib’s’

Mr Arshad said Rafi sahib’s friend Bhayya Hameed was the one who took him to Bombay (now Mumbai) where now the film industry had been established. Shyam Sundar was already in the city, and was one of the composers for a film Village Girl (Gaon Ki Gori). There was a singer by the name of G.M. Durrani who had been roped in for the project as well. It’s believed that in his initial days Rafi sahib was influenced by Durrani’s style of vocal rendition.

He said in 1947, Noorjehan and Dilip Kumar starred in a film called Jugnu directed by Noorjehan’s (then) husband Shaukat Husain Rizvi. This was the movie where Rafi sahib and Noorjehan performed a duet ‘Yahan badla wafa ka’ for the first time together. It became hugely popular giving a distinct identity to Rafi sahib. Subsequently, composer Naushad tapped into his potential and provided him with ample opportunities such as in the film Dulari (1949) whose song ‘Suhani raat dhal chuki’ is one of Rafi sahib’s own favourites.

During the conversation vocalists Tahir Hidayet and Midhet Hidayet sang Rafi sahib’s famous songs. Ajaz Samoil played the keyboard.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020