31st July 1980 was one of the darkest days in the history of Indian music. That day, the king of Bollywood playback singing Mohammed Rafi bid adieu to this world at an untimely age of 56 years.
He was a simpleton who was born in a poor family in Kotla Sultanpur near Amritsar. How he went on to scaling the highest peak in Bollywood playback singing is a well known story that has inspired thousands of other singers and artists to try their luck in Bollywood.
Between 1944, when he made his debut and 1980 when he breathed his last, he sang thousands of songs in multiple languages for almost all the leading men. Of the triumvirate of Dilip, Dev snd Raj, while Rafi was the voice of Dilip, he sang some scintillating numbers for Dev as well. For the next lot, Rafi ruled the roost. Two of the biggest stars Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor owed their popularity to some extent to ditties sung by Rafi for them. Ditto Joy, Dharmendra as also Sunil Dutt and Manoj Kumar in his initial days. In 1969, Kishore finally made it to the top of his singing career after a very long struggle and though he became the first choice of music directors in 70s, Rafi continued to enthral his fans with his silken voice.
It’s amazing that 40 years after his death, how the repertoire of songs left behind by Rafi continues to regale the new generation of listeners , adding to his ever growing list of fan following. Many aficionados of his music are aware Rafi clones that came on the music scene to fill the vacuum created by legend’s death – Anwar, Shabbir, Munna even Sonu to an extent. But what many people may not know is the fan following Rafi has in our neighbouring country. I saw a programme on YouTube, where obeisance was being paid to the legendary singer on his 40th death anniversary. Khalid Baig, who has done his masters in musicology from London and has also done an elaborate research on Rafi, is his big fan who is known in Pakistan’s music circle as voice of Rafi. In connection with his research, he also visited India couple of times and apart from members of Rafi’s family, he also met Bollywood stars and singers including Dev Anand and Manoj Kumar. The conclusion of his deep research is something that we all know ! He was humblest of the persons, who knew nothing apart from music. A simpleton, whom Lata once described as “ Khuda ka Banda”, was a great human being that makes him the greatest singer ever born.
On his 40th death anniversary that just went by on 31st July, let’s keep the great man’s music and his legacy alive in our country, the way Khalid Baig is doing in our neighbourhood.
As he once sang, “ Tum mujhe yun bhula na paoge”. In his lifetime, he might not have guessed that his prophecy would turn out to be true and generation of Bollywood music fans would uphold him at the top of their memory.