They say that his voice had the divinity. Singers like SP Balasubramaniam and KJ Yesudas have looked up to him as role models. Today, even 33 years after his death, Mohammad Rafi remains an unsurpassed singer, in terms of range and versatility.
Chandan, a stage performer for the last 12 years who specialises in Rafi numbers, puts it most appropriately when he says, “Rafi sang with his mind, body and soul.”
The singer recollects the day he discovered the ocean of music Rafi was, when he heard the song Chal ud ja re panchi from Bhabhi. “I was drawn towards his voice emotionally. Rafi Saab had an aatma in his voice,” he adds.
Sharing one of his conversations with the legendary music composer duo Kalyanji-Anandji, he says, “I sang one of Rafi’s numbers in their presence and they congratulated me for the rendition.”
But they also added, “Chandan, do you know how Rafi Saab sang? He sang from his navel, not from the throat like most singers.”
Possibly that makes him the greatest singer ever.
Ramdas Warrier, a dubbing artiste and performer adds that if there is one singer who had always inspired other singers, it would be Rafi. “It was not just the voice that made him stand apart from the rest, but also the influence he can have on you. Like Yesudas, who said that he learnt a lot about the nuances of playback singing from Rafi Saab — the use of voice, the stress on pronunciation and the finest details of voice modulation that he displayed in his numbers,” says Warrier.
Raaj, who will be performing at the Black and White Resto Bar at Hotel Residency today to mark the 33rd anniversary of the legendary singer in the event called ‘Yeh Duniya, Yeh Mehfil, Mere Kam Kee Nahee, Mere Kam Kee Nahee’, shares the challenges a singer faces while rendering Rafi numbers.
He says, “The numbers we sing in a three-hour programme cannot even cover a fraction of his vast body of works. The dynamism he brought in the arena of singing and the range of his numbers extends so much that you cannot cover them all even in one whole day.
The classical tilt in his voice were explored more by composers like Naushad and Jaidev, while RD Burman focused on the western element of singing when he collaborated with him. Rafi’s associations with actors Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar too have resulted in an array of numbers.”
Raaj makes an interesting observation about the nature of Rafi’s songs. “You could never associate any vices with his numbers. The maximum negativity you would be able to spot is songs picturised on drunk heroes like chalka yeh jaam or numbers on unrequited love,” he says.
However, will there be another Rafi ever and the singers say in unison, “The maximum singers can do is to imitate and sing as closely as the legend himself, but there can never be a substitute.”