Year-Ender: Why I Don’t Believe in God Yet Think Rafi Is His Best Gift to Music

Answers to Mohammed Rafi's popularity are difficult to fathom as the hysteria isn't a media or a corporate creation.

4 min read
Hindi Female

I am an atheist but the brilliance of Mohammed Rafi’s singing, at times, compels me to believe in the existence of God. Even the simplest of songs are so exquisitely nuanced by Rafi Sahab and the renditions are so ethereal that one acquiesces with filmmaker Manmohan Desai’s contention that Rafi was 'God’s own voice'!

The legendary singer was always adored and respected during his 39-year-long career, but the manner in which billions are showering love and respect upon him even now is nothing short of a miracle.

Today, when stalwarts of sports, screen, and politics are consigned to the dustbin of history in their lifetime, such outpouring of affection and veneration by the masses for Rafi is an exception.

The Secret Behind Rafi’s Pan-Nation Appeal

So, what’s the reason for this overriding plethora of tributes in the form of thousands of programmes from Barbados to Brisbane? And why is it that common citizens to eminent luminaries from Jhumri Talaiyya to Johannesburg are labelling Rafi Sahab as their favourite singer?

If the craze subsists across continents even 43 years after his death, it is apparent that Rafi's singing genius is being universally hailed by all hues of castes, creeds, faiths, and nationalities.

The unabated euphoria is also a significant pointer that apart from his immaculate singing, Rafi's genial persona and stories of generosity have impacted the social consciousness so strongly that old and young alike worship him as a Saint-Singer! Simply put, Rafi is in a class of his own.

One can comprehend the reason for affection in the case of senior citizens as Rafi's songs were part of their lives, a source of solace and wisdom in every situation.

Of course, each song had a connotation to a significant happening yet it is inexplicable as to why people do not connect with other singers in such a highly emotive manner as they do with Rafi? And how come his songs have been assimilated in the soul by the younger generations too and they sway to his melodies?

The answers are certainly difficult to fathom especially as the hysteria is not a media or a corporate creation.

Rafi’s Inimitable Style Woos Generations

Personally, Rafi Sahab seems to be a 'Messiah of Songs' to me and since a Messiah is deemed to deliver the manna of heavens, Rafi's art of singing is deliverance of magnificence! Simple yet profound, his singing impacts by providing a therapeutic calm to the senses while also creating a lasting relationship with our deeper recesses of memory.

His artistry lends strength, grace, and charm to our film compositions beyond the confines of the film screen whereby, each song also becomes a part of our personal and social heritage.

Irrespective of whether a composition was romantic or pathos-laden, a difficult classical tune or a soft ghazal or an outpouring of exuberance through qawwali, or a prayer in the worship of God or a blazing zeal of patriotism, one can discern the unique manner in which Rafi Sahab expressed the writer’s thoughts.

Quite obviously, the variations of his songs, the genuflections of his voice, the caressing of the words, and the throw in keeping with the needs of the lyrics have captivated modern listeners just as easily as they did the previous generations.

Composer Khayyam once confided to me that "Rafi Sahab understood the layers of the human mind and emotions like a sage and if his voice never seems imposed on any character, it is because he had an amazing ability to enact and transmit the emotion.”

Rafi sang each composition with the humble devotion of a saint, caressing each syllable with such an emotive feel that the lyrics came alive. His finely crafted expression, throw, pronunciation, and stresses generated magic, and the allure of his singing remains intact for connoisseurs and common folks alike as it is an outcome of profound introspection.

Khayyam stressed that "Rafi Sahab learned the intricacies of every musician’s composition like a humble student” and then “rendered something beyond imagination”. Music Director Chitragupt too was unequivocal that "while all singers did reasonable justice to compositions, Rafi Sahab alone lent something uniquely his own to make a tune lit up with excellence.”

Explains why till date, no voice seems more suitable than Rafi for a character on screen.

Rafi’s Popularity Remains Unmatched

And herein lies the fundamental difference between Rafi Sahab and other singers. Singing was akin to worship for the great man and the innate goodness of his nobility shines through his mellifluous voice since he seemed to be devoid of ego, greed, hatred, and politics.

Listeners can feel his empathy for humanity and comprehend why he sang hundreds of songs for just a rupee for scores of musicians and producers without compromising on the quality of his rendition.

Recognising his voice as a pristine expression of the multifarious colours of nature, filmmaker Raj Kapoor nicknamed Rafi Sahab as the “Uncrowned King of Singing” while poet-lyricist Gulzar lauded Rafi "as the eighth note of music”. Not too surprising that a great contemporary like Manna Dey considered Rafi as the best amongst all the singers, male and female included.

Check any random song recorded separately in male and female voices and you will discover the versions sung by Rafi Sahab were more popular than that of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle Suman Kalyanpur, or Kishore Kumar.

Although he had no equal in the world of music and was the greatest symbol of humanism, it is sad that Rafi Sahab was not awarded a Bharat Ratna by any Indian government. But despite the injustice and indifference of ruling dispensations, Rafi lives in the hearts of countless people and it is the biggest award since irrespective of religion, caste, nation, and language, Rafi still rules the airwaves around the world.

(Deepak Mahaan is a documentary filmmaker and an eminent author. A specialist on Cinema and Sports, he has published numerous pieces in prestigious publications in India and abroad. He tweets at @mahaanmahan. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Mohammad Rafi   Manna Dey   Legend 

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