Mohammed Rafi was born at Kotla Sultan Singh (or Kotla Sultanpur),
a town near Amritsar in undivided Punjab.His father was Hajji
Ali Mohammad, and he had five older brothers. Rafi, whose
pet name was Pheeko, started singing by imitating chants of
a fakir in his village. In 1935-36, Rafi's father shifted
to Lahore, and the rest of the family followed later. Rafi's
family managed a men's salon in Lahore's Noor Mohalla. His
elder brother-in-law Mohammed Hameed was aware of Rafi's love
for music and encouraged it. Rafi learnt Hindustani classical
music from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan,
Pandit Jiwanlal Matto and Firoze Nizami.
day Rafi and his brother-in-law Hameed went to attend a performance
by K. L. Saigal. But the legendary singer refused to sing
because there was a power failure at the venue. Hameed went
up to the organizer to ask whether his brother-in-law could
sing to keep the audience quiet. That was Rafi's first public
performance, at the age of 13.
was noted by the composer Shyam Sunder, who gave him a chance
to sing a duet Soniye nee, Heeriye nee with Zeenat Begum,
in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch in 1942 (the film was released
in 1944). Rafi was also invited by the Lahore radio station
to be a permanent singer with them.
Initial days in Bombay
In 1944, Rafi decided to move to Bombay (now Mumbai). He was
introduced to some leading film producers such as Abdul Rashid
Kardar, Mehboob Khan and actor-director Nazeer by Tanvir Naqvi.
He contacted the famous music director Naushad with a letter
of recommendation from someone. Initially, Naushad used Rafi
as part of a chorus. 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 film Gaon ki Gori (1944) for the composer
Shyam Sunder, Aji dil ho kaaboo mein with G. M. Durrani and
chorus. He considered this song as his first Hindi language
song. In 1945, Rafi got married to his cousin Bashira, nicknamed
"Majhi", in his village.
1945, Rafi also 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 a chorus, including
"Mere sapnon ki rani, Roohi Roohi" with K. L. Saigal
from the film Shahjahan (1946). Rafi was first noted for the
song Tera Khilona Toota Balak from Mehboob Khan's Anmol Ghadi
(1946). His duet with Noor Jehan in the film Jugnu 1947, Yahan
Badla Wafa Ka became a hit song.
1948, Rafi was also noted for the song Suno Suno Aye Duniya
Walon Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani, written by Rajendra Krishan.
He was invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru,
to sing at the latter's house. In 1948, Rafi received a silver
medal from Nehru on the Indian Independence Day. 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).
Rise to fame
Rafi established himself as the number one playback singer
in Bollywood with the songs of Baiju Bawra (1952). The songs
from Baiju Bawra, O duniya ke rakhwale and Man tarpat Hari
darshan ko aaj established Rafi's credentials. The newly-started
radio program Binaca Geetmala also played the songs, leading
to an increase in their popularity. It is said that Talat
Mahmood used to be Naushad's favorite singer. Once Naushad
found Talat smoking during a recording. Annoyed, he hired
Rafi to sing for Baiju Bawra. Rafi was a devout Muslim refrained
from smoking and drinking alcohol. Later, Naushad started
using Rafi as the male voice in almost every song composed
by him. Rafi sang a total of 149 songs (81 of them solo) for
1950s and 1960s, Rafi became the favorite singer of other
composers too, notably O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan and
Sachin Dev Burman. S D Burman patronized Rafi as the singing
voice of Dev Anand in 1950s and 1960s. Rafi's notable songs
with S. D. Burman included songs from the movies Tere Ghar
ke Saamne (1957), Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Guide
(1965), Aradhana (1969) and Abhimaan (1973). O P Nayyar was
so impressed with Rafi that he got Rafi to sing a song Man
mora baawara for singer-actor Kishore Kumar, in the movie
Raagini. Rafi sang for Kishore Kumar in many other movies
such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat. O. P. Nayyar used
Rafi and Asha Bhosle for most of his songs. The team created
many hit 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
O P Nayyar. The team of Shankar Jaikishan and Rafi is noted
for the songs picturized on Rajendra Kumar. Rafi sang a total
of 341 numbers (216 solo) for Shankar-Jaikishan.
got his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin
Ka Chand (1960), composed by Ravi. He got his first National
Award for the song Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja from the film Neel
Kamal (1968), also composed by Ravi. Ravi and Rafi produced
several other hit songs, in the films such as China Town (1962),
Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966). Madan Mohan was another
composer whose favorite singer was Rafi. Rafi's first solo
with Madan Mohan in Ankhen (1950) "Hum ishq mein barbad
hain barbad rahenge" was a great hit. They teamed up
to produce many hit songs including Teri Aankhon ke Siva,
Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil and Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho. The composer
duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal ("L-P") also patronized Rafi
as one of their leading singers since their first released
film, Parasmani (1963). Both Rafi and L-P won the Filmfare
Awards for the song Chahoonga main tujhe saanjh savere from
Dosti. Rafi sang a total of 369 numbers (186 solo) for LP.
Rafi sang for many lesser-known composers as well. Once, when
a minor composer, Nisar Bazmi (who migrated to Pakistan in
early 1960s), did not have enough money to pay him, Rafi charged
a fee of one rupee and sang for him.
the 1960s, Rafi was not on good terms with Lata Mangeshkar,
the most sought-after female playback singer in Bollywood,
over royalty issues. Lata wanted Rafi to back her in demanding
a half-share from the five percent song royalty that the film's
producer conceded to select composers. But Rafi took a diametrically
opposite view, and believed that a playback singer's claim
on the filmmaker ended with the payment of agreed fee for
the song. During the recording of Tasveer Teri Dil Mein (Maya,
1961), Lata lost her cool with Rafi in a certain passage of
the song. Rafi felt belittled, as music director Salil Chowdhury
sided with Lata. The situation worsened when Lata Mangeshkar
declared that she would no longer sing with Rafi. Rafi stated
that he was only so keen to sing with Lata as she was with
him. Later, at the insistence of S.D.Burman, the two decided
to make up and sing duets, but on a personal level, they were
not on good terms.
1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in Bollywood,
some say, at the expense of the careers of contemporaries
like Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, and Hemant Kumar. He did playback
singing for all the major male stars in Hindi films until
his death. In 1965, he was honoured by the Government of India
with the Padma Sri award.
recorded two hindi songs in English on 7" release in
1968. He also sang a song in Creole language, while his visit
to Mauritius in the late 1960s.
recorded two English albums. One of them is Pop Hits. In Bollywood,
yodeling is generally associated with Kishore Kumar. But Rafi
also used yodeling in some of old songs, such as Hello sweety
seventeen (duet with Asha Bhosle), O Chale ho kaha, Dilke
Aine main, Unse Rippy Tippy Ho gayee (duet with Geeta Dutt).
From 1970-1976, Rafi's output was less, but he sang several
hit songs during this period. Some of his hit songs in early
1970s were with music directors like L-P, Madan Mohan, R.
D. Burman and S. D. Burman. Some of Rafi's popular songs from
this period include Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil from Heer Ranjha
(1970), Chura Liya Hain Tumne from Yaadon Ki Baarat, Yeh Jo
Chilman Hain and Itna to Yaad Hain Mujhe from Mehboob Ki Mehndi,
Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho from Hanste Zakhm (1973), Gulabi Aankhen
from The Train, Aaj Mausam bada Beimaan hai from Loafer (1973),
and Jhilmil Sitaron ka from Jeevan Mrityu (1974).
made a comeback as a leading playback singer in mid-1970s.
In 1974, he won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award
for the song Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Baad
(Hawas) composed by Usha Khanna. In 1977, he won both Filmfare
Award and the National Award for the song Kya Hua Tera Wada
from the movie Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, composed by R. D. Burman.
Rafi did playback for Rishi Kapoor in films like Amar Akbar
Anthony (1977), Sargam (1979) and Karz (1980). The qawwali
Pardah Hai Pardah from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) was a superhit.
Rafi gave many other hit songs in late 1970s, notably for
the films Laila Majnu (1976), Apnapan (1978), Qurbani, Dostana
(1980) and The Burning Train (1980).
Thursday, July 31, 1980 after composing the song Shaam phir
kyun udaas hai dost for the movie Aas Paas with Laxmikant-Pyarelal
(L-P), Rafi asked if he could leave for home. L-P were surprised
because Rafi would be the last person to leave the recording
session. While leaving, Rafi said once again "OK. I will
leave." Rafi died at 10.50 p.m. on the same day due to
a massive heart attack. His funeral procession was one of
the largest Mumbai ever witnessed.The whole Indian nation
mourned his death for a long time and there was public holidays
for two days in his honor. Shammi Kapoor, who was shooting
outside Mumbai, rushed back to attend his funeral in Mumbai.
Later, the Padma Shri Mohammed Rafi Chowk in the Bandra suburb
of Mumbai was named after him.
his last years, Rafi was involved in 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 rather
escapist 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.". After Rafi's death, in its 1984
edition, the Guinness Book of Word Records stated Lata Mangeshkar's
name for the "Most Recordings" but also stated:
"Mohammad Rafi (d 1 Aug 1980) claimed to have recorded
28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April
1980.". Many fans of Rafi state that he has sung over
28,000 songs. However, 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 both Rafi and Lata were later removed in
Rafi's song from the film Gumnaam (1966), Jaan Pehechaan Ho,
was used on the soundtrack of Ghost World (2001). The film
opens with the lead character dancing around in her bedroom
to a video of Gumnaam. Several of Rafi's unreleased songs
will be used for an upcoming film titled Sorry Madam.
before Sonu Nigam, Mehboob Chohan performed superbly in the
heart of England with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's
A Tribute to Mohammed Rafi on the 7th April 2006.
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra released a CD entitled
"Rafi Resurrected" in July 2007 comprising symphonic
renditions of 18 songs by Rafi. Sonu Nigam will provide the
vocals for this project.
Both Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar are mentioned in Cornershop's
homage to Indian playback musicians, "Brimful of Asha."
On Saturday 22 September 2007, a shrine to Rafi designed by
artist Tasawar Bashir will be unveiled in Birmingham. Bashir
is hoping that Rafi will attain sainthood as a result.
Mohammed Rafi has 4 sons (Saeed Rafi, Khalid Rafi, Hamid Rafi,
Shahid Rafi) and 3 daughters (Parveen, Nasreen, Yasmin) residing
in London, UK and Mumbai, India. He was a Grandfather to 18
1948 - Rafi received a silver medal from the Indian Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the
Indian Independence Day.
1965 - he was honoured with the Padmashri by the Government
Film Awards Winner
- National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Kya
Hua Tera Wada song in the film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin), composed
by RD Burman, lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
- Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Chaudhvin Ka Chand
Ho song in the film Chaudhvin Ka Chand
1961 - Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Teri Pyaari Pyaari
Surat Ko song in the film Sasural
1964 - Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Chahunga Mein
Tujhe song in the film Dosti
1966 - Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Baharon Phool
Barsao song in the film Suraj
1968 - Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Dil Ke Jharoke
Mein song in the film Brahmachari
1977 - Filmfare Best Male Playback Award for Kya Hua Tera
Vaada song in the film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin
- Husnwale Tera Jawaab Nahin song in the film Gharana
1962 - Aye Gulbadan Aye Gulbadan song in the film Professor
1963 - Mere Mehboob Tujhe song in the film Mere Mehboob
1965 - Choo Lene Do Nazuk Hothon Ko song in the film Kaajal
1968 - Mein Gaaon Tum Sojaao song in the film Brahmachari
1968 - Babul Ki Duayein Leti Ja song in the film Neel Kamal
1969 - Badi Mastani Hai song in the film Jeene Ki Raah
1970 - Khilona Jaan Kar song in the film Khilona
1973 - Hum Ko To Jaan Se Pyaari song in the film Naina
1974 - Achha Hi Huva Dil Toot Gaya song in the film Maa Behen
1977 - Pardah Hai Pardah song in the film Amar Akbar Anthony
1978 - Aadmi Musaafir Hai song in the film Apnapan
1979 - Chalo Re Doli Uthao Kahaar song in the film Jani Dushman
1980 - Mere Dost Kissa Yeh song in the film Dostana
1980 - Dard-e-dil Dard-e-jigar song in the film Karz
1980 - Maine Poocha Chand Se song in the film Abdullah
Film Journalists' Association Awards Winner
- Best Male Playback Singer for Dosti
1966 - Best Male Playback Singer for Arzoo
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