- Name : Mohammed Rafi
- Date of Birth : Dec 24, 1924
- Passed Away On : Jul 31, 1980
- Religion : Muslim
- Death Place : Mumbai
- Address : Mumbai
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A most versatile singer, Mohammed Rafi was India’s hugely popular playback singer in movies. His versatility included romantic numbers, lamentations, patriotic songs, bhajans, qawwalis and ghazals. Besides Hindi, he also sang in virtually every Indian language – in addition to Farsi, Arabic, English and even Dutch. His achievements won National, Filmfare and other awards. In 1967, the Government of India awarded him a Padma Shri. Rafi’s ability to adapt his voice to the character that the actor lip-synched on the silver screen was a particular asset.
Born in 1924 in Kotla Sultan Singh village near Amritsar, Mohammed Rafi first moved to Lahore in 1935 where his father had a barbershop. Later, his future brother-in-law encouraged him to sing then, in 1944, convinced Rafi’s family to move to Bombay. There, he met the poet Tanvir Naqvi who introduced him to film producers like Abdur Rashid Kardar, Mehboob Khan and actor-director Nazeer.
Rafi studied classical music under Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo and Firoze Nizami and gave his first public performance tender the age of 13, when he sang in Lahore featuring K. L. Saigal. He debuted as a playback singer under Shyam Sunder singing a duet with Zeenat Begum in "Soniye Nee, Heeriye Nee" in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch in 1944. That same year, All India Radio’s Lahore station asked Rafi to sing for them. His Hindi film debut was in Gaon Ki Gori in 1945 in which "Aji dil ho qaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi...," became Rafi's first recorded song in a Hindi film.
It also marked his first screen appearance. The next was in 1945 when he sang "Tera Jalwa Jis Ne Dekha" in film Laila Majnu. Those were the only films in which Rafi appeared on screen.
In 1949, Rafi was asked to sing solos by such music directors as Naushad, Shyam Sunder and Husnalal Bhagatram. Though he considered K. L. Saigal his idol, Rafi was influenced by G. M. Durrani also, and followed Durrani's style of singing early in his career before evolving with his own, distinctive style. Following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Rafi teamed with Husanlal Bhagatram and Rajendra Krishan to create "Suno Suno Ae Duniyawalon, Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani" overnight, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited him to sing it at his house. In 1948, Nehru presented Rafi a silver medal on Independence Day.
Rafi was associated with some of the most distinguished music directors like Naushad Ali, S.D. Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Ravi, O. P. Nayyar, and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Before Rafi, Talat Mahmood had been Naushad's pet singer but, when he was caught smoking at a recording, Naushad hired Rafi to sing all the songs in the film Baiju Bawra (1952). "O duniya ke rakhwale" and "Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj" added to Rafi's reputation. He sang 149 songs (81 of them solo) for Naushad.
With S.D.Burman, Rafi was the singing voice of Guru Dutt and Dev Anand. Among Rafi’s 37 movies with Burman were Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Kala Bazar, Nau Do Gyaran, Kala Pani Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969) and Abhimaan (1973).
One of the most successful partnerships in the Hindi film industry was Rafi's with Shankar Jaikishan. With them, Rafi sang 341 numbers (216 solo) and sang for actors like Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar.
Under Ravi’s direction, Rafi won his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), and the National Award for the song "Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja" from the movie Neel Kamal (1968). He admitted in a 1977 BBC interview that he had wept during the recording of this number. Other films they worked together in were China Town (1962), Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966).
Through the 1950s and 60s, Rafi created memorable music with O. P. Nayyar – who once said, "If there had been no Mohammed Rafi, there would have been no O. P. Nayyar". But they had a fall out when Rafi got held up at a Shankar-Jaikishan recording to which Nayyar responded that he did not have any time for Rafi. For three years, they never worked together again.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal used Rafi from their very first song in the movie Parasmani (1963). Together, they won Filmfare Awards for the song "Chahoonga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere" from Dosti (1964). Rafi sang as many as 369 numbers (186 solo) for them.
Rafi’s generosity is exemplified by his charging only a rupee when composer Nisar Bazmi didn't have enough money. He also financially assisted producers. As Laxmikant once noted, "He always gave without thinking of the returns."
Rafi was associated with many contemporaries in duets with them – and also them (as in the case of Kishore Kumar who was also an actor). He sang the most duets with Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. In "Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar Kya Karein" (in the film Amar, Akbar, Anthony), Rafi sang a song with the most famous singers in Bollywood, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh.
Since the early 1970s, Rafi recorded fewer songs but won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song "Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Baad" (in Hawas, 1974) composed by Usha Khanna. In 1977, he won the Filmfare Award as well as the National Award for the song "Kya Hua Tera Wada" from the movie Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, composed by R.D. Burman. The "Pardah Hai Pardah" qawwali in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) became a superhit.
In 1978 Rafi performed at the Royal Albert Hall, then, in 1980, at the Wembley Conference Centre. He also extensively toured the world giving concerts to packed halls.
Mohammed Rafi died from a heart attack in 1980 and was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery. More than 10,000 attended in spite of a heavy downpour, making it one of Mumbai’s biggest funeral processions. In a rare honour, Government of India announced two days of public holiday.
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Children: Yasmin Rafi, Shahid Rafi, Hamid Rafi, Nasreen Rafi, Khalid Rafi, Parveen Rafi, Saeed Rafi