Remembering Mohammed Rafi
By Siraj Khan
Ankhon ko visa nahee lagta, sapnon ki sarhad nahee hoti
Bund ankhon se roz sarhad paar chala jata hoon milne
Mein Mehdi Hasan se!
(The eyes need no visas, dreams have no borders. With closed eyes every day, I cross the border To meet Mehdi Hasan!)
Indian poet and writer Gulzar penned his sentiments for the ghazal maestro Mehdi Hasan in this poignant verse. But do think for a moment. Don't those words apply to the millions of Pakistanis who have been doing likewise for Mohammed Rafi unknowingly - every single day - even when he was alive?
Few personalities have enjoyed the level of popularity and appeal on both sides of the border, as Rafi has. A simple God-fearing man, he brought his feelings and sentiments naturally to all his playback songs, whatever the mood and whoever may be on the screen. The underlying message throughout his professional life was, that there was just one language in which peace and unity speak anywhere - music.
Rafi was a devout Muslim and yet some of the best bhajans in films have been recorded in his voice. Man tarpat hari darshan and that Raag Darbari-based Bhagwan - O duniye ke rakhwale. It was no surprise then, when Rafi got visibly upset when a mosque refused to accept his financial contribution as his earnings were generated from singing. "Who gave me this voice, if not Allah?" he exclaimed to the imam, in one of his rare moments of anger
In a recent interview veteran actor Manoj Kumar remarked, "Like me, he too was from Lahore, and when two Lahoris sit together, everything from their language to their perceptions on life, match, binding them always even in a crowd".
Rafi moved from Lahore to Mumbai in 1944, getting his first break early in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch. However, it was with Shaukat Hussain Rizvi's Jugnu in 1947 that people sat up and realized that Rafi had arrived. Yahan Badla Wafa ka, the famous duet with Noor Jahan, composed by Feroz Nizami remains immortal. A staggering 5000+ songs and 35 years later, there must be hundreds of songs, which even his staunchest fans have yet to discover.
Recently, Yasmin K. Rafi, his daughter-in-law, released her memoirs in Mohammad Rafi: My Abba, which contains many interesting accounts of the life of the legendary singer. In a CNN-IBN survey in 2013, he was voted the greatest voice of the Indian screen ever.
They say whatever one speaks or sings does not really disperse, but travels into space, towards infinity. And at some point of time we may be able to pick up the air waves and retrieve those sounds. I hope that science and technology can make it happen, even if it's not in our lifetime. For now though, the songs that Rafi has left behind as a musical legacy for his millions of fans will always be cherished, while his voice continues to echo throughout the world.
Tum mujhe yun bhula na pao ge
Jab kabhi bhi suno ge geet mere
Sung sung tum hi gungunao ge
(You will never be able to forget me
Whenever you hear my songs
You will also hum along)
(Boston-based Siraj Khan lives a life without boundaries. A connoisseur of film music, he is writing the authorized biography of O.P. Nayyar.
Khansaheb2@aol.com Website: www.opnayyar.org/ )