Mumbai, Dec 24 (IANS) Had Mohammed Rafi been alive, the legendary playback singer would have celebrated his 83rd birthday Monday (Dec 24). Perhaps, he would still have been singing.
Rafi Sahab, as he was fondly referred to in Bollywood, died 27 years ago. But his legacy of thousands of songs, including ghazals, qawwalis, bhajans, rendered during four decades of his singing career lives on, virtually unchallenged and un-imitated.
For music connoisseurs and Bollywood, his songs still remain a prized treasure that continues to yield rich returns, more particularly for the giant music company, HMV, now re-christened as Sa Re Ga Ma.
Bollywood's music trends may have changed drastically of late, but Rafi is still considered a reference point when it comes to judging good singing and dedication to music.
Only a few among the late singer's contemporaries continue to remain active in the industry today. One of them is eminent music director Khayyam, who himself will be 81 years old next February.
Khayyam's association with Rafi dates back to 1950 when as an upcoming music director he had a chance to score music for the film 'Bibi'.
A ghazal from the film, 'Hamari yaad aati to hogi, Aansu tadap jate to honge', rendered by Rafi, turned out to be a raging hit.
The success of the film's music cemented the bond between Rafi and Khayyam. Though they worked together in only a few films, the friendship lasted till the inimitable crooner died of cardiac arrest in 1980.
Recalling the fond association, the maestro Khayyam said: 'Rafi was a hundred percent dedicated singer. As a person, he was humility personified.'
According to Khayyam, Rafi never hesitated to sing even in C-grade films and adjust his remuneration as per their budgets. 'Only a compassionate man could do that. As he was a pious man in his private life, in his professional life he was always understanding,' Khayyam told IANS in an exclusive tribute on Rafi's 83rd birth anniversary.
The national-award winning music director of films like 'Umrao Jaan', 'Razia Sultan', 'Trishul', 'Kabhi Kabhi', 'Noorie', 'Bazaar', 'Sawaal' and many others, Khayyam recalled that, in the '50s, when Rafi's singing career was already ascending with people taken in by his mellifluous voice and unique singing style, the singer once called on him and made an unusual request.
'He said that he had a desire to sing some bhajans - Hindu devotional songs,' Khayyam said.
'In fact, Rafi himself gave me some bhajan tunes and asked me to compose music taking those tunes as a base. That album containing these memorable bhajans was one of Rafi's earliest non-film albums,' said Khayyam.
Even during his heydays, Rafi never ceased to be a student of music. Khayyam said that he was always keen to learn about the intricacies of music, ragas, mixing and compositions.
'In each film, if the music director permitted, he attempted to introduce some novelty to his rendition and modify his style suitably. He always kept himself abreast with the times,' he said.
It was due to this that his style of singing never seemed dated and he could playback for succeeding generations of actors in the style that was in vogue in each period, Khayyam said.