On legendary singer Mohammed Rafi’s 93rd birth anniversary on Sunday, ‘The Nightingale of Bollywood’ Lata Mangeshkar reminisced about the great times of their singing companionship. She said music was his life.
“Rafi sahab was very close to my brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar,” said Lata. “In fact, when Hriday was still a child, he sang a duet with Rafi sahab in Baiju Bawra. The great composer Naushad invited my brother for the duet Sacho tero naam,” she recalled. “In this song, Rafi sahab sang with such power. His power and glory were in full force here,” said Lata.
“People said that my duets with Rafi sahab were better than my duets with any other male singer. Though I enjoyed my duets with Mukesh Bhaiyya and Kishoreda, I have to agree, Rafi sahab had a fabulous range and a staggering control over the seven notes. Our duets were considered really special by music lovers,” she added.
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Remembering some of their work together, she said: “Offhand, I can recall Paon choo lene do (Taj Mahal), Woh jab yaad aaye (Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere), Ek shahenshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal (Leader) and Kitna pyara wada hai (Caravan).
“Mind you, this is just a sample. There were so many…. a horde of fabulous compositions and it was such a challenge to sing them with Rafi sahab. His mastery over the language of music was impeccable. Music was Rafi sahab’s life.”
The singer continued, “He was a serious type of person. Unlike Kishoreda, who would do a lot of masti before recording, Rafi sahab was generally quiet. He kept to himself, polite and cultured and spoke only when spoken to.”
She further shared that they would rehearse what people refer to as their ‘monumental duets’ for hours, getting the lyrics right, adding nuances.
Lata went on to speak about Rafi’s work ethic, “For Rafi sahab, his singing was a form of worship. Even I am very serious about my work. But for Rafi sahab, the dedication was on another level. He had no vices at all. He didn’t smoke, drink or eat paan. He led an ascetic’s life.”
“Yet, he died in his 50s. The same is true of my other favourite co-singers Mukesh Bhaiyya and Kishoreda. They all died young, in their 50s. So did my favourite composer Madan Mohan. I lost some of my dearest colleagues and close friends at a very young age,” she expressed.
“I miss Rafi sahab a lot. He was one of a kind. He was the chosen voice for Dilip Kumar sahab and sang some of the thespian’s most cherished numbers. It was said that Dilip sahab preferred Rafi sahab’s voice while Raj Kapoor sahab preferred Mukesh. To me, both the singers were equally dear,” stated the songstress.
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Lata also spoke about her time with Rafi in the recording studio, “We recorded scores of songs together so we met almost every day. Sometimes, we would be out of one recording studio and then into another for two different songs during the same day with scarcely something to eat.
“Back then we had no managers. I had a very faithful driver Jai Singh who was my rakhi-brother. He took me to all the appointments for recordings, made sure I had my meals on time. Back then, life was simpler and the ties that bound people together went beyond the work place,” she concluded.
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