Mohd Rafi’s 93rd Birthday: Lata Mangeshkar Reminisces About Those Great Times Of Singing Companionship

“Do you know, Rafi Saab was  very close to my brother HridaynathMangeshkar. In fact when brother was still a child he  sang  a duet with Rafi Saab in Baiju Bawra. The great composer Naushad invited my brother for  the  duet Sacho tero naamHriday sang for the hero Baiju when he was  still a  child…In  fact in Baiju Bawra I  got to sing with my brother for the first time. Hriday sang for Baiju the child and I sang for his beloved when she was a  child. ‘

In Baiju Bawra Rafi Saab sang with such power. His power  and glory were in  full force here. People said , my duets  with Rafi Saab were better than my duets with any other  male singer. Though I enjoyed my duets with MukeshBhaiyya and  Kishoreda, I have to agree Rafi Saab had a fabulous range and a staggering control over the seven notes.  Our duets were considered really special by music lovers.  Offhand I can recall Paonchoo lene do(Taj Mahal), Wohjab yaad aaye(Dil Bhi Tera Hum BhiTere), Ek shahenshah ne banwa ke haseen taj mahal(Leader) andKitna pyara wada hai(Caravan). Mind you, this is just a sample. There were so many….hordes of  fabulous compositions and  it was such a challenge to sing them  with Rafi Saab.

His mastery over the language of music was impeccable. Music was Rafi Saab’s life.Wohbade serious kism ke insaan the(he was a  serious  type of  person). Unlike Kishoreda who would do  a lot of masti before recording Rafi Saab was generally quiet. He kept to himself  , polite and  cultured but spoke only when spoken to.  We would rehearse what you refer to as our ‘monumental duets’ for hours, getting the lyrics  right, adding nuances … For Rafi Saab his singing was  a form of worship. Even I am very serious about my work. But for Rafi Saab 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. And  yet he died    in his  50s. The same  is true  of  my other favourite co-singersMukesh  Bhaiyya and Kishoreda. They all died  young, in  their 50s. So did  my favourite composer Madan  Mohan. It wouldn’t be wrong  to say I lost some of my dearest colleagues and close friends  at a very young age.Of course I miss them. I miss Rafi Saab too. He was one of his kind. He was the chosen  voice for Dilip Kumar Saab and sang some of  the Thespian’s most cherished  numbers. It was said that Dilip Saab preferred Rafi Saab’s voice while Raj Kapoor Saab preferred Mukesh .

To me both  the  singers were equally dear.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 to eat something.Back then we  had no managers  to see keep our appointments. 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.”

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