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Article Hindi

Which 3 rules did Mohammed Rafi ask his disciple Mohammed Aziz to follow?

Aziz, who has lent his voice to 19,000 songs in various languages across the country, remembers his guru Rafi sahab on his 38th death anniversary (he died on 31 July 1980).

Mohammed Rafi

Roushni Sarkar

When singer Mohammed Rafi died at the age of 55 on this day in 1980, there was a sudden loss of a vocalist of his style. He left the mortal world, but the need for his voice was felt strongly. It was during this time, vocalists such as Shabbir Kumar and Mohammed Aziz, who used to perceive music through Rafi’s voice, became popular and established themselves in Indian cinema.

Aziz, who has lent his voice to 19,000 songs in various languages across the country, considers Rafi to be his guru, even though he never took lessons from him directly. He delivered hits one after another during the 1980s and kept reminding many of Rafi’s mellifluous singing — including his fellow artistes and fans. However, Aziz sincerely feels, “If anyone manages to sing even 5% of what Rafi sahab did, he can be considered the best singer of the country, according to me.”

Mohammed Aziz

Aziz grew up listening to Rafi. “When we were kids, it was the era of Rafi sahab, Kishore Kumar, Hemanta Mukherjee [Kumar], Mukesh sahab and Manna Dey. As a kid, I loved Rafi sahab’s voice and his style of singing. When I gradually started understanding music and began singing, I realised that he was unparalleled. I feel that the word versatile truly suits him. He was equally effortless in singing bhajans, ghazals and romantic songs. He had the variety that is essentially required for Bollywood films,” reminisced Aziz.

He admits that all the singers from that era had a unique style and were great in their own fields; however, according to him, Rafi’s voice had the most unique range. “He had a velvet-like voice and it would easily glide from lower to upper octave without any distortion,” said Aziz.

Aziz listed some of his favourite songs of Rafi from various genres — 'Chahunga Main Tujhe Sanjh Savere' from Dosti (1964), 'Ae Phoolon Ki Rani' from Arzoo (1965), 'Baharo Phool Barsao' from Suraj (1966), 'Hum Kale Hai Toh Kya Hua' from Gumnaam (1965), 'Man Tarpat Hai Darshan Ko' and 'Duniya Ke Rakhwale' from Baiju Bawra (1952).

“He inspired me to such an extent that I felt I could imbibe him with my entire soul. I started learning a lot from him. Of course I had formal training from a music teacher, the way everyone takes lessons for the basics of a language, but I consider Rafi sahab my guru. Today I have sung in numerous languages and have performed around the world. I owe my success to him. When I started becoming popular, it was rumoured in the industry that I was Rafi sahab’s disciple, I carried his legacy,” expressed Aziz.

Aziz almost goes in a trance while talking about the melody and romance in Rafi’s voice and apologizes for repeating the same facts again and again.

The year 1977 eventually brought Aziz face-to-face with Rafi sahab, though he hardly had such a wild expectation. “In 1977, along with a friend of mine, we launched a record from Megaphone Company with our own money. I had sung a few light classical songs for it. During that time, Rafi sahab had come for a show in Kalamandir, Calutta and was staying in The Park Hotel. The organiser of the show, Bhagwati ji met him and made him listen to my songs from that album. Rafi sahab apparently heard my songs with eyes closed and told him, 'Arre yeh toh mere jaisa gaata hai'".

“Eventually Bhagwati ji came and told me that there was a big reward for me. Rafi sahab had listened to my song and had asked me to be present in the programme that evening. When I went there Bhagwati ji introduced me to him. Rafi sahab told me, 'Kaafi achha aawaz hai, bohot achha gaate ho, kahi sikhte ho?' [You have a good voice and you sing pretty well, do you learn music?] I replied, 'Haan thoda bohot sikhta hoon'. Then he told me, 'Teen cheez yaad rakhna, riyaz karna khub, sharab nahi peena bilqul - sharab peene se kya faida aur nuqsan hai yeh mujhe pata nahi, magar sharab peenewale routine maintain nahi karte, woh behek jaate hai aur, teesra apne bado ki izzat karna'. [Always remember three things, do a lot of practice, never drink alcohol- I am not aware of the benefits and the disadvantages of it, but I know alcoholics cannot maintain a routine, they lose their track, and lastly, always respect your elders].

Aziz had not touched alcohol by that time and as he got the advice from the man himself, he never bothered to taste it even once.

The devoted fan of Rafi sahab had a tough time in building his career as Shabbir Kumar had already become popular by then. When Laxmikanth Payrelal rejected him, he thought that he had no more chances of becoming a playback singer. However, Anu Malik, who was also struggling then, finally got the opportunity to compose the music for Mard (1985) and the director and the producer of the film, Manmohan Desai agreed on recording one song with Aziz. Aziz’s 'Mard Tangewala' became quite popular and he recorded a duet song with Asha Bhosle for Bappi Lahiri for the film Geraftaar (1985) soon after.

“After the recording, Asha ji asked me to visit her at Pancham da’s [RD Burman] music room. When I went there, Asha ji told Pancham da to record songs with me. She further stated that not only had I absorbed Rafi sahab’s singing style and body language, but that she had got the vibration of singing with Rafi sahab while singing the duet with me. I think it was one of the biggest compliments I have ever received,” said Aziz, who recorded five songs with RD Burman for Shiva Ka Insaaf (1985) within a short span of time.

Aziz also sang 12 duets with Kishore Kumar and was aware of the general tendency for comparisons between Kishore Kumar and Rafi. “I personally feel all artistes are great their own fields; however, since I love Rafi sahab more and have been able to make my career because of him, I regard him as my idol. But believe me, one day while was recording with Kishore da, I found that he was continuously looking at me lowering his spectacles. Then he asked me, ‘Ek baat bata, tu kya Rafi sahab ka bohot bada bhakt hai?' [Tell me one thing, are you a big fan of Rafi sahab?] I said yes and then he added, 'Tu unka kya bohot bada bhakt hai, tu kuch bhi unka bhakt nahi hai jitna main hoon' [You're not as big a fan of him as I am]. Then he invited me to his place. When I went there, I saw the walls were filled with photos of both Rafi sahab and himself (Kishore da).”

Mohammed Aziz

“Since my younger days, I used to feel a little insecure about Kishore da’s popularity over Rafi sahab, but from that day onwards, I felt that a heavy load got off my chest, I could be more free with Kishore da, henceforth,” added Aziz. Not only Kishore Kumar, but Manna Dey also was always full of admiration for Rafi sahab. Aziz said, “I have heard him say that Rafi sahab is unprecedented, there will be no singer like him ever again.”

Aziz also mentioned that Rafi was also known for his humility and good nature, just like for his greatness as an artiste. “His singing voice had great volume; on the contrary, when he used to speak he was so gentle and soft. The person sitting next to him would have to make an effort to listen to him clearly,” said Aziz.

For a devoted fan and a follower, perhaps, no recognition is enough for his or her idol. Aziz also said, “Rafi sahab deserved much more recognition. Today Lata ji is given the top most position among Indian vocalists, but Rafi sahab is not. He is great for his admirers and followers but beyond that he has not been given the due credit.”