A tribute to Mohammad Rafi on his 97th Birthday
In the 30s and 40s, it was a normal practice for the recording companies to contract the singers with exclusive rights. That would require other companies to launch non-film songs with other singers to make their presence felt in the market. That probably laid the foundation of the practice of publishing the records of non-filmi songs. By the turn of 40s, the singers turned freelancers, hence the major recording companies took up to buying the rights of all songs for majority of the films. That again led the smaller players to approach the singers for recording the non-film songs. In decades of 50s, 60s and thereafter, the market forces kept changing the rules, but non-film songs had created such a niche for itself that the genre has survived and thrived.
Even when considered to be playing the second fiddle to the more known film-songs genre, non-film songs have been pursued quite sincerely by almost all the playback singers. For many of the frontline singers of film-song school of 50s, the changing pattern of film compositions in the early 60s created a situation where the film songs ceased to yield inner satisfaction. In that situation, it was non-film songs that helped them to go back to their basic creative core. Many of such songs remain enshrined as the iconic renditions in the overall portfolio of a singer.
Mohammad Rafi (b. December 24, 1924 – d. July 31, 1980) was one such singer. Mohammad Rafi is credited to have rendered over 4,500 songs during his active career spanning almost four decades. The estimate of his non-film songs varies from as low as around 300 to as high as over 700. We also often get to read in well-publicised articles that around 70 to at best 100 (only) of his non-film songs are available easily.
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I seriously started listening to the (Hindi) film music in the second half of ‘60s. Radio Ceylon, Vividh Bharati and a few programmes on the local AIR stations were the only sources to whet that newfound interest. That pursuit took more serious roots when I had purchased a basic (HMV) record player and four records from my first salary in July 1973. Not before long, I was to land upon the then fast-selling, for more than a decade, vinyl LP, record ‘This is Mohammad Rafi’ that contained non-film geets and ghazals on one side and devotional songs on the other side. Each of the song was composed by Khayyam with his exquisite magic touch. It is said that, in the melee of fast-paced run-of-the-mill songs at the advent of 60s, Mohammad Rafi was seriously concerned that he is losing the natural melody in his voice. He approached Khayyam to help him overcome his cause of concern. The joint efforts of these two resulted in the form of this LP album. One can find many versions of what (may have) happened around this theme. To make different stories associated with this theme short for the purpose of the present article, I will note here that it was that record that opened my ears to the genre of non-film songs in real earnest. I had purchased a few more of Khayyam-Rafi non-film songs records and cassettes as well as those of Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Suman Kalyanpur etc. Of course, I did not pursue the matter of collecting the records of Mohammad Rafi’s NFSes as a serious curator. But that was my inertia as an amateur fan, and hence my loss. That inertia may also be reflected in the selection of the songs in the present article too.
Since my source for the songs presented herein is presently limited to only YT and few other songs sites, I have not been able to ascertain the year of release / publication of these songs. As such, it would be apt for to begin with one representative song from the LP record ‘This is Mohammad Rafi’:-
Poochh Na Mujhse Dil Ke Fasane, Ishq Ki Baatein Ishq Hi Jaane – Lyrics; Jan Nissar Akhtar – Music: Khayyam
With such easy-to-understand, and yet thoroughly literary lyrics and the matching soothing composition, Mohammad Rafi soulfully renders the feelings of someone who has totally been immersed into the ocean of love.
No wonder, this record not only remained on the top-selling list for almost a decade of its release, but it also reset the pride of place to the non-film songs genre in what was considered to be decade of growth of new generation listeners who had marked preference for easy, fast-paced film songs.
Before we explore more of different lyricist-music director combinations who have also recorded equally absorbing non-film songs with Mohammad Rafi, one more of representative non-film compositions by Khayyam would be in order:
Tum Aao Rumjhum Karati Payal Ki Zankar Liye, Nain Bichhaye Baitha Koi Phulo Bhari Bahar Liye – Lyrics: Madhukar Rajasthani – Music: Khayyam
Here Mohammad Rafi creates that intimate romantic touch to this Madhukar Rajasthani’s sentimental geet.
Before we dwell deeper into lyricist-music director combinations, it would be opportune to take note of extremely rare example of a non-film song wherein all the creative stakeholders – the lyricist, the music director, and the singer – are well known names of Hindi films.
Is Dil Se Teri Yaad Bhulai Nahi Jaati, Ye Pyar Ki Daulat Hai Lutai Nahi Jaati – Lyrics: Rajinder Krishna – Music: Hansraj Behl
Hansraj Behl – Mohammad Rafi have given us some of the most memorable Hindi film songs. They team up with Rajinder Krishan here to come up with this NFS gem. Rafi plays with ‘yaad’ in the mukhada and ascends-descends the scales in each stanza in what is now his familiar style to us. His ‘taan’ at ‘ye pyar ki dualat….. hai’ can also be categorised as his oft-used vocal ‘harkat’. However, and in spite of these, the song retains the charm of an NFS.
One interesting feature of Mohammad Rafi’s non-film songs is that most of the compositions have come from what can at best be classified as unknown-to-average-listener music directors. These songs may have either been drawn from the published works of known ghazal and poetry writers or from the unknown-to-average-listener poets. Taj Ahmed Khan and his Mohammad Rafi’s non-film songs fall in this category. Even as one can find many Taj Ahmed Khan’s composition on internet, next-to-no information is available about this music director.
Dil Ki Baat Kahi Nahi Jaati…. Chupake Rahena Thana Hai, Haal Agar Hai Aisa Hi To … Jee Se Jaanah Jaana Hai – Lyrics: Mir Taqi Mir – Music: Taj Ahmed Khan
Here we have a ghazal from an 18th century Urdu poet, Mir Taqi Mir, who commands respect almost equal to Mirza Ghalib.
Just to get an idea of how different music directors extracted best of Mohammad Rafi for the non-film songs genre, we should listen to another famous rendering of this ghazal by Begum Akhtar.
Please note this not an exercise of comparison between the two renderings but is simply an illustration of how differently Mohammad Rafi NFSes have been carved out.
We will now take up Mohammad Rafi’s NFSes created by less (or practically not known) lyricist or music director or both. Here, too, there are enough songs available on internet to enable a separate study or listening pleasure. I have picked representative songs for the purpose of present article.
Kya Yaad Tumhein Hum Aayenge Itni Si Baat Bataaenge – Lyrics: Madhukar Rajashthani – Music: Vinod Chatterji
The song also begins with a precise strokes of sitar in the prelude to pave the way for Mohammad Rafi to come up with a very brief alaap picking up the initial lyrics ‘Kya Yaad Humein Bhi…’ . Harkats of very fondly playing with ‘yaad’ and then ‘aayenge’ are the simple master strokes of the composition. As the song proceeds we get several such glimpses on the way, with an extended ‘s…..ab….’ @2.25 as an icing on the cake! Music director and singer have done great justice to the lyrics of the song.
This is one of those Mohammad Rafi NFS you yearn to listen again and again.
Note: I had sought the help of several knowledgeable friends @SoY to conclusively locate names of lyricist and music director of this song. Shri Arun Kumar Deshmukhji has provided this information with the help of his friend Shri Dipak Chuadhari, who has the record (#N88276) of this song in his possession (WOW!!). My most sincere thanks to both..
Hansa Beech Gagan Roye, Komal PankhoN Par Ye Murakh Dekho Parbat Dhoye – Lyrics: Shyam Sharma – Music: Shyam Sharma
Shyam Sharma was the regular employee of HMV. HMV and some of the older record companies then headquartered in Calcutta had very strong music departments of their own. This in-house resource also has contributed to score of non-film song records.
Kash KhwaboN Mein Hi Aa Jao, Bahut Tanha HuN – Lyrics: Saba Afghani – Music: Iqbal
How earnestly Mohammad Rafi puts through the request to the beloved to appear in the dreams and break the spell of loneliness! With extra soft beginning of the first line of the stanza, where the feelings are more intense, the entire song is rendered more as a soliloquy with one’s own self!
Jeenay Ka Raaz Maine Muhabbat Mein Paa Liya, Jiska Bhi Gam Hua Use Apna Bana Liya – Lyrics: Muzaffar Shahjahanpuri – Music: Iqbal Quershi
Deep alaap and soft rendering of Jeeney Ka Raaz Maine……sets the tone for pensive mood of the song.
Main To Rahon Mein Pada Paththar Hun Sab Mujhe Chupchap Raundhake Chale Jaate Hai – Lyrics: ? – Music: Kamal Rajasthani
Right from the first note, we find a very close resemblance to the song Main tooti hui ek naiya hun (Aadmi, 1968; Lyrics: Shakil Badayuni- Music: Naushad). Of course, I have no authentic information of year of publication on the present non-film song, so would not hazard any guess whether either one is the inspired version.
Be that as it may, the song is composed to Mohammad Rafi’s deep tonal chords, except in the last stanza when the lyrics take the shape of sharp pain. Mohammad Rafi raises his scale to the top, before coming down to the original scale.
With a candid the disclaimer that sequencing of the following song is not intended after the above song, I conclude the present article, in full concurrence to what Naushad has to say for Mohammad Rafi before the start of the song in the following clip –
Beete Dino Ki Yaad Satati Hai Aaj Bhi.. Kya Jhamane Wapas Kabhi Na Aayenge, Kya Ham Tamaam Umr Yoonhi Roye Jaayenge – Lyrics: Shakil Badayuni – Music: Naushad
Mohammad Rafi does not sound loud even when he sings at a high scale all through the song.
I plan to continue the series on all other future anniversaries of Mohammad Rafi. As such, I have reformatted and shortened up the article which is published on Songs of Yore on December 24, 2021.
I hereby record my sincere thanks to Songs of Yore for publishing the article, Mohammad Rafi’s Non-film Hindi Geets and Ghazals.