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News |  28 Dec 2016 14:22 |  By B B Nagpal

The appeal, "Meri Awaaz Suno", comes true several decades after Rafi's death

NEW DELHI: “Tum mujhe bhula na paaogay – Jab bhi sunogay geet mere, mere sang tum bhi gun gunaao gay” sang the singer as he moved listeners with his voice.

Mohammed Rafi was a young boy in Amritsar in the mid-1940s when he was asked to sing on stage as then eminent singer K L Saigal had delayed his arrival for a show.

But when Saigal arrived and heard the young Rafi singing, he told the boy’s parents to train him in classical music and then send him to Mumbai (then Bombay). Accordingly Rafi received training from renowned Ustads and then went to the city of dreams. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rafi received nationwide recognition through his songs and even won applause overseas at a time when the Indian diaspora was very small.

Even during his lifetime, various societies of fans of Rafi sprung up all over the country, as he gave his songs a feel that touched every heart and even those not too familiar with Hindi.

Expectedly after he died on 31 July 1980 at the age of 56, he left behind him not merely a treasure of musical numbers but also thousands of fans who felt the singer had not received his due recognition from the government or even the film industry.

Every year on his birth anniversary om 24 December (he was born in 1924), fans get together to pay musical tributes to the singer who enthralled millions with his sad, romantic, prayer, and even full-of-frolic songs.

Such events are held in places like Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata and other places where demands are made that Rafi should be given a posthumous Bharat Ratna and the playback singing National award should be named after him.

The popular social media campaign even started a signature campaign which speaks of the “contribution of Mohammad Rafi sahab towards the cause of music” and demands an award to be instituted in his name.

Rafi sang around 7,400 songs in around twenty Indian and foreign languages. These include Hindi, Urdu, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Konkani, Odia, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Magadhi, Maithili and foreign languages like English, Arabic, Sinhalese, Creole, Dutch and Farsi.

The 16th Road in Bandra in Mumbai where he lived has been renamed after Rafi, and an existing memorial at Hill Road-S V Road junction - revamped by a fan club – opened.

"We are truly overwhelmed... After so many years, there is so much love and affection for my father," the late maestro's son Shahid Rafi told IANS. "There are celebratory functions and musical shows scheduled in many parts of India," he added.

The existing memorial on Hill Road-S.V. Road junction bears a plaque reading 'Padmashri Mohammed Rafi Chowk', which was renovated and shaped into a golden ball reflecting his timeless 'golden voice'.

The soft-spoken singer lived at 'Rafi Mansion' near Mt Mary Church with his family which has been replaced by a multi-storey building where his surviving family members still stay.

And now 36 years after he died, news from a city which would generally not be associated with Hindi songs – Kozhikode in Kerala - about the naming of a road in the name of the singer and the construction of a museum in his name. Rafi had performed live in the city in 1966 and 1973.

The Kozhikode-based Mohammed Rafi Foundation which announced the museum holds a Rafi Nite on the historic Kozhikode beach. Thousands of fans, mostly porters, hairdressers, autorickshaw drivers, and small traders, show up, to listen to songs sung by well-known ‘Rafi singers.’ Ashish Srivastava from Mumbai was the key singer at last Saturday’s Rafi Nite, held on the sands by the sea under a star-lit night.
The Rs. 25-lakh project to be completed by 31 July next year will display rare photos, LP records, albums, and whatever memorabilia the Foundation can find.

All his songs would be available at the museum so that fans can walk in, select their favourite song and listen to it in specially made listening slots. They can also get their favourite songs recorded.