I grew up listening to his maverick voice in the cassettes that Appa used to play in the vintage tape recorder that used to be our constant companion in those days. He used to hum the songs along with Rafi Saab’s inimitable flair and in turn, I used to hum them, along with Appa and Rafi Saab.
Thus began, a beautiful and a sublime relationship with a voice which was so near to God and yet felt so close to human feelings. In fact, Rafi’s voice has been a household name for 3 decades before my relationship with his voice could even reach a semblance of familiarity.
His influence on me as a vocalist and a musician is something which cannot be described in words. It is not that I don’t appreciate other singers. In fact, from Manna Dey to Arijit Singh, I found all of them special and gifted in their own ways. But, for me, Rafi Saab was always above the mainstream, in a different class, in a different hemisphere. His voice had magic in it and he had this ability to weave it on us with such profound impact that we were left reeling for his exploits as a playback singer.
From Bharat Bhushan to Guru Dutt, Dev Anand to Rajendra Kumar, Dilip Kumar to Shammi Kapoor. He was the quintessential mantra in framing the careers of these superstars.
Rafi’s voice was meant to redeem human emotions, and lend a meaning to every expression. Melancholy or joy, sorrow or happiness, celebration or tribute, anguish or glee, love or deceit – Rafi’s voice could effortlessly oscillate between myriad human tendencies with absolute elan. His, was perhaps, the voice that could get the dead to rise from the ashes and sing before perishing again in to oblivion.
Rafi Saab, Happy Birthday!