The Rafi legacy lives on

Rajiv Singbal, a Goan singer and a diehard fan of legendary playback singer Mohammed Rafi, speaks to NT BUZZ on the eve of the 40th death anniversary of his idol


It will be exactly 40 years on July 31, 2020 since that fateful day on which legendary playback singer, Mohammed Rafi breathed his last. The following four decades witnessed his songs becoming a part of daily lives of countless listeners, through films, radio, television, records/ audio and video cassettes/ compact discs, YouTube, song clips uploaded on social media and more. Death, that signifies end of a life, could not silence the voice of the unparalleled singer, and on the contrary continued to bind people across generations and geographies, as well as race and religions. After passing away of Rafi, many of his fans started holding musical programmes annually, on his death anniversary. Rajiv Singbal, a Goan singer of repute and himself a huge fan of Rafi was one of the first persons to hold such musical tributes to his idol.

“I used to regularly see Rafi saab in his car passing on the road along my house,” recalls Singbal, who spent a major part of his life residing in Shivaji Park area at Dadar, Mumbai. He adds that on two occasions he met the iconic singer, during his visit to an Irani hotel, at Dadar. “Sometimes, Rafi saab stopped at this Irani hotel to make a few telephone calls by referring to the numbers in a small diary, while travelling from his Bandra residence to the recording studio at Tardeo,” he says, stating that Rafi, who mostly sported white clothes had an angelic personality, complete with a permanent smile on his face.

“At that time, the public had a craze for film actors and actresses, but were not much inclined to follow singers,” says the Goan singer, reminiscing about the days when he used to listen to the latest songs of Mohammed Rafi on Binaca Geetmala, a popular radio programme broadcast on Radio Ceylon.

Speaking further, Singbal says that his mother, who had good knowledge of music and sang a bit, fondly recalled how her son as a three-year kid sang in his baby voice, ‘Aankhon hi Aankhon Mein Ishara ho Gaya’, a Mohammed Rafi-Geeta Dutt classic from the film, ‘CID’.

Singbal did not leave behind his singing once he went to school, but displayed his crooning talent in Sane Guruji Vidyalaya, his school and then D G Ruparel College, his alma mater, where he participated in annual events as well as interschool and intercollegiate singing competitions. He then started singing under the group, Tata Kala Sangam, when working with Tatas, where all the employees of the company used to display their skills in singing and musical instruments. He even had Padmakar Shivalkar, the former Indian first class cricketer also known for his singing skill, as his co-singer.

“When I came down to Goa, I conceived a programme titled ‘Ek Shyam Rafi ke Naam’ to be performed on the occasion of Rafi saab’s death anniversary, and the first such programme was held in a starred hotel, in Panaji in 2009, with inspiration from Taranath Holgadde and Siddha Poojari,” says Singbal, adding that the annual event soon became popular and people eagerly waited for the same. In fact, he always tried to give an opportunity to new and budding talents in his musical programmes, thus providing them with the much needed launch pad.

“The ticketed programme continued till 2014, after which I shifted to the Menezes Braganza Hall in the city and performed it free of cost, for the public,” says Singbal while lamenting that the programme had to be stopped in 2017 due to some unavoidable circumstances, and now, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic making it impossible to organise it this year. “God willing, I can restart the programme from next year, in the event of finding a good sponsor,” he says.

Singbal also informs that he got the opportunity to meet Shahid Rafi, son of Mohammed Rafi during a musical programme organised at Margao.

When asked to pick his favourite Rafi song from the bouquet of countless melodies, Singbal states that it is really difficult to choose a single song, with the singer having a wide musical repertoire, ranging right from 1940s to the end of 1980s. “Still if I have to pick one, I would say, ‘Din Dhal Jaaye, Haaye Raat na Jaaye’, from the film, ‘Guide’, which is close to my heart,” he notes.

Reacting to present-day music, the Goan singer maintains that music being music is a fantastic thing, at all times. “However, since I belong to the older generation, the music belonging to the golden era of Hindi films is soothing to my ears,” he says.

Speaking further, Singbal says that he did not try to enter the music industry as a professional singer like his idol, Mohammed Rafi did because his father discouraged him from doing so. “My father had attempted to join the Hindi film industry but within no time stepped out of it due to various imperfections it carried,” he recalls, stating in the same breath that many of his friends are nevertheless doing well in this industry.

On a parting note, the Goan singer remembers the sad day in his life when Mohammed Rafi passed away. “When Rafi saab passed away, I did attend his funeral,” Singbal says, adding, “I still remember that I had gone to the funeral with my office colleagues, and clearly recall noticing Amitabh Bachchan and Mehmood at the funeral.”

“It was the saddest day in my life, and I felt that on that particular day, even nature was crying in the form of rain, along with countless people gathered out there in Mumbai, for his final journey,” he says.