MUMBAI — The singer nonpareil, the monarch of melody passed away this day July 31 40 years ago in what must be one of the darkest days for Hindi film music. But Mohammed Rafi will live on as long as music does.

Here’s a man who has sung over 7000 songs in a span that began in 1944 with “Pahele Aap” (though it is said that “Gaon Ki Gori” was recorded earlier) and ended in 1980 (with “Aas Paas”). But his songs kept coming all the way till 1989 when a song recorded in his lifetime for a film that was shelved and was used by the producer on Govinda!

Choosing 10 songs in this repertoire is a more daunting task, perhaps, than choosing drops in an ocean. But we choose from a small lake instead—10 rare and beautiful classics that he sang for RARE composers.

Dard Mein Doob Gayi Shaam” / Film: “Mandir Masjid” / Lyrics: Kafeel Azar.

This song composed by singer Sharda is a fabulous example of the way Mohammed Rafi would infuse melody into a lovely pathos-laden composition and enhance its stunning beauty. The film, the actor, the situation—all ceased to matter when the master spun his vocal magic.

“Apni Aankhon Mein Basaakar” / “Thokar” / Lyrics: Sajan Dehlvi

A beauty that has stood the test of time, though it was from a small film, “Thokar” that went nowhere. In that era, it was easily one of the epitomes of deep passion. The music was by Shamji Ghanshamji.

“Chun chun karti aayi chidiya” / “Ab Dilli Door Nahin” / Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

This timeless hit from a RK Film was composed by Dattaram, a small name as a composer but a big name assistant to Shankar-Jaikishan and musician for over a decade with Laxmikant-Pyarelal and others. We see Rafi’s unparalleled virtuosity at the comic as well as children’s song here.

 “Kahin Aisa Na Ho” / “Milap” / Lyrics: Naqsh Lyallpuri

We next take up two beauties filmed on Shatrughan Sinha. This first song was hugely popular and lives on to this day. It was composed by Brij Bhushan, who barely scored music for about 5 films in his entire career.

“Dil Ka Suna Saaz Tarana Dhoondega” / “Ek Naari Do Roop” / Lyrics: Asad Bhopali

This hit Shatrughan Sinha-enacted song from a 1973 flop rehashed from a James Hadley Chase plot became an anthem after Rafi’s demise thanks to the “mukhda,” whose last line “Mujhko Mere Baad Zamana Dhondega (The world will look for me after I am gone).” And that indeed came true: Rafi’s voice and style unleashed clones like no other from Anwar, Shabbir Kumar, Mohammed Aziz and Sonu Nigam. Pyarelal’s hugely talented but understated brother Ganesh created this lovely.

“Taqdeer Ka Fasana” / “Sehra” / Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

Composer Ramlal was a genius who barely did a few films, but in this V. Shantaram hit this litany holds its place as a classic. It was a chartbuster in its time and remains alive even today, almost six decades down.

“Apni Aaadat Hai Sabko Salaam Karna” / “Pyar Diwana” / Asad Bhopali

Lala Sattar composed this frothy teaser song and it was enacted on screen by Kishore Kumar and Mumtaz. Yes, Rafi sang about eight songs for Kishore the actor. And if you did not know that Kishore was a singer with his own distinct tenor, you would say that Rafi’s was the perfect voice for him!

“Band Mutthi Lakh Ki” / “Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi” / Lyrics: Late Irshad

We break the rule of solos here only to include a song that Rafi (and Manna Dey) sang WITH Kishore Kumar, under the latter’s music direction! And Rafi took only one rupee as token payment from his colleague and close friend. Later for another song composed by Kumar that was never used for another film, Rafi refused to take any money! Rafi kept up the boisterous quotient with the other two stalwarts in this situational comical extravaganza.

“Oh My Love” / “My Love” / Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

This romantic thriller shot in Africa saw Rafi standing out with this solo in a Mukesh-fest. The typically Shashi Kapoor serenade for those times (almost all then were sung by Rafi!) was composed by Daan Singh, who composed for three complete and one incomplete film in his entire career!

“Madad Kijiye Tajdar-E-Madina” / “Dayar-E-Madina” / Lyrics: Abdur Rau Chaush

This slow melody was set to the placid motion of camels in the desert as a caravan of pilgrims  heads for the holy shrine of Madina. Rafi was a master at the Hindu devotional, but his mastery at the Muslim devotionals (including “Naat”) was equal even if not as well-known. Mohammed Shafi composed this stunning devotional number that was a fixture in the 1970s in Radio Ceylon’s “farmaishi” (Listener’s Choice) morning program.

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