Wednesday, May 09, 2012

O bummer

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Sahara India"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

UP UP and away

Friday, February 17, 2012

Naak mein dum

Monday, February 06, 2012

Cigar, but no close

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Rafi tribute that I wrote last year for Yahoo! India News

Tum mujhey yuun bhula na paaoge

The strains of the itinerant fakir's chants wafted across the gentle summer air of a hamlet in Amritsar. They had done so, day after day, from time immemorial. But, to an impressionable ten year old, the chants were special. He would hum along, and into the day, long after the vagrant's croons had died into the distance. A dozen or so years before the partition, Pheeko and his folks would migrate to Lahore, where, thanks to a brother-in-law with a keen eye for talent, the boy would learn classical music from maestros Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwanlal Matto and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

A serendipitous opportunity to sing in a KL Saigal concert at the age of 13 and a chance to do vocals for the Punjabi film Gul Baloch in 1941 preceded the inevitable - an offer for a Hindi film, Gaon Ki Gori. Soon, Mumbai beckoned. Many films and hits followed, putting Pheeko on the path to stardom. He had already collaborated with that maestro of a music director, Naushad. But it took a Baiju Bawra in 1952 to catapult both of them to stratospheric heights of fame, and to cement a partnership that would rule the charts of Hindi film music through the 50s and a better part of the 60s. Pheeko lent his voice for nearly every composer on the horizon. His associations with music directors OP Nayyar, SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Madan Mohan and with singers Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, all legends in their own right, are the stuff of fairytales. Time was when a Pheeko song meant the film was guaranteed to be a blockbuster, regardless of the film-maker, story and cast. He even sang for several nondescript film-makers, sometimes in exchange for pittances.

Without a shadow of doubt, any language would fall short of adjectives in describing the qualities that make Pheeko's voice magical. The pathos of O duniya ke rakhwaale, the relentless pain of Rang aur noor ki baaraat, the lilting romance of Teri Aankhon ke siva, the gay abandon of Aaja Aaja mein huun paar tera, the sensuousness of Na ja kahin ab na ja, the chaste classicism of Man tarpat hari darshan ko, his is a voice that can convey a million emotions.

With a body of work too stupendous to make even a superficial dent on in this column, and a vocal range more all-encompassing than just three octaves, Pheeko touched the heartstrings of the pamara and the pandita alike.

They say his golden voice was lost three decades ago. I say we have yet to find it in his entirety. They say Pheeko died on that inauspicious day. I say he merely merged into eternity. No, Pheeko didn't die. Pheekos never die.

Oh, and before I forget, Pheeko charted the path to immortality as Mohammed Rafi. And on this day, I cannot help but quote Anand Bakshi from what was Rafi's last recorded song -

Tere aane kee aas hai dost,
Shaam phir kyon udaas hai dost?
Mehkee mehkee fizaa
Yeh kehtee hai tu kahin aas paas hai dost

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spat out