Once Naushad Ali ji, when asked about Mohd Rafi, said Rafi Sahab was his most favorite singer. When the press reporter asked him the reason,  Naushad said for a playback singer, 7 essential qualities are necessary and Rafi possessed an 8th quality too which was rare for a playback singer.

Then the press reporter eagerly asked Naushad what are the 7 qualities and which is the 8th quality that Rafi Sahab had. Naushad answered.

For a playback singer the 7 qualities are.

Good Voice
Classical training
Voice modulation
Clarity in Base voice

He added apart from all these qualities Rafi had an 8th quality and that was he Is a very good person. He never had any ego or anything against anyone. He concentrated more on Riyaz and his work was everything for him.

But I would like to go a step or two further.

All great singers had most of the seven qualities and a few have the eighth too . But according to me, in my humble opinion, Rafi Sahab went beyond this, and changed the face of playback singing and Hindi film music forever with these following additional traits.

This is what makes him an undisputed genius

Passion and emotion:
No other singer could pack in passion and emotion that Rafi Sahab did. As someone rightly mentioned in a tribute, the rest of the singers sang from vocal chords, Rafi Sahab did from heart
Variations in Diction, and twisting a word:
This in my view was unique to Rafi Sahab. He could take up a word, throw it up in the air, play around with it with variations in diction, shifting the emphasis from one syllable to another. He was a bit restrained in this in the recordings, but this was heavenly in live shows. Take Subhanallah in KKK song or Sasur in Do Deewane Dil ke (Johar Mehmood in Goa), just as two off the cuff examples

Versatility of genres:
Most other singers were typecast in a particular genre (Manna Dey – Classical, Talat – Ghazal etc). But Rafi Sahab could sing in all genres and even invent his own genres (like singing for paanwala in Aaana o bhaijaan). In Qawalli he sounds better to me than the say Sabri Brothers, in Ghazal better than say Mehdi Hasan.

Demystifying Classical:
One of the biggest gifts that Naushad Sahab and Rafi Sahab {and to a lesser extent many other MDs} gave to the public of India was demystifying classical. Me (and am sure many others will confess to the same), are not even aware of the Raag, but are able to enjoy it to the hilt, unlike pure classical (of say Pandit Bhimsen Joshi), which classically untrained ears like me are not able to fully appreciate. (Just like Sabri brothers/Mehdi Hasan analogy mentioned earlier). It required a singer of Rafi Sahab’s caliber to do this. Pure genius.

Understanding the film situation:
I am told Rafi sahab used to understand the situation and the film story whenever possible. This shows his commitment and work ethics. It also translated into the song fitting in perfectly with the situation from Pyaasa to Guide.
Modulating the voice to suit the actor :
Modulation has already been listed above. But in countless songs, even without the video, you are able to guess the actor. This is pure genius (My favorite in this it is the lazy nasal drawl of Sanjeev Kumar)
Respecting the Captain, the music director:

Except a few songs, Rafi Sahab never dabbled in music direction (he could not given his hectic schedule). But he gave unconditional respect to the music director, whether he was a newcomer or a veteran. He in fact is told to have admonished Usha Khanna, who out of fear and respect did not point out an apparent flaw. In short he was not a back seat driver, the MD was in full control of the tune, irrespective of his/her stature.👏👏👏 Mind you, this was in an industry with history of second class citizen treatment (in terms of banners and payments ) to the relatively lesser known music directors

His willingness to adapt:
In the late 50s/60s, there was a shift from classical to semi-classical; in the 70s it was a shift to “sadak chaap” gaane. Rafi Sahab adapted, even at the cost of giving some “Sadak Chaap” gaane in 70s (unfortunately some others were better at it and it took him a while to catch up).

This for a Baiju Bawra singer was remarkable adaptation.
Modesty and Willingness to learn:
Right from following the fakir, to the apocryphal story of learning to sing like Talat from Khayyam for Ghazals, Rafi Sahab, despite being a genius, was always willing to learn. Modesty prevents me from saying anything further about his modesty

Live shows- the litmus test:
A recording room (even with the limited technology of Minoo Kartak) could edit out the defects in voice/sur (today’s singers of course have the luxury of plastic surgery). The litmus test is in live shows. You listen to Rafi Sahab live shows, they sound even better than originals. Pure heavenly bliss. Genius.
I consider myself lucky to be born in an era where I could enjoy listening to this genius.


A sad state of affairs

Cracking a joke in humor in lighter vein once in a while is one thing and perfectly fine but painting a community in bad light and as buffoons is not acceptable. Sikhs are a very broad minded community but this has crossed all toleration levels. They are shown as illiterate buffoons, jokers, crass, senseless people and all types of jokes are cracked at their expense. In serials, movies, everywhere, it has become a habit and trend. Are Sikhs really like this……..Why are Sikhs never depicted as suave and sophisticated people…….Aren’t their any? Or do the people who have made us a mockery, think so . If so they are sadly mistaken. Are all people from other communities suave, sophisticated and classy. Show me one community which is like this. Once in a while in light humour, it is OK, but if the image is depicted as a community of buffoons, then it hurts. I can say this with confidence and with a challenge that Sikhs are second to none. They are just 1.7 per cent of the population. If one compares them in proportion to their population, they will be way ahead in all spheres…. Smartness, intelligence, social behavior and what not. If you compile a list of 100 people who come tops in all spheres, viz, Smartness, personality, education and intelligence, just 2 are needed as per population percentage but I bet they will be manifold in propotion to their population. So it pains to see them being reduced to a a community of fools and Being mocked at every perceiveable occasion. This has to stop.

I would like to wind up by clarifying that I am not any religious fanatic and sincerely believe that God is one, only the ways to reach him are different,…. That’s why I respect all communities. ….so I’m not saying this as a narrow minded religious fanatic…..but as they say there is a limit to everything and even the finest of elastic snaps if stretched too much. I’m a very jovial person and don’t mind a little humor, here and there but too much of anything is never good…. So this has to stop….stop this slandering…………………..

Vinny Kohli

We are becoming a barbarian society….. Totally selfish and intolerant towards others….. Always trying to thrust our beliefs on others…. Instead we should be following the adage, “Live and let live” … Be strong and devoted towards your religion but at the same time don’t be jealous or run down those who do not belong to your religion……Harmony and compassion are words which exist only in the dictionary….. Everyone seems to have forgotten them….. Almost 70 years after Independence, we are actually far worse off than we were at that time. At that time the division was just physical…. Various Kingdoms ruled by different rulers… But these 70 years of being Independent have divided us on innumerous lines… Caste… Creed… Religion…. Region…. Financial…. Political….. and what not….A nation of 150 crore people but divided into thousands of fractions…. What a sorry state to be!!!!!!