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An endless feud between the fans of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar..

Mohammed Rafi was born at Kotla Sultan Singh, near Amritsar . Rafi displayed his talent for singing at the tender age of 13. The lure of movies beckoned him to Bombay in 1944. His first hit was the Tera Khilona Toota Balak from Anmol Ghadi in 1946. India lost this jewel on July 31, 1980. […]

Mohammed Rafi was born at Kotla Sultan Singh, near Amritsar . Rafi displayed his talent for singing at the tender age of 13. The lure of movies beckoned him to Bombay in 1944. His first hit was the Tera Khilona Toota Balak from Anmol Ghadi in 1946. India lost this jewel on July 31, 1980.

Abhas Kumar Ganguly, better known as Kishore Kumar was born on August 4, 1929 in Kandwa. Following the footsteps of his elder brother Ashok Kumar he too ventured into movies. But he soon realised that his heart was in singing. Under the patronage of RD Burman he soon flourished. He would at times compose and write songs himself. Sadly he passed away in October,1987.


The debate as to who was the greater singer carries on even today, even decades after their death. Both of them left an indelible mark in the world of Indian film music, a void that still cannot be filled today. No wonder that their fans are at constant feud with one another trying to prove that their hero was better.

It is a no secret that Mohammed Rafi was a trained classical singer and that Kishore Kumar had a natural talent. Hence Rafi’s fans feel that he was the more accomplished and skilful of the two. Kishoreda’s fans are of the opinion that though he may not have been trained, he had purity and sheer quality of voice. The fact that he wasn’t trained, and could still sing anything, both classical and non classical songs with equal magic rendered him more superior than Rafi.

Fans claim that Rafi was the most favoured singer for many veteran composers while Kishore Kumar was preferred by few and was a playback mainly for Dev Anand and later for Rajesh Khanna. Rafi on the other hand balanced his melodious voice for diverse stars like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor.

In support of Rafi’s greatness, many of his fans say Rafi sang for Kishore Kumar in films that Kishore himself acted. They also draw the attention to Rafi’s song Darde Dil in Karz which was based on a single note and proved that he was indeed blessed with God-gifted melody. Mohammed Rafi’s fans also claim that Sonu Nigam and Udit Narayan who belong to the Rafi school are technically better than Kumar Sanu, Babul Supriyo etc.


On the other hand, Kishore Kumar’s fans remind people of songs which he sang by melodiously incorporating his inimitable yodelling. Those numbers are extremely popular even today. They further claim that in the 70’s and 80’s, it was he who sang for a number of heroes.

This debate can go on endlessly. However it must be stated that both were great singers of their times and each had his own distinctive style.

There was no feud between the two and the immense respect that Kishore Kumar had for Mohammed Rafi is clearly seen in the photo during Rafi’s funeral. A silent, sad and grief-struck Kishore in the newspapers portrayed very well that no one except him understood what an irreparable loss had taken place in Indian film music.

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2,285 Responses to “An endless feud between the fans of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar..”

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  1. 1
    unknow Says:

    Dear Sir offourse there is no end but there is something clear like sun who is best singer ever born in bollywood,I can say what I want but important thing is the true is true,Rajesh Khanna said once that the song which singed by Anwar for him if there was MohdRafi he can’t sing it the way singed by Anwar!!!do u think so?we should not compare mohd Rafi with any singer said by many great people who know about music.if u have singer like Mohd Rafi u don’t need anyother singer to sing any tape of song to be sing by other singer boz mohd rafi can sing any tape of song so easy way but other singers they can’t,exp Shammi Kapoor used around 95% Mohd Rafi but if we go to Rajesh Khanna or mr Bachchan it not like that,if I like Sanu it not mean that he is the best singer,why we say that KK was not trained!!!!after singing thousands of songs and working with all MD he is not trained!!!!!!!???if he is not trained it mean that he is not a singer as i think but kk was great singer,why compare him as singer with mohd rafi?
    There is end of topic who is better as we know in our heart……

  2. 2
    Messi Says:

    Good article, but the one again will encourage many to start the so called debate.
    I don’t understand why each and every time they ignite people to start the comparison.

    Rafi is I think one of the greatest singers on the face of the Earth and so is Kishore Kumar
    Rafi mainly because of his sheer skills and Kishore Kumar mainly because of his Purity of
    voice. I don’t mean to say Rafi’s voice is not pure, neither do I say Kishore doesn’t have
    skills. But yes, one will overshadow the other on those points.

    I love both of them. One thing I don’t understand. What’s Rafi school. Ok, I think Rafi’s
    distinct syle and calibre made it a school. Sonu Nigam can be categorized under Rafi’s
    School. How come Udit ? There’s no similarity between his voice and style with Rafi’s.
    However Sonu has some similarity. But as a singer, Udit is far better than Sonu,
    is that the reason some people say he is also from Udit just to prove Rafi’s greatness ?

    I don’t understand this fact. Anybody can explain ? don’t start a debate. Just give me
    reasons that why Udit falls under Rafi school. Don’t just say that he himself has said
    that that’s why. That’s not a reason to believe.

    Thanks for the wonderful article. BTW, what about the author ? a Rafian or a Kishoreian ?

  3. 3
    Paresh Pai Says:

    IMHO, both Rafisahab and Kishoreda were two sides of the same coin. Both were equally important for the coin to exist, so why compare them ?

  4. 4
    Debjyoti Says:

    No doubt that Kishoreda is the greatest.

  5. 5
    Fanta Says:

    wot nonsense. Rafi was much better than K.K. Udit nor Sonu can come to Rafi’s gharana of singing. Not even close.

  6. 6
    Narayan Says:

    ALL MUSIC LOVERS,
    yes let us not compare these 2 great legends and enjoy the lovely evergreen hits given by them.
    Both had the best of relationship so why the fans should grudge anything against the legends.
    Rafi Sahabs photo along with Saigal sahabs potrait is displayed in the portico of Kishore da s house. Also Rafi Sahab in Kishore da’s last film charged a friendly 1 rupee.
    In the 70s when Rafi sahab was less used an ignorant person asked Kishore da ” Aapne Rafi ki chutti kar di”. The fool got a resounding slap from the legend promptly.
    I strongly feel all should enjoy the greatness of the legends without comparing and simply enjoy MUSIC which the TWO together dominated in the playback singing field.
    Narayanan

  7. 7
    Ramesh Says:

    Both Rafi saab and Kishoreda were great. They had mutal admiration for
    each other.
    As for settling for the best lets just say Mukeshji, as he was
    totally inimitable. That way Rafi or Kishore fans will not feel bad.

  8. 8
    humble Says:

    @ Messi

    When Udit says that he is from Rafi’s school, then why do you force him to pull out….strange!

  9. 9
    Debjyoti Says:

    Kishore Kumar is the most versatile of all singers.He is much ahead than Rafi.

  10. 10
    Debjyoti Says:

    Without any formal training,he reached unusual heights in playback singing.That’s what a genius is.

  11. 11
    Messi Says:

    So true Narayan & Paresh Pai, I liked it what you guys said.
    Sorry if I did anything wrong. Thanks for everything.

  12. 12
    Manish Kumar Says:

    If you like someone’s intrinsic voice – whatever he sings – you will naturally like it. This liking is personal and thus varies from person to person e.g. a Kishore fan will like Kishore’s voice and a Rafi fan will like Rafi’s voice. Voice is probably the most important factor which means that preference for a singer is subjective, personal, and ill suited to compare with another’s tastes. What you can do…is compare within yourself but that is about how far you can go.

    I really don’t like it when someone tries with good intentions to balance the debate by saying, “Kishore had the natural voice while Rafi was better trained.” I think Rafi had both! Yes, I liked Kishore’s version of Tum Bin Jaon Kahan better simply because of the yodelling. However, if you compare voice alone – I felt Rafi’s was more crisp and clearer and fuller.

    At the same time – I *try to refrain from generalzing Kishore’s voice. I think in the 50s and 60s his voice was more crisp and clear (listen to Mana Janab Ne Pukara Nahi 1957 or Mere Samne Waali Kirdhki 1968) than his voice in the 70s. My guess is that he was so popular in the 70s and so busy as a result that sometimes he just throated the song or quickly rendered it to keep up with assigments whereas in the 50s he had fewer songs and so he was able to dedicate himself more to each one.

    Another reason for Kishore not always delivering his best is because he emphasized playback singing as a business among exploitive people in the movie industry (how right he was!). In one incident, he was singing and Bappi Lahri told him to add some emotion to the song. Kishore said, “Give me 300 more rupees and I’ll put emotion into the song.” Do you think Kishore put his best effort into that song? I don’t blame him from a personal viewpoint (he should make the most he can) but as a singer he compromised his art (his song was still good thanks to his intrinsic voice but clearly he didn’t put in his best). I’m not saying that Kishore didn’t work hard or that he just throated every song – but I think you understand my thoughts. I cannot excuse Kishore as an artist for this!

    In sharp contrast, Rafi was always very dedicated to his singing and even on the day of his death as he recorded his last song – he didn’t fail to impress! This description is well documented. Additionally (again only my opinion) I can’t think of a single Rafi song where he doesn’t seem to sing from the heart and where the song isn’t gushing with emotion and

    My opinion is that Rafi had by far the best voice among the male singers – it wasn’t too deep or too low or too…it was just perfect. This is why Rafi’s voice could suit just about any actor and his record as a primary choice for over a dozen actors from the romantic Dharmendra to the quirky Mehmood to Johnny Walker to the rebel Shammi Kapoor – Rafi’s voice was a voice for all occasions. He also had that magic in the voice that is a rare gift (Kishore had it too).

    For my money – Rafi’s super voice quality was always consistent – from the 40s all the way until he breathed his last! Kishore’s voice was smooth and crisp in the 50s and 60s, somewhat coarse but deep and strong (great tone) in the 70s and 80s. Neverthleless, for me, Rafi’s voice was much better. It was sweeter, it was much more crisp and clear than any version of Kishore’s voice. That’s just me. Mohammed Rafi had the best voice.

    It is a fact that Rafi yodelled before Kishore! Kishore fans who unknowingly say that Kishore was the best yodeller have not heard Rafi yodel but indeed – Rafi’s vocals had no limits. He yodelled in a song from 40s or early 50s and IMO it was just as good as Kishore’s! Rafi rarely yodelled because he was trained singer and among trained singer this artistic trait (I think it is art) is looked down upon. This fact that I dare to say few KK fans knew of or believe – shows what great vocals Rafi had that he could be on the same ground of yodelling as the great Kishore Kumar!

    It is fact that Rafi had the wider vocal range and combining this with his superior training in classical music meant that Rafi could sing just about any song. While Kishore was very versatile – there are some songs that are SIMPLY out of his vocal range IMO. A song like “Ae Mohabat Zindabad” from Naushad’s Mughal E Azam requires a very, very high vocal range that no one but Rafi himself could match! When Shankar Jaikishan started out – they went to Rafi and asked him to sing as he pleased because he was the only one who could sing their composition (humble Rafi told them to tell him how they wanted it).

    It is fact that till 1969 Rafi sang 10X more songs than Kishore (and they were quality) and that MDs used Rafi more than Kishore from 1977-1980. That tells you something! Of the ~40 years together, Kishore had the better of Rafi for only 6 years. The “decline” of Rafi was inevitable because when you dominate for 20 years, the people need a brief change of something different and Kishore provided with that. I listen primarily to Rafi but every now and then I take a break for a fresh new style of voice and that voice is typically Kishore or Udit.

    Also know that if Kishore really had the natural voice (over Rafi’s) then…when Kishore started out as a singer he really struggled and people told him that he was no good or that his voice just didn’t have it. Mohammed Rafi’s voice was NEVER criticized like that at ANY point in his career – it testifies that Rafi Sahab’s intrinsic voice was tough to question. Kishore did receive an aura.

    Someone said that Rafi could not sing a song like “Arre Deewano Mujhe Pehchano” from Don. Are you kidding? A skilled singer of his voice control could sing that song in his sleep. Additionally, some could say that Kishore had a brilliant personality and that he could do funny songs that maybe Rafi could not. Again, I disagree because Rafi was a great singer who dedicated himself and had MAGIC and emotion and NUANCE in his voice. Rafi did a great job of capturing Kishore’s brilliant personality and nuances in the songs for which he did playback for Kishore. Rafi had personality too and could do just about any song – funny, yodel etc.

    Rafi had the best voice, he had the magic, and he had the training and range. I can’t think of another singer that has ALL of these four traits. These comparisons are only within me…you guys could think it is rubbish!

    Salamat Rahe Dostana Hamara – I thought Rafi’s voice had much more emotion here whereas Kishore maintained a stronger tone

    Zindagi Ek Safar – Rafi maintained a stronger tone and his voice was fuller and smoother.

    Hum Premi Prem Karna Chahe – Both maintained equal tone but for me, Rafi had more emotion in his voice.

    Tum Bin Jaaon Kahan – Rafi had a more crisp, clear voice. Kishore wins because artistically his yodelling had the edge but Rafi could have yodelled too if he wanted!

    After having written all this, I still say that my opinion against SOMEONE ElSE can potentially be an apple versus an orange. These opinions are against MY values and likes which aren’t universal hahaha. I’m also glad that we have BOTH to listen to!

  13. 13
    P. Haldar Says:

    I’d like to commend Manish Kumar for a very insightful analysis; I share most of his views.

    In the history of playback singing, there was no phenomenon like Rafi and there will never be one. The only singer to challenge Rafi was Kishore and we need to recognize that. Lata, Asha, Manna or Mukesh could never overshadow Rafi; Rafi simply towered above all of them. That it is why it is important to understand the reasons why Kishore could dethrone Rafi. Of course, there was always that issue of patronage from the Burmans, especially the younger one. Suffice it to say that without RD’s music, it would have been impossible for Kishore to displace Rafi. What RD created in the 1970-75 period was sheer magic and Kishore responded magnificently. They were made for one another. Though Rafi’s voice could easily cover the gamut of song types, there was (just) one dimension in which Kishore’s voice was superior. The genius in SD recognized that much earlier than anyone else; that is why he could exploit the two voices so well. But the son never realized that, although Rafi launched him into big league with Teesri Manzil. He let Kishore sing almost every song of his, including classical, folk, ghazal, etc. It is a stroke of irony that when Rafi got half a chance in HKKN, he came back with a bang. The difference between SD and RD ultimately is how they used Rafi. SD and Rafi defined what playback singing is all about in Pyasa (Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai) and it was they who could scale those lofty heights again in Kagaz ke Phool (Dekhi zamane ki yari). Listen to Rafi’s Din dhal jaye from Guide and it’d be difficult to discern that someone else is singing for Dev.

    Kishore was a spontaneous talent. Yes, Rafi could sing every song that Kishore sang but, in my humble opinion, Kishore would be slightly ahead in songs like Yeh dil na hota bechara, Zindagi ek safar hai suhana, Yeh kya hua, Yeh jo mohabbat hai, etc. That is the dimension I alluded to earlier. Rafi fans — and I am one — need to concede that and stop this needless debate that has been going on for the last 37 years.

    Rafi and Kishore fans should remember the mutual admiration and respect that these two playback giants shared. In 1983, three years after Rafi had died, Kishore came to sing at a concert in Kolkata. His first song was a Rabindra sangeet; his second was Rafi’s Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare from Chitralekha! Kishore was a self-avowed fan of Rafi’s (he once said, “I am his greatest fan”) and I am sure that Rafi, who hardly ever spoke, had the highest regard for the phenomenon that was Kishore.

  14. 14
    Messi Says:

    Hi Humble,

    First, When did Udit say that ? provide me the exact quote. Otherwise it’s tough to believe
    the media now a days.

    Second, He might have said that because Rafi is his favorite singer or he liked Rafi’s
    voice and style. But Udit’s voice and style don’t match with Rafi’s a bit. If you say Sonu
    is from Rafi’s school I can believe that even when Sonu deny it officially. But it’s tough
    to believe Udit case even he accepts that officially. Understand ?

  15. 15
    Bapan Says:

    Kumar Sanu,Abhijeet,Babul Supriyo,Vinod Rathode,Shaan,KK,Kunal all belong to the Kishore Kumar school of singing.Kishoreda is simply the best.He is God.

  16. 16
    unknow Says:

    when the people who know about music they speak about KK they say he was good singer but when they speak about mohd Rafi they said there never be other Mohd Rafi as a singer and human,Mohd rafi singed for KK for free but mr bachchan don’t i hope u know that kk fans,why u people useing kk name with RD as i think LP with kk was more better,when RD got his first film he went to Mohd Rafi to sing for him and said by RD that Mohd Rafi helped him makeing his first songs and he canelled with other MD and he singed for me after he singed I was thining that Is i made this song or it is the magic of Mohd Rafi voice.when Lata ji speak about Mohd Rafi she said he can sing an topic of song so easy but when she speak about KK she say about kk jokes,
    If we go for good music will see the good music star in 1950’s and end in 1980’s,the best music was in 1960’s,WHY?!!!!!as i think because of Mohd rafi…….why we compare?!!!!!!!!!!!???kk fans don’t have much to say but mohd rafi fans have much.

  17. 17
    Messi Says:

    Bapan,
    please stop now. Don’t just repeat the samething I have trying to stop.

    I agree with Haldar and Paresh Pai. Kishore was the one who could give a challenge
    to Rafi, that’s the reason some people don’t like him. I respect both of them and will
    always. So no stop using the bad words, mohdrafi.come website is full of all the words
    and posts.

    No more now, just enjoy.
    Thank you

  18. 18
    unknow Says:

    Dear messi,
    Lata ji is the best female singer she can’t challenge Mohd Rafi,Mannay Dey a great singer he said no way to challenge Mohd rafi,Talat ji knig of sad songs he can’t challenge mohd Rafi but I agree with that KK can challenge Mohd Rafi as actor but not singer,If u want say the way u want in this case any one can challenge any one as Pakistani or indian football team can challenge brazil football team,…….
    Plz dear Messi walk up from dreams don’t compare,Why u all kk fans like RD?why most of kk fans who know about music they never compare KK with Mohd Rafi they try to compare Mohd rafi with Lata ji?
    plz be honest with u r country where a singer like Mohd Rafi born.don’t compare great singers if u want to compare ask who know about music,who have the best song ever singed in bollywood?
    KK was good singer as other but Mohd rafi is and will be after hundreds years alive………………………

  19. 19
    irony81 Says:

    WHOEVER SAYS KISHORE IS BETTER THAN RAFI, HE OR SHE MUST BE A METALLY SICKO. SOME IDIOTS SAY THAT RAFI WAS TRAINED SO KISHORE WAS MORE TALENTED. TO HELL WITH THOSE OPINIONS. THEN AFRIDI IS MUCH MORE TALENTED THAN SACHIN AS SACHIN WAS TRAINED. I KNOW THE SAME VERY KISHORE FANS ARE FANS OF TENDULKAR BUT THEN THEY FORGET THAT SACHIN IS TRAINED.

    RAFI COULD SING THEM ALL. THE HARDEST OF HARDEST SONGS WERE SUNG BY RAFI. THEY WERE JUST MADE THINKING OF RAFI, NOT FOR LATA OR MANNA OR ASHA OR MUKESH, LET ALONE KK. “O DUNIYA KE RAKHWALE” IS THE HARDEST SONG IN THE ENTIRE WORLD SUNG BY RAFI. “DEKHI ZAMANE KI YAARI” THE MOST SENTIMENTAL SONG SUNG BY RAFI. KK HAD MUCH EASIER SONGS.

    WHEN YOU TALK WITH KISHORE FANS ABOUT SINGING, THEY ALWAYS BRING KK’S OTHER QUALITIES LIKE ACTING, DIRECTING, AND WHATEVER! COME ON GYUS. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT SINGING. WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN OTHERS! THEN RAFI FANS ALSO CAN BRING RAFI’S GREATEST QUALITY THAT KK DOESN’T HAVE. HIS HUMANITY AND GREAT BEHAVIOUR. HE EVEN SANG WITHOUT MONEY WHERE KISHORE (THE SPOILED CHILED OF A WEALTHY DAD) ALWAYS DEMENDED MONEY BEFORE SINGING. BANGALIS MOSTLY LIKE KISHORE AS HE WAS BANGALI, THAT’S IT.

    IF RAFI WAS BANGALI, THEY WOULD DEFINITELY SAY RAFI WAS MUCH BETTER.

  20. 20
    Manish Kumar Says:

    Thanks for the compliment. I actually regret posting now seeing what respect the two had for one another. In my defense – I did try to illustrate how LIMITED the comparison was – only within me.

    Many Kishore fans will say they don’t care for the song “O Duniya Ke Rakhwale” – that’s perfectly understandable and takes away the need for Kishore to be able to sing it! We cannot impose our likings on others! Sure they’d miss out on appreciation of vocal range but there are many great things in music instead!

    Irony8 – Kishore was absolutely right to demand payment first – if he did not he would have been EXPLOITED big time (and he was often when he let his guard down!).

    I wouldn’t get too much into the Bengali talk or Muslim. It’s silly to say that Kishore was only popular because he was Bengali! You are right to say that there was some prejudice against Rafi Sahab for being Muslim but isn’t prejudice everywhere? This is not a good topic to get into IMO. Prejudice can work both ways but forget it. One thing is for sure: India sure as hell loved and respected Rafi Sahab – did he get shortchanged sometimes? Maybe. But so did Kishore and Manna Dey and everyone for one reason or another (ethnicity, failure to appreciate talent etc.).

    As much fun I had comparing the two, my comparison is really inappropriate and POINTLESS to someone else. Let’s just be grateful that we had BOTH and if you like one then listen to him etc. !

    It is tough for me to resist the temptation of comparing but I’d be embarassed to face Rafi sahab if I made demeaning comments about Kishore I just do it in response to other fans who make comments that I find unreasonable.

  21. 21
    Manish Kumar Says:

    Btw…Udit Narayan actually took singing lessons from Kishore Kumar in the late 80s. Whether this formal “informal lesson” was just done so that Udit could say he took a lesson from Kishore Kumar or if the purpose was to emphasize a specific way of Kishore’s singing, it is interesting.

    It is well agreed that Udit is original and not really a member of Rafi school or Kishore school but…IMO he’s closer to Rafi. Rafi was UNIQUE in terms of his amazing quality and completeness but Kishore was more blatantly unique in the sense he was TOTALLY different from anyone else (whereas Rafi and another singer had some things in common but Rafi was just so much better and could do so much more, Kishore had some elements not seen in other singers at all! (Rafi had his own special unique magic and traits too but this is complicated)).

    Does Udit yodel like Kishore or sing crazy songs like Kishore regularly? No. Unique to Kishore.

  22. 22
    Bapan Says:

    Anil Biswas was totally anti Rafi.He liked Kishoreda’s singing very much.Kishoreda is GOD.Whoever says Rafi is better than Kishoreda,is mad and donkey.

  23. 23
    Bapan Says:

    Love u Kishoreda more than life.

  24. 24
    P. Haldar Says:

    I don’t know why this Bengali issue has come into the debate. I am a Bengali and there are hundreds of diehard Rafi fans that I personally know of in Kolkata. In Kolkata where I grew up, old-timers used to say, “Rafi is Rafi” to preempt any comparison with other singers. For Bengali songs, Kishore, Manna, Hemant, Lata and Asha (the first three are Bengalis) are definitely much more popular; Rafi sang very few Bengali songs. At one time, Talat (known as Tapan Kumar in Bengal) used to be also popular. But we are talking about Hindi songs and I wish some of you were there at the Netaji Indoor Stadium concert featuring RD, Asha, Kishore and Rafi in 1980. Rafi sang last because if he sang first, Kolkatans would have said, “function noshto hoye galo” (the function got spoiled). The response he evoked was simply unbelievable. Adjacent to the Netaji Indoor Stadium is the famous Eden Gardens, where Kolkatans once protested, “No Mushtaq No test”, and forced the selectors to bring back their favourite Mushtaq Ali. Kolkatans respect musicians and sportsmen for their talent, not for their ethnic or religious background.

  25. 25
    Manish Kumar Says:

    Wow…you went to a live concert by Rafi, Lata, and Kishore!?! I wonder how many concerts these three giants did together…that is amazing! You’re very lucky.

  26. 26
    unknow Says:

    Why we compare KK with Mohd Rafi?!!!!!plz don’t do that because this is KK site and i want know more about KK,don’t say what u feel but say what is true………..i want know in how many flims KK singed from 1969 to 1976 and how songs he singed can anyone answer me that?

  27. 27
    Sudip Says:

    I do not know why this Bengali thing has been drawn into this debate..Bengalis listen to a lot of Bengali songs by Kishore and hence are exposed more to Kishore. Also Kishore’s gayki was closer to the Bengali heart. Having said that, there are millions of rafi fans in bengal, including me. To me Indian music had 3 distinct eras-pre-Rafi era, Rafi era and post-Rafi era. In the pre-Rafi era we had MDs like Anil Biswas, Khemchand Prakash and singers like Saigal, Durrani. In the post Rafi era, quality of songs went downhill though KK, Lata and Asha were there. Rafi was the first one to break from the Saigal, Durrani style and introduce the style that lasts even today. If you liten to KK in his early days, he was imitating Saigal..He changed in the 1950s. To that extent, he was also a follower of the Rafi gharana.

    To be fair, let us categorize the different categories of songs of songs in Hindi films and try to name the top 3 male singers in each category (this is my ranking and preference btw, #1 being the best):

    A. Classical- 1. Manna De 2. Mohd Rafi 3. Bhupinder Singh
    B. Thumris and Ghazals- 1. Mohd. Rafi 2. Talat Mehmood 3. Jagjit Singh
    C. Western Rock: 1. Kishore Kumar 2. Amit Kumar 3. Mohd Rafi
    D. Devotional: 1. Mohd Rafi 2. Mahendra Kapoor 3. Narendra Chanchal/Manna De
    E. Sad songs-1. Mohd Rafi 2. Mukesh 3. Kishore Kumar (some people may swap #1 and #2)
    F. Happy songs- 1. Kishore Kumar 2. Mohd. Rafi 3. Lot of new singers (Sonu, Sanu, Udit………)
    G Patriotic songs: 1. Mohd Rafi 2. Mahendra Kapoor 3. Manna De

    I love Kishore songs as well, but I would welcome anyone to fill the list and explore if there is ANY category where Rafi does not figure. To me he is the bridge between the world of Kishore and the world of Mehdi Hasaan and Ghulam Ali.. Rafi was a phenomenon. Kishore’s expressions are understandable, he was an actor. But where did this man who was an introvert get all the expressions that we hear in “Chalkaye jaam” and “Arre Sambhalo (Khuda Kasam)”..

  28. 28
    Sudip Says:

    Sorry missed another classification:
    H. Qawwali 1. Nusrat 2. Mohd Rafi 3. Manna De/Sailendra Singh

    In short there is no song catgory where Rafi does not appear

  29. 29
    P. Haldar Says:

    Manish, the concert I referred to did not feature Lata; it had RD & Asha, Kishore and Rafi (in that order). At the same venue, Rafi performed along with Bhupinder and Runa Laila in 1979, and with Kishore and Runa Laila in 1977. I was fortunate to attend all of them. In 1967 at the Rabindra Sadan Stadium in Kolkata, the whole world of music was there for the Ashok Kumar Nite, but riots broke out before Rafi, Lata, Kishore or Mukesh could reach the venue! That’s Kolkata for you; not a place for the weak-hearted.

    Sudip, I liked your analysis but I’d differ with you on two points. For classical songs, I would rate Rafi No. 1. Madhuban mein radhika is the kohinoor of Indian film music, and Man tadpat hari darshan is the finest exposition of Malkhauns to date. It’s difficult to pigeonhole Rafi into any genre, unlike Manna whom we view mainly a classical singer, Talat as a ghazal singer or Mukesh as a singer of sad songs.

    I’d rate Rafi No. 1 in the rock ‘n roll category too. He was the first to sing in that genre (Laal laal gaal jaan pe hai labu in Mr. X) and he worked wonders for Shammi; for example, listen to Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche from Brahmachari or Aaja aaja main hun pyar tera. The way the way the western audiences have reacted to a much lesser known song from Gumnam (Jaan pechchan ho has been used in the titles of Ghost World) is incredible.

    The dimension that Kishore was better in — again, in my humble opinion — was in songs like Yeh jo mohabbat hai, Yeh dil na hota bechara, Yeh kya hua, Zindagi ek safar, Bhanwre ke gunjan and yes, at the risk of committing blasphemy, Tum bin jawoon kahan. I don’t know how to label that genre, probably just call it the Kishore genre, so unique was his full-throated rendition in those songs. I also sometimes wonder if Rafi could have the had the same effect as Kishore in Phoolon ke rang se (Prem Pujari) but I think the old man made a wise decision. Ultimately, it’s the effect that matters and the fact that Kishore could dethrone the mighty Rafi is a tribute to his talent. Rafi came back in 1976 with a bang and at the time of his death, both he and Kishore were at the top. What would have happened if Rafi didn’t die prematurely is anybody’s guess, but it’d be fair to point out that he had the momentum and RD was being forced to use Rafi more and more. If Kya hua tera wada and Maine poochha chand se were in the Tumne mujhe dekha genre, Yamma yamma belonged to the Aaja Aaja main hoon pyar tera style. And I couldn’t believe that RD could compose qawaalis till I heard Hai agar dushman (HKKN) and Pal do pal ke saath hamara (Burning Train). But before RD and Rafi could recreate their memories of the 60s in the 80s, the man Kolkatans lovingly called ROFI was gone!

  30. 30
    Bapan Says:

    Kishoreda is infinity times better than Rafi.

  31. 31
    jayanta Says:

    kishore’da by far is the best playback singer,he had everything inspite of not receiving any formal training, the 50’s and 60’s belonged to rafi..but after aradhana, it was a single way journey to the top for kishore, and he is still there as an uncrowned king!

  32. 32
    Hussein Sheikh Says:

    Bapan, you’re totally wrong, you’re a bengali and KK was ben[gali]… Rafi Saheb is the best playback singer of India.

  33. 33
    Hussein Sheikh Says:

    Manish Kumar, i do agree with you……. Rafi Saheb was a legends legend.

  34. 34
    unknow Says:

    Sir Jayanta,
    Are you KK fan?!!!!!!do u know who used this word uncrowned king?Do u think that Aradhana was hit because of Music if yes there are two mohd Rafi super hit songs with Lata ji….would u please give me list of KK flims from 1969 to 1976…….Do u know who is KK?

    Sir Sudip,
    thanks for u list of Western Rock as u said 1. Kishore Kumar 2. Amit Kumar 3. Mohd Rafi!!!!!but If u know first bollywood song was copied was rock song made by Ravi and singed by Mohd Rafi,u put KK and Amit Kummar before Mohd Rafi!!!!!!!!in flims songs no one can be number one else than mohd rafi………….
    sorry to say there some people in this site they don’t know about kk how great actor he was they try to say some thing said to other like uncrowned king said by Raj Kapoor to Mohd Rafi he didn’t Mohd Rafi but he said the true

  35. 35
    Hussein Sheikh Says:

    Music directors like Anil Biswas, C. Ramchandra, Salil Chaudhry, etc… who were anti Rafi never reached to top, but they came down very fast. But others like SJ, Naushad, LP, KA, Ravi, etc.. prefered Rafi Saheb remained on top. This shows Rafi Saheb’s high class.

  36. 36
    Sudip Says:

    P Haldar:
    I agree with your analysis but I have my own ranking.. But more importantly, your comment on Kishore’s style is absolutely correct. It is very difficult to argue with Kishore’s fans because they only care about that genre. If you confine your preferences to that genre, you cannot like anyone other than Kishore (and possibly his son). Technically it is the same gayki used in Rabindra Sangeets-full throated voice with lot of bass. Rafi’s technique and style is closer to another line of Bengali songs i.e. Nazrool Geeti. Based on similar judgements, I prefer Nazrool Geeti to Rabindra Sangeet. Kishore’s voice is golden but pretty unidimensional with a few variations here and there, the tone is pretty much the same irrespective of the mood. Rafi’s voice is like a river with variations in every turn.

    This is the reason why sentimental songs of Kishore can be played anywhere, in puja pandals, in weddings, everywhere.. Rafi makes a clear distinction in treatment between songs that are made for puja pandals and songs that can be only listened to in pensive solitude. I have never heard “Aapke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai” or “Tumse kahoon ek baat” or “Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki” in puja pandals.

    No one has responded to my list of categories/genres and tried to see how the greats figure in that list..If they had done, they would clearly find out why the Outlook magazine and countless people nominated Rafi as the greatest playback singer of all time.

  37. 37
    KKKLAN Says:

    Undoubtedly,Kishoreda is the greatest of all playback singers.Initially he focussed more on acting,he was also a great actor.Later,when he turned only to singing,Rafi and other singers were sweeped out.

  38. 38
    KKKLAN Says:

    Yes Jayanta,Kishoreda is the king.Everyone fromRD,SD,LP,K-A,Rajesh Roshan,Bappi Lahiri,Hemant Kumar,Salilda,Anil Biswas preferred Kishoreda to any other singer.

  39. 39
    P. Haldar Says:

    Dear Sudip,

    I’m glad to know that there’s someone on the same wavelength. The three songs of Rafi’s that you mention were composed by OP, Madan Mohan and Khayyam, all Rafi loyalists. In particular, I have immense respect for Madan Mohan for never wavering in his support for Rafi, even during his lean period. What pains me is when people start attributing compositions like “Tum jo mil gaye ho” to their loRD. It started with the SD tunes, some of which may be valid. But when some of those fanatics started claiming that “Kahin bekhayal hokar” from Teen Deviyan was also copied by the old man from his son, I realized that these guys would say anything to prove their point. A recent thread in this group has discovered the similarities between “Kuchh na kaho kuchh bhi na kaho” (1942: A Love Story) and Dekhi Zamane ke Yaari” (Kagaz ke Phool). I won’t be surprised if someday there’s an announcement that it was actually the younger Burman who composed the latter tune! Actually, the other hit from 1942 (Ed ladki ko dekha to aisa laga) is reminiscent of Rafi’s “Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar” (TGKS). Needless to say, if Kishore and Rafi were both alive and if RD had the power to dictate, both the 1942 songs would have gone to his favourite Kishore. SD’s selection of singers, on the other hand, was exceptionally good, rivaled perhaps by SJ.

    We are blessed that our country produced such great singers as Kishore, Lata, Manna, Asha, Mukesh and Geeta. But in the history of playback singing, Rafi stands as the tallest (no offence to Kishore fans; they are entitled to their own opinions). Unlike the Mangeshkar sisters, Rafi did not have a publicity machine and he didn’t care for one either. To him it was the song that mattered. And when I listen to the strains of “Dekhi zamane ke yari” almost 50 years after he lip-synched for Guru Dutt, I don’t think there’s any singer — dead or alive, male or female, North or South, Bengali or non-Bengali — who would even come close.

  40. 40
    P. Haldar Says:

    Sudip, rather than focusing on genres, I have listed below the singers who are similar to Rafi in different ways:

    Kishore’s vibrance and “masti”
    Asha’s versatility and range
    Lata’s technical perfection and melody
    Manna’s “ustadi”
    Mukesh’s pathos
    Talat’s silky touch
    Geeta’s sensuousness
    Hemant’s sweetness

  41. 41
    Messi Says:

    Oops God !!! I have told infinite times not to compare like this. It seems most of the above
    are just crap, except few tells some truth but not foolish.

    Some of the above posts are really horrible, I mean I doubt on their age and maturity.
    They are great siners man, Rafi vs. Kishore debate is just too much.

    Again this religion fact is so ugly. Learn some manner man and change your attitude.

  42. 42
    P. Haldar Says:

    Hi Messi, the KK-Rafi wars used to be much worse when they were alive. Believe me, they have become much more subdued now. Those days, you couldn’t say anything good about the singer in the other camp, such was the animosity. We should all try to tone down a bit, especially with respect to religion and ethnicity.

    Sudip, you made a very interesting remark on the two different styles of Rabindra sangeet and Nazrul geeti (for the uninitiated, those are respectively the compositions of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, two of Bengal’s greatest poets). Satyajit Ray made excellent use of Kishore in Charulata (Ami chini go chi tomare). Much later, when Rajesh Roshan lifted the tune of another Rabindra sangeet (Tomar holo suru amar holo sara) for the “Chhoo kar mere manko” song in Yarana, Kishore was incredible. It sounded better than the original! Rafi, as you have rightly pointed out, would be way ahead in Nazrul geeti given that it’s closer to classical-based ghazals. In fact, he cut an LP disc titled “Aajo modhuro bansori baaje” a month or two before he died. But I want to point out that Rabindra sangeet itself has a myriad of styles, some of which are classical-based, and I’d venture to add that Rafi would have done full justice to those songs. The song “Piu bole piya bole” from Parineeta is also based on a Rabindra sangeet and I’m sure Rafi would have excelled in that soft, romantic song too.

  43. 43
    jayanta Says:

    rafi fans must admit, that rafi was going great guns during the 50’s and 60’s, where most great MDs’ prefferred him more, but during tat time, kishore was concentrating more on acting rather than more on singing!
    and after aradhana things changed altogether, kishore rose to the top, and it was a one way journey!

  44. 44
    Sudip Says:

    “fromRD,SD,LP,K-A,Rajesh Roshan,Bappi Lahiri,Hemant Kumar,Salilda,Anil Biswas preferred Kishoreda to any other singer.”

    They went with the tide (producers’ preference).
    And who told you that KK was #1 singer for Hemant, SD and LP?

    -Hemanta’s son in a recent interview has stated that his dad used to think that there was no one even close to Rafi (even Nitin Mukesh had a similar opinion).
    -Rafi was undoubtedly SD’s favorite singer. Even during the lean days, SD made sure Rafi gets some footprint in the songs. Rafi weaved magic with the single songs he got in Abhimaan and Gambler, for instance.
    -Time and again, LP has told that Rafi was their numero uno singer. KK had sung 396 songs for LP and Rafi had sung 369, but 140 of those KK songs were recorded after Rafi’s death.

    Pls check facts before commenting.

  45. 45
    Sudip Says:

    Adding:
    “fromRD,SD,LP,K-A,Rajesh Roshan,Bappi Lahiri,Hemant Kumar,Salilda,Anil Biswas preferred Kishoreda to any other singer.”

    They went with the tide (producers’ insistence because Kishore was selling).
    And who told you that KK was #1 singer for Hemant, SD and LP?

    -Hemanta’s son (Jayanta Mukherjee) in a recent interview has stated that his dad used to think that there was no one even close to Rafi (even Nitin Mukesh had a similar opinion).
    -Rafi was undoubtedly SD’s favorite singer. Even during the lean days, SD made sure Rafi gets some footprint in the songs. Rafi weaved magic with the single songs he got in Abhimaan and Gambler, for instance.
    -Time and again, LP has told that Rafi was their numero uno singer. KK had sung 396 songs for LP and Rafi had sung 369, but 140 of those KK songs were recorded after Rafi’s death.
    -Mukesh was K-A’s favorite singer, not Kishore. Kishore may have sung more songs for KA, but that does not prove anything. It is like saying Anu Malik prefers Alka to Lata because Alka has sung more songs for him. It is purely a circumstantial issue, nothing to do with who he thinks a better singer is.
    -Same with Rajesh Roshan. They used Rafi selectively because of their style. Unless Rajesh thought his dad (Roshan) was an idiot, who understood zilch of music, there is no reason why he would think badly of Rafi.

    That leaves us with RD and Bappi. I have nothing to tell about RD except thay wanted a fresh voice and Kishore provided that.

    Bappi was Kishore’s nephew..I do not need to justify further.

    Pls check facts before commenting.

  46. 46
    Manish Kumar Says:

    Sudip – I have some questions. Can you rank the singers used the most by Shankar Jaikishan? Also, are you sure about SD choosing Rafi the most? I agree this was the case before 1969 but when RD took over, SD had little say. Did SD ever really compose after 1969 and if so, didn’t he “realize” that Kishore was the way to go (essentially, SD changed his mind to Kishore now seeing the popularity)? I of course, like Rafi the most, but I do think Kishore provided a fresh alternative after Rafi had dominated for 20 years and so the shift in dominance for a short while was inevitable.

    Interesting point about LP – when I read the beginning of your sentence, I was shocked – and then I realized yeah, they recorded more with KK after 1980.

  47. 47
    Messi Says:

    Hi Guys,

    There was nothing wrong in SD, RBD’s way of thinking. They just tried with different
    singers, they know the calibre of the singers so gave different songs to different singers
    and when you listen to them, you will feel this is the only singer who can do justice to this
    song. This is how it works, it’s not that others can’t sing it.

    Be it Hum kisi se Kam nahi, Guide, Amar Prem, Aradhana: songs are of different genres
    so the voices suit them perfectly. Don’t find faults in Singers and Composers man.

    Sudip, Haldar I agree. Let’s now move on to discussing different short stories/conversations
    between Rafi and Kishore. Whoever knows anything, please post.

    At least, stop this good, the bad and the ugly business.

  48. 48
    Sudip Says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Kishore Kumar had a terrific voice.. He is the voice of the youth.. He represents the exuberance and freshness of youth, something that rightly fit RD’s kind of music. But extending that to say he is the #1 singer is oversimplifying judgement on music.

    Rafi was the #1 singer in SJ’s list, to the extent that I personally think SJ overused him. Apart from Rangoli (1962) I cannot recall any other film where Kishore gave hits under SJ banner before Aradhana. SJ used Kishore more after Aradhana, but by that time interestingly Shankar and Jaikishan had also parted (though they were operating under the SJ banner). To the best of my knowledge one preferred KK while the other preferred Rafi after their separation.

    SD’s post-Aradhana association with Rafi is excellently captured here:
    http://inhome.rediff.com/movies/2000/oct/31burman.htm

    I think there were two factors in play here:
    1. Producers usually went with the market pulse and it is an established fact that Kishore’s freshness was well accepted among the masses during the early 1970s.

    2. The arrival of new set of actors also heralded this transition. Lot of music directors like KA always went for an actor-singer combination. Kishore was Kalyanji’s de-facto choice for Amitabh and Rajesh Khanna (Raaz, Choti Bahu, etc are exceptions), Rafi for Vinod Khanna, Shashi Kapoor and Anil Dhawan, Mahendra Kapoor for Manoj Kumar (there were few exceptions here and there). I doubt if Amitabh had Rajendra Kumar’s personality and voice, the transition would have been that welcome.

  49. 49
    unknow Says:

    Dear Sudip,
    If there is real king as MD I think RD is not in best five,As I think the best is 1,SJ boz they had hit songs With all singer who singed for they,2,Naushand boz he changed the way f music,3,LP after SJ I think they had hit with most of singer who singed for them,4,Madam Mohan who made magic with Mohd Rafi and Lata Ji voice,5, SD burman who dade magic with Dev Anand with Mohd Rafi as I think….

  50. 50
    P. Haldar Says:

    Let us salute the singers and music directors for the gems they have delivered for us. Sudip, I’m not sure if the numbers you’ve given are correct. I’ve seen elsewhere that LP have composed the maximum songs (including duets) for Rafi, though SJ gave Rafi the maximum number of solos. Shankar was more inclined toward Manna and Mukesh, while Jai was Rafi-oriented. Being the exceptional talent that he was, Jai used Kishore very effectively too in Zindagi ek safar, Bhanwre ke gunjan and Geet gaat hoon main. But Rafi was his real star: Baharon phool barsaon, Yeh mera prempatra kar, most of the Shammi songs,… But I agree with Sudip that Jai overused Rafi to the extent that some of his songs became a trite boring. Also, Jai gave Rafi the maximum freedom to maneouvre and Rafi sometimes overdid the gimmicks part. But the biggest blow to Rafi, which surprisingly no one touches on, is Jai’s death in 1971. If Jai were alive, he could have used Rafi to counter RD’s rise. With Jai gone and OP’s fortunes going steeply downward, there was no one to give a real boost to Rafi in the early 70s.

    Unlike SJ, Naushad wouldn’t give any freedom to Rafi or, for that matter, any other singer. It had to be his way. SD would give Rafi more room (e.g., the way he cracks his voice in the last stanza in Din dhal jaye or his playful banter with Asha in Achha ji main haar gaya maan jawo na) but it was always under control. In an interview SD gave in the early 70’s, he called Rafi his first serve and Kishore his second. It didn’t mean that he preferred Rafi to Kishore. What he meant was that he would try hard to serve aces with Rafi (Hum bekhudi mein tum, Khoya khoya chand, Din dhal jaye) but sometimes they went wayward. With Kishore he wanted to be more sure.

    Rafi’s voice had so many degrees of freedom that it was much more difficult to rein all of them in together. Kishore’s advantage and appeal lay in the fact that he could sing straight in his open-throated, rich voice. In fact, the lack of training was to his advantage. If he had received formal training (like Rafi and Manna), I’m not sure he would have able to reach the heights he did.

    In terms of MDs, for Kishore it is Burman & Burman. Take them out, and there’s not a whole lot; some LP, some KA, and some others. One of you mentioned Salil, but Salil’s favourites were Mukesh, Hemant and Talat; never cared much for Rafi or Kishore.

    For Rafi here are the top MDs (the order keeps changing for me ever so often): SD, Naushad, SJ, Madan Mohan, OP, Roshan, Khayyam, LP and Ravi. Among all these MDs, SD and Madan Mohan made the most innovative experimentations with his voice.

    Anil Biswas’s favourite singers were Talat, Mukesh and Manna. As for the comment he made regarding Rafi (“Rafi is no singer”), let me remind Kishore’s fans what their guru said in response: “It’s a stupid statement. I am his greatest fan”. To Rafi, what Anil, Salil or Anna said didn’t matter. At the end of the day, he knew that he was better than anyone in making your hearts sing. When you talk about Rafi, you’ll have to identify which Rafi you are talking about. There are so many Rafi’s; the Rafi of Man tadpat darshan and Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare, the Rafi of Suhani raat dhal chuki and Hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare, the Rafi of Tumhare zulf ke sayen mein and Jaane kya dhoonti rahati, the Rafi or Baharon phool barsao and Tere mere sapne, the Rafi of Madhuban mein radhika and Naache man mora magan dhikna dhiki dhiki, the Rafi of Yeh ishq ishq ishq and Parda hai parda, the Rafi of Yahoo chahe koi mujhe jungle kahe and Cuckoo mast baharon ka main aashiq, the Rafi of Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera and Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche,…. The list is endless. He started so many genres in playback singing; it’s simply mind-boggling! Ultimately, Rafi can compete only with Himself.

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