‘Remembering Rafi : The unforgettable singer’

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Adoration for Mohammad Rafi, one of the legendary singers of the Indian cinema who died 35 years ago, is phenomenal. Rafi fans outnumber those of any contemporary singer and it won’t be wrong to say here that Rafi’s posthumous fame has been greater than what he enjoyed during his life time.

Rafi belonged to the golden age of Hindi lyrics and the songs of this legendary singer are known not only for their achievements in music but also for their lyrical richness.

Every year tribute concerts for the legendary singer draws huge audience and one such tribute is paid by Saleem Zamaan who organizes a concert every year in the memory of Mohammad Rafi This year it will be his 35th concert  which is scheduled for August 8 in Sydney.

Singer, writer , composer and  director, he dons different caps with enviable ease.  Gifted with a melodious voice and a humble persona, Saleem reproduces his idol’s songs with near perfect pitch, voice and expression.

Not only , Saleem has made a mark in the Indian music arena with his impeccable and soulful playback singing for several films on the silver screen but has also recited Sanskrit shlokas for the teleserial “Krishna” under the able guidance of music maestro Ravindra Jain.

Saleem has recorded all the songs of Film “Maine Pyar Kiya” in Spanish for Rajshri and has written lyrics for soap operas, private album songs and Walt Disney’s Hindi versions for telecast.

He has also composed and directed music for a telefilm ‘Pyar Hi Pyar’ cosigning with noted playback singers including Kavita Krishnamurti, Udit Narayan, Shanker Mahadevan, Mohammed Aziz, Sadhana Sargam, Kavita Paudwal and others.

Saleem was introduced to music by his father at a very young age and with the passage of time, Saleem developed more and more interest in music.

“Being the only child of my parents, my father always wanted me to be good in studies. We were in Karnataka when I was in Kindergarten and my dad prepared me for Air force school exam. He worked really hard on me and fortunately I stood first in the exam. At the prize distribution function, I still fondly remember marching to the stage in an air force uniform to receive the award. My father had also arranged with the school management for me to also present a song, which he had rigorously taught me for a week before the ceremony. I sang Rafi Saab’s  ‘Chhupa Chhupi  Bhaag Billi Aye Re’, for the event.  I seem to have rendered it good, as wife of Air vice Chief Marshall who was flown in from Delhi to present the award, whisked me away in the car and brought me back to my parents with a car full of toys,” said Saleem.

“This experience was the best inspiration a child could get for just singing a simple song . I was so glad to get the gifts that  I wanted to do this every year, and started to learn more songs which resulted in a passion that brought me  lots of accolades throughout life,” added Saleem.

“ I started participating in  music competitions  regularly and  used to win most  of the competitions. After completing my studies, I started  my own company and alongside used to  perform in the concerts and organize Rafi Saab’s concerts.  After some years, I opened a branch of my company in Mumbai and moved there to fulfill my dream of playback singing,” he added.

“Mumbai  proved to be a very lucky place for me as I got so  many opportunities and  the city also fulfilled my dream of play back singing,” said Saleem.

Saleem then migrated to New Zealand and stayed there for 15 years before migrating to Australia.

“I first visited Australia in 1991 for business reasons. Then in 1995, I was invited to perform a 7-concert music tour which included New Zealand. In 1997, I was invited again for a repeat concert tour of the two countries. Meanwhile, my family and I decided to make New Zealand home to raise our children. Life in Auckland was a dream until the global financial crisis struck in 2008-09, and after a few years of struggle to restore stability, we decided to make the hard decision of relocating to Australia in 2012 and since then we are organizing  tribute concerts here,” added Saleem.

About his Rafi’s tribute concerts, Saleem said, “Remembrance is an art in itself. Rafi songs are not only the gateway to sublime music but also the treasure trove of language. Rafi’s song leaves in the mind of the listener a feeling of goodness and love. His immortality lies not merely in the huge number of songs to which he lent his voice, but also in the way he approached each of his song”.

He believes Rafi is so popular because of his sweet voice and his ability to sing even the most complicated songs in the most simple style.

“I am die-hard fan of Rafi Saab , so after his death  I started paying tribute to the legendary singer by  organizing concerts. This year it will be my 35th annual tribute to Rafi Saab, and I am so delighted to find such a large number of like-minded music lovers in Sydney who are offering me unflinching support for this event. Last year, being my first in Sydney, I could only cater to a small audience of 300+ Rafi fans. This year, I am being supported by a small team of event managers to stage a bigger and better “concert with a difference” for 700+ Rafi fans at an acoustically-designed auditorium, C3 Conference Centre in Silverwater,” said Saleem.

“Some of Sydney’s finest musicians, singers and anchors have accepted my invitation to form a team of 12 freelance professionals, and we aim to present something uniquely different. My vision is to recreate some of the golden melodies as close to the original recording as possible, which can be quite challenging in a “live performance” for any team,”, he added.

“Most bands take the short-cut of playing simpler accompanying music to the intricately created ‘golden oldies’. The Sangeet Mehfil team will endeavour to take the harder path . Even if we could achieve 80% of our goal as a team, I can promise the audience a night to remember for a long time.”


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