A tribute to Mohammed Aziz, who had a voice and style like Mohammed Rafi
Mohammed Aziz, who passed away a few days ago, always wanted to sing like Mohammed Rafi. So did many others. After all, Rafi’s voice is considered gold. A shining model for male playback singing.
Aziz copied him gladly, unabashedly. He was one of the many singers whom Rafi inspired. Some of them made successful careers in Bollywood trying to sing like him.
Aziz used to be one of the busiest singers in Bollywood in the 1980s and 90s. He proved that one did not need a completely original voice or style to succeed in playback singing.
Aziz did sound like Rafi yes, and his style was similar, too.
Like his idol, he could be at home at higher octaves, as he showed in songs like “Saare shikwe gile…(Azaad Desh Ke Ghulam). He had several chart-toppers to his credit, including his melodious duets tuned by Laxmikant-Pyarelal for Khuda Gawah—Tu mujhe kabool…and Tu na jaa mere badshah…
But he wasn’t the best clone, perhaps. That title would probably go to Anwar.
Listen to some of Anwar’s songs such as Mohabbat ab tijaara ban gayi hai…(Arpan), Dosti imtihaa leti hai… (Naseeb), Hum se ka bhool hui… (Janta Havaldar), Sohni meri Sohni…(Sohni Mahiwal) and Tu mere paas hai…(Do Dishayen) and you will find the similarity striking.
Another singer who earned success as a Rafi clone was Shabbir Kumar, who became an instant hit with the songs RD Burman composed for Betaab (Jab hum jawan honge…, Badal yun garajta hai…). Interestingly, both Shabbir and Aziz sang for Amitabh in the same film–Mard.
Shabbir, who had already made it big, sang Buri nazarwaale…, while for Aziz, who got to render the more popular Mard tangewaala…, the 1985 film directed by Manmohan Desai proved a big break. The singer who came to Mumbai from Kolkata, where he used to sing in restaurants, had arrived.
Rafi had died. But, directors, composers and listeners wanted to have more songs that could have been perfect for him, so there was room enough for the Rafi clones. Singers like Anwar, Shabbir and Aziz made good use of that.
It is too easy to dismiss singers like them are as mere clones and that they would be better off becoming originals, but the influence of a great singer may not be that easy to shrug off. Aziz never denied the influence of Rafi on him.
“I have been inspired by Rafi Sahab all my life,” he had said in Suajata Dev’s book Mohammed Rafi:Voice of a Nation. “And though I have made constant endeavour to do justice to his songs, as I have sung them on stage, but no singer can match up to Rafi Sahab’s singing.”
When a song needed to be recorded as a tribute to Rafi in the film Krodh, Aziz was chosen as the singer. The song was Na fankar tujhsa…
“Amitabh was to sing the song on stage in memory of Rafi Sahab in the film Krodh (1990),” Aziz said in the book. “I am told that the entire team of this film, comprising composers Laxikant-Pyarelal, director Shashilal Nair and producer Pappu Verma, sat down to deliberate on the singer who would be able to do justice to this song. They ultimately selected me. It was a moment of great pride for me. It’s like Rafi Sahab bestowing his blessings on me.”
The period in which singers like Aziz dominated wasn’t the best for Hindi film music. The golden era was the 1960s and 70s. There was, however, a lot of great music in the early 80s as well, thanks to composers like RD Burman and Khayyam.
But even in the latter part of the 80s or the 90s, you still could come across several melodious songs. And those songs were very Indian.
As you are saddened by the death of Aziz, you would want to go back to those songs, some of them sung by him.