Goa has an ocean of talent. Goans have gone places in various fields of art and culture. Music is running in the blood of Goans. Goan musicians have contributed a lot to the Indian music industry in Bollywood. When we talk about Goa and music the first name that flashes into our mind is Lata Mangeshkar but there are hundreds and thousands of more who have done their bit of contribution in this field making the music as a mission of their life but yet did not get the needed recognition. This time, I am going to tell you the story of one such person who is highly talented and yet down to earth and his contribution and dedication towards the giant of music maestro Mohd. Rafi Ji.
Yes, I am talking about the voice of Rafi in Goa Shri. Rajiv Singbal. Rajiv started the trend of celebrating the death anniversary of late Mohd Rafi by organizing a program “Ek Shaam Rafi ke Naam” in the memory of Rafi at one of the reputed hotel in the city, that too by paying all the expenses from his own pocket. But why he would do that? The only answer to this according to him is, he worship Rafi ji like a god. “He is my demigod. Come and see at my place I have many pictures of him and every morning I do pooja (prayers) by singing his own songs,” says Singbal.
There are many examples of being a fan of someone to the limits of insanity but here Rajiv Singbal is has set up an example to all of them by devoting himself to his idol by keeping him alive forever.
I met Rajiv almost 3 years back and since I am also the great fan of Rafi Ji, we had a lot of talk on the subject that would draw both of us. At that moment, I realized the depth of devotion Rajiv has towards Rafi ji. He was talking and I was just listening but then I did not think of making any sort of story out of it. The time went by and after three years Rajiv called me one more time and he appreciated my efforts towards the bringing the Goan talents out on the platform of Incredible Goa. This made me ask him for his interview, this time, to feature him in this section. I had many questions to ask him and find out what made him do towards the cause of music lovers that he is doing presently by spending the money from his own pocket and after talking to him in details here I present to you the story of Goan voice of Mohd. Rafi, Rajiv Singbal.
According to Rajiv, he comes from the very decent background, being of Goan origin but born and brought up in Mumbai Rajiv had an inclination towards the music right from the young age.
I lived in Mumbai near Shivaji Park. Mohd Rafi chapter started right from the time I was in school. I still remember, in recess, I used to go to the famous Irani restaurant to have Kheema-Bread (this is one of the famous dishes of Irani hotels in Mumbai, if you ever lived in Mumbai you will surely know what I am talking about). At that time a man wearing full white shirt and pant with the smile always spread across his face used to come there every day. He used to have a small diary with him and used make calls from there. I remembered seeing him doing the same on several occasions. Later on, I came to that he was none other than my idol Shri. Mohd Rafi Ji. At that time, I was around 12 years only but I remember my mother telling me that when I was 3 years old, I used to sing Rafi Ji’s song “Akhon hi Akhon me Ishara ho gaya” with that baby voice of mine,” Singbal narrated the whole episode as he recollected.
According to Rajiv, the love towards the music did not develop in him out of the blue but he has a sound background for it. “My both parents are from a musical background. My mother loves music and my father used to play Harmonium, Flute and Violin and several other musical instruments. When I was a kid, I used to feel that actors do sing themselves in the movie; it was only later on that I came know that there is something called background music and actors do not sing themselves while the singers do. Rafi saheb used to sing for Dilip Kumar ji,” said Rajiv
According to Rajiv, his first journey towards being the ‘Fan’ of Rafi ji began when he started listening to the songs of Rafi ji on BINAKA GEET MALA (a famous radio program in those days, when only AM and SW stations did exists). “I used to listen to the Binaka every Wednesday between 9 & 10 without fail and that voice of Rafi just mesmerized me and that was the time I fell in love with Rafi ji’s superhuman voice quality. I remember singing Rafi Ji’s songs in school and college and the appreciation that I received every time I was sung.
After finishing his college Rajiv started working for “Tata Exports” there also love for music did not die. He formed the music group in there called “TATA Kala Sangam”. Whole staff used to sing the songs of Rafi Ji, Mukesh Ji and by doing that everyone used to showcase their talent. Here once again I got an opportunity to sing in Rafi Ji’s voice,” said Rajiv.
Rajiv also used to show his talent in the annual orchestra in their colony. “We used to have a yearly event in our colony ‘Zankar’ orchestra used to perform there every year and they used to give the chance to local talents. I used to sing in Rafi Ji’s voice every year and that led to developing my confidence level in singing in the orchestra with full music. We also had a company of Sushma Shrestha of “Sang Sang Bhola Nath” fame, her father used to work for S D Burman as a music arranger,” he narrated.
When I asked Rajiv Singbal as why he did not take up the music (singing) as his career since he had so much of love towards the music, he said that, he never took that option since his father warned him to not to take up music as his career since nothing much is there in it. “I do feel regretted not opting for my passion and preferred to listen to my father. My friend, Vinay Aapte, Ravindra Sathe and Smita Patil achieved lots of name and fame in this Mumbai Nagari. I feel that if I had to take up music as my career I would have surely achieved greater heights into it but I decided to go with the decision of my father. Actually, my father wanted me to become a doctor but that never happened since I never had an interest in it,” he said.
Finally, in the year 2005 Rajiv decided to come back to his motherland “Goa”. According to him, he belongs to Goa and he has properties in this state. “I came to Goa after my father passed away to take care of the ancestral properties we have here. After coming to Goa I remained busy settling the property issues in and four years went by in that. But that bug of music was always there and let me tell you it never dies,” He grinned “I again started singing in private parties for friends without charging of course,” he added.
Here the second journey of Rajiv Singbal towards the love for Rafi started. “In Goa, I decided to start the annual musical program dedicated to Rafi Saheb on his death anniversary that falls on 31st July every year. It was my tribute to the maestro of the music industry in India. Here also I did not charge a single penny and offered my services free and top of that I also paid for the music arrangements etc. from my pocket. I really received a good support from the audience. The local TV channels HCN and RDX also gave my program a very good coverage,” said Singbal.
The second journey that started back in Goa in 2009 got the halt in the year 2013 when Rajiv Singable had to go through a cardiac by-pass surgery, “I was told by doctors to take complete rest and not to sing for some time and hence it was the only year that I was forced to take a break and could give my tribute to Rafi ji,” said Rajiv. But in 2014 Rajiv came back in form and this time, he decided to organize his program in Braganza Hall instead of in hotels and reason behind that was the business mindedness of the hotels. According to Rajiv, the hotels used to sell the liquor in the middle of the program which was going against the ethics of Rafi Ji. “Rafi ji had never consumed liquor in his entire life and the program that is a tribute the Rafi ji should also not have the liquor consumption according to me,” said Rajiv.
Rajiv himself made all the arrangements including the cost of venue and music arrangements for the program of Rafi Ji in 2014. Many people came ahead to help him in his good cause. Some of them even offered him sponsorships for the program. “That year the hall was fully packed with the music lovers. People came from all over Goa to show their love and gratitude to Rafi ji on his anniversary day, I was really overwhelmed looking at the audience,” said Rajiv. According to Rajiv Singbal, it was the blessings of Rafi Ji from up above that made him perform and make it successful every year.
Rajiv Singbal always tried to give an opportunity to the new and budding talents in his orchestra. According to him, this was also helping him. “I always kept my door open to everyone who loves music. I have given opportunities to many budding singers in my programs. This way it helped them to get the platform and audience was also getting the variety in the voice. I had many songs that are duets and it also helped me taking a break in between the programs. When I started, I used to sing all 30 to 40 songs alone but now having more people helps a lot,” said Rajiv
Rajiv Ji had invited me to come to his place and sing along with him on Karaoke and I think I am surely going to do that one day but meanwhile, I still have many questions for Rajiv that will unfold his generosity. Rajiv had given an opportunity to many talented people from Goa. “I have given a chance to many people to sign for my programs. This time, I had given an opportunity to Chirag Tripathi who sings in dual voice (Lata and Kishor) and a lot of people appreciate that. Then in my team like Vishnu shirodkar, prakash amonkar, Deepak manerikar, Rohit bandodkar they are there every year. I also gave the chance to Vibha Phalguni who went to winning a prize on a national level. There are much more such as Smruti Pal, Harshada Talaulikar, Samiksha Bhobe.
Rajiv is not just a Fan of Rafi Ji but he is the follower of the great personality from music industry of India. “I follow Rafi ji and his lifestyle, says Rajiv. “I give the salary of the maid, my driver on the 1st of every month without fail like Rafi ji used to do. I want to imitate him not just as a singer but also a good human being that he was,” adds Rajiv.
According to Rajiv, whatever he is today, it is due to Rafi ji and Rafi ji will never have a fan bigger than him. He feels that people in Goa love music and it does not matter whether it is in Hindi or English. There are followers of Rafi ji in Goa. Rafi sahib has sung Konkani songs too. He sang in Konkani movie of the 60s “Bhuyaratlo Manis” and I had taken that song in my programs. He also sang with Lorna and Chris perry’s “Maria”. All these Konkani songs too had taken in my programs,” said Rajiv. According to him, all these things connects Rafi ji with Goa.
Rajiv Singbal feels that his children do not have that voice what he has and they do not have much interest in the Indian music, but his wife who hails from Karwar do sing well and his daughter also helps him to get the selection of songs for the performance. “My kids are more into western music and they don’t have a voice to sing but my wife sings well. My daughter selects songs of Rafi sahib and sends s me from Mumbai. That is why I want to help anybody who has an interest in singing, I assure that I will teach them free of cost. I am also planning to start the Mohd. Rafi foundation in Goa for which I am even ready to give up my property for the good cause,” claimed Rajiv. Once I setup the foundation I will keep all the memories of Rafi ji into that. I have a good collection of music and books on Rafi Ji that all I will donate to the foundation,” he further added.
According to Rajiv, there is no voice that will connect with Rafi Saheb, “He was unique, God has specially sculpted him for music. His voice was soo soothing that one can compare it to honey, touchy voice. He had variations in his songs. That’s why he sung all times of songs like national anthem and all. He has that “Boolanda” “ pahadi” Aawaz,” said Rajiv. Rajiv feels that he is the only one from Goa who met Rafi ji in person and he considers himself lucky for that. “When Rafi ji passed away I went to his funeral. I still remember that I had taken a leave from school then. It was the saddest day in my life. I felt that day even nature was crying along with the hundreds of thousand people gathered out there in Mumbai for is final rites,” he narrated.
Rajiv has a dream of doing the program of Rafi next year in Kala academy and according to him if the situation permits he will surely do it in Kala. “I have a dream of doing his program in Kala Academy on a large scale, but I have a doubt if I can afford it. But in case I get the right support, I will surely love to take that opportunity,” he said.
Rajiv will need the support of Goan people to keep this legacy going on and since he has already made up his mind to support the cause by donating his property, Incredible Goa feels that he really deserves the support and hence I hereby appeal to one and all to come forward and support this cause which will be supported by Incredible Goa in whatever way possible. If anybody wants to be a part of this program they may right back to us on [email protected]
Together we all the followers of Rafi Ji will contribute to this and make the dream of Rafi foundation that will provide the free music training and platform to the upcoming talent a reality.