My Father’s Jukebox: Memories of Mohd. Rafi

My memories of my childhood are almost all tragic. Don’t get me wrong. I had a perfectly healthy, normal — a bit too normal for my taste in films and literature — childhood, when I think about it rationally. It’s just that I am programmed to recall anxious moments, mishaps, tragedies, and the likes. For the happier memories, which are plentiful, even majority, I have to consciously recall them. Except, when they involve music.

I grew up in a family where music — just plain listening, no performance, although to be fair, there was no dearth of talent in that department in the family — was a constant companion. And when I say family, I mean a full extended family from father’s side, my four uncles, three aunts, and multiple cousins … It was hard not to get initiated into music. From natya-sangeet and abhangs that my grandfather would listen to, to predominantly hindi-film music that my father was into, to English pop, rock, and classical music that I my cousin in Mumbai introduced me to, much of my music ear was trained in the family.

These days, I listen to lot of Jazz, some western and Indian classical music, but even today, when some Bollywood oldies are playing, they take me back to memories of early years at my then home. My father has always been a huge fan of Mohd. Rafi. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Rafi, curated by my father and a cousin who used to live with us in those days. My father is methodical when it comes to his music. Days would be spent to decide “order” of songs on a cassette — the moods, the tempos. Then these lists would be taken to shops where you could get them recorded on your own, predominantly SONY, cassettes. Yes piracy in the days before torrents.

Then the cassette(s) would be assigned to cassette boxes, which my father, who owned a small carpentry shop, would have hand made,  from wood, plywood, with individual compartments for each cassette, each compartment covered with a think blue/green flannel cloth (leftover from school noticeboards and the likes) such that no cassette will ever touch a hard surface, or be exposed to dust. A mono tape recorder would be similarly preserved in a flannel cloth, all the time when it was not being used, survives till date.

One such cassette, of Rafi’s sad songs, was one of my favorite “mixes” of those days. And it wasn’t even a mix, the way know mix now. Sadly, my dad’s business friend loaned it one day to make a copy and never returned it. My father lamented about it for years, too tired by then to recreate from memory that list, understandably. I forgot about it much faster, as I was moving away into different musical genres, from pop to rock to classical, not necessarily in linear manner.

Twenty years down the line, with youtube becoming an easy enough hunting ground for the lost treasures of yonder, I started with a Mohd. Rafi playlist to try and capture some of those songs, although definitely not in that order. I realize, that with changed tastes, some of the songs are too melodramatic for me (and probably for many of you as well). But nostalgia isn’t derived from “pain” for no reason. Here then are a few of the songs from my dad’s Rafi juekbox. What better day than Rafi’s birthday to post about it?

Note: I’m sure some of the songs here were not there in the cassette, and some I’ve missed.

Kabhi Khud Pe:

Definitely the starting song on side A. This surely is a tone setter.

Koi Sagar Dil Ko Bahelata Nahin:

I mean how much more melodramatic can a movie name get? This song from dil Diya Dard Liya, otherwise forgettable/typical Dilip Kumar melodrama of the era, is technically a ghazal. And Rafi had a great sense of ghazal rendition. This one is no exception:


Saathi na ko manzil

This lovely slow paced song is not that well known, but a real gem with some lovely lyrics:

patthar ke aashna mile/patthar ke devata mile/shiseh ka dile liye/jaaon kahaan ..

Jaane kya dhoondti rehti hai yeh aankhen

Another song made for Rafi, this slow paced song is still one of my favorite Rafi songs. The lyrics by Kaifi Azmi may seem little too maudlin today (raakh barbaad mohobbat ki bacha rakhi hai, baar baar isko jo cheda to bikhar jaayegi) however the last couplet, sung in a more defiant style than the rest, delivered more like a prose, sure packs a punch:

kaise baazar ka dastoor tumhe samjhaaon\ bik gaya jo woh kharidar nahin ho sakta …


Chirag dil ka jalao bahot andhera hai

Rafi and Madan Mohan was a cracking combination. This gem from the pair, though is a little not too well known gem, an ode that epitomizes romanticism …

kahan se laaoon woh rangat gayi bahaaron ki\ tumhare saath gayi roshani nazaaron ki \ mujhe bhi paas bulao \ bahot andhera hai …


Aapke pahelu me aake ro diye

Rafi-Madan Mohan again, this song from Mera Saya is well known, well loved. I am mesmerized by both of them. Madan Mohan has that keen sense of complimenting a singer, not overpowering him, the music never threatens to submerge the song, but uses the spaces fantastically.


Akele hain chale aao

Kalyanji-Anandji this time.


Dil jo na kah saka

One has to endure some terrible on screen personas with Rafi song. Here it’s the great Pradeep Kumar. Well, don’t look, just listen.


Happy Birthday Rafiji, you’ll live on …

You can check out the playlist here:


2 thoughts on “My Father’s Jukebox: Memories of Mohd. Rafi

  1. Amarja Achrekar says:

    I could almost visualise your dad’s cassette boxes and the pedantic order in which songs must go in the cassettes. Mix tapes were a labour of love. Great blogpost title and great writing, Amit – but personally I prefer Rafi’s happy romantic songs.

    • asuph says:

      Thanks Amarja. Yes I sometimes miss those days when random access was not possible/feasible and one had to really plan. Sad songs, sigh! Your friend also prefers the happier ones. Well, I’m all for maudlin 🙂


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