It is the season when we pay homage to Mohammad Rafi and Mehdi Hasan. These two artistes, each in his individual way, gave us music that we will long remember. It was in this month of July that they died, decades apart. When they transited to the world beyond ours, it was their songs that serenaded them as they passed through the stars.
Rafi's o duniya ke rakhwale remains a song symbolic of the nobility an artiste can bring to his sense of aesthetics. Again, when Mehdi Hasan sang the Faiz ghazal, gulo mein rang bhare, we were made conscious of how pure poetry could be sublimated into song. Rafi's lullaby for children, main gaoon tum so jao, is innocence at its most evocative. Mehdi Hasan's neendiya aa kar munne ki ankhon mein meethe meethe khwab saja is an image of a child drifting off to the placidity of dreamland.
In chhoo lene do nazuk honton ko, Rafi speaks of primeval love, of the elixir which gives the lover's lips their defining quality. When Mehdi sings tere bheege badan ki khushboo se, it is the sensuality of romance that speaks to us in full measure. There is a huge sense of the forlorn in Mehdi's ae duniya kya tujh se kahen. When you listen to Rafi sing, in gathering depression, main ne chand aur sitaron ki tamanna ki thi, it is the image of a world in ruins that you experience.
In zindagi mein to sab hi pyar kia karte hain, it is desire in its fullness Mehdi Hasan speaks of. It is intense gloom that you spot in Mohammad Rafi's ye duniya ye mehfil mere kaam ki nahi. Mehdi complains of ingratitude in ye wafaon ka dia aap ne inaam mujhe. Rafi is loud in an expression of his emotions in dil jo na kaeh saka wohi raaz-e-dil kaehne ki raat aayi.
These two men were great artistes and yet there was a remarkable difference between them. Mehdi Hasan's voice was made for or attuned to ghazals. Rafi was many steps ahead in that he had mastery over all modes of music, ranging from the deeply tragic to the clearly flippant to the cheerfully romantic. Rafi's rendition of na kisi ki aankh ka noor huun is ghazal raised to Olympian heights. In equal measure, in his voice comes the impatient-in-love aaja ke intezar mein jaane ko hai bahar bhi. Mehdi's yun zindagi ki raah mein takra gaya koi is a soft paean to tender new love.
Mehdi Hasan breaks the heart with teri mehfil se ye diwana chala jaaye ga. Rafi bores into the soul with kal tere bazm se diwana chala jaaye ga.
In Mehdi, you hear mera imaan mohabbat hai mohabbat ki qasam. Rafi gives you a vigorous zindabad zindabad ae mohabbat zindabad.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star