Mohammed Rafi / Mohd Rafi

The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Mohd. Rafi

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Continuing its run through the great stars of Bollywood's playback singing, the Rough Guide (and primarily compiler Ken Hunt) have moved to the third of the Big Four (Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, and Kishore Kumar) of the genre with an album of Mohammed Rafi's work. Here, he dips and croons his way through a number of classic performances from the films that his voice graced. The album opens with a number taking freely from the blaxploitation aesthetic, before moving into an early duet with Lata Mangeshkar, prior to their temporary falling-out. A simple happy song passes quickly, followed by a somewhat sparser work (sparse being a relative term in Bollywood orchestration) featuring Rafi's vocals more centrally, and a pair of duets with Asha Bhosle (Lata's sister). Another duet with Lata, post-falling-out, continues the stretch of multiple voices, and a couple of solo pieces showcase the essence of Rafi's vocal delivery exquisitely. The rest of the album follows much of the same formulas, showcasing Rafi in various lights, but especially as a light romantic singer in various contexts. Perhaps most interestingly to some of the Hindustani music purists, there's also a single track here featuring the singer in a more classical context alongside sarangi and sitar. It's a fine work, only muddied somewhat by the ever-present string sections. Ultimately, the listener should have an idea of the Bollywood aesthetic before diving into any full compilation of a single playback singer, regardless of their stature within the genre. That said, this compilation makes an excellent item for those with a basic appreciation of the genre, showcasing one of its finest singers in his best light, as well as in combination with other luminaries of the playback scene.

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