Utpal Borpujari

April 20, 2010

Frenchman gets Rafi’s last songs restored in a Belgium studio

By Utpal Borpujari

It will surely be music to the ears of legions of fans of Hindi film songs, and particularly of Mohammed Rafi’s silken voice. Five never-heard-before songs of the all-time great singer, recorded for a film that never got made, have been restored in a Belgium studio and are ready to play on your music system.

The five songs, in three of which he partners Asha Bhosle, were composed by Chitragupta for a film to be directed by Dilip Bose, who had acted in Satyajit Ray’s Charulata and several other films before turning a director.

Unfortunately, Sorry Madam, planned to be a remake of a Bengali film of the same name made by Bose in 1962, never got made, and the original tapes of the songs since then had been lying in the Bose family home. Rafi passed away on July 31, 1980, seven months after these songs were recorded.

It was Frenchman Achille Forler, who runs music publishing company Deep Emotions in a joint venture with the Universal Music, who decided to restore the songs after a chance meeting with Bose’s sons Bobby and Rajesh.

Forler recognised the archival value of the songs, which has Rafi display his genius as always, and sent the tapes to Equus Studios in Belgium, specialists in audio heritage conservation, to get them restored the best possible standards available.

The result is the album, Mohammed Rafi – The Last Songs, which is hitting the music stores shortly. Apart from two Rafi solos and three Rafi-Asha duets, the album also has one Asha solo – again unheard before – as also an audio documentary in which Anand-Milind, Chitragupta’s music composer songs, and Bobby Bose share their memories about Rafi, the songs, and the recording sessions.

In fact, Forler came to know about the songs after several record labels turned down Bobby’s offer to get the album released. “Bobby was not after money and did not ask for an advance, only respect for the album, but everyone turned him down. I ask, if a new album by Mohammed Rafi is not good enough for these labels, then what stuff are they selling?” asks a livid Forler.

“I was prepared to do ‘shirshasana’ for one year to have a Mohammed Rafi album in my catalogue! I said to myself: If these are my competitors, then the future looks good!’ Forler told Deccan Herald. Luckily for Forler and Equus people, the two spools of optical transfer tapes of the recordings had been carefully preserved by the Bose family and were in excellent condition.

Ask Forler what kind of business does he expect the album to do, swift comes the reply, “The prime motive to release these songs was cultural, not commercial. Mohammed Rafi has become part of the country’s identity, uniting – not dividing – in his art people who are divided by gender, caste, income or religion.”

At the same time, he asks, “But if six unreleased songs of Rafi Saab are not commercially viable, then we must question not only the quality of what is called ‘commercially-viable music’ but also the taste, or lack thereof, of those who buy that music? To this day, there has not been any other like Rafi Saab, and Ashaji’s voice on these songs is in full flight.”

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 20-04-2010)


1 Comment »

  1. Wonderful! Kudos to the kind French Man who took the trouble of restoring and publishing. Please give our respect and regards to the gentleman if possible. Many thanks for this article too.

    Comment by Vinayak Vaidya — March 18, 2014 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

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