- Fuzail Rafi, has launched an online musical institute as a “small, humble tribute” to his dada abba.
It has been 40 years since the music maestro Mohammed Rafi bid adieu to the world of music. Yet, music aficionados’ love for his songs and voice has not faded. Considered one of the greatest singers of the Indian subcontinent, Mohammed Rafi’s soul-stirring and mesmerizing voice has transcended generations. From peppy numbers, patriotic songs, ballads, and soulful romantic songs, Rafi has left an indelible mark on the Indian music industry, and is still considered India’s most loved voice.
To keep his legacy alive, Mohammed Rafi’s youngest grandson, Fuzail Rafi, son of Rafi’s youngest child, Shahid Rafi, is a man with a vision. The twenty-six-year-old business major, who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in finance from Underwood University in Georgia, got on the phone with American Kahani to talk about his brainchild – the Mohammed Rafi Musical Institute.
Launched during the pandemic, in March 2021, Fuzail, explaining why he decided to start the institute says, “My dada abba (the name he lovingly calls his grandfather) left such a huge legacy for our family. My grandfather has fans all across the world. They have given our family so much love that I thought a small way to return all this affection, would be an institute. It would serve also as a small, humble tribute from me to my dada abba.”
Further elaborating, Fuzail, who never got to meet his dada abba adds, “It will help people across the globe connect with my dada abba and learn various forms of music from renowned members of the music industry and also promote Indian music and culture around the globe. People from all around the world can come together and celebrate Rafi saab and his songs. The younger generation can also avail of resources like books about him. It will be a one-stop music destination for all. Through it, I wish to carry forward the legacy and name of my grandfather. There was and is nobody like my dada abba and in all likelihood there will not ever be anybody like him. He is truly a legend.”
The music institute born out of a pandemic mindset will connect its students and teachers virtually via zoom. The institute offers a several classes for new and experienced singers ranging from vocals (voice therapy and culture) to classical training, Bollywood music, instruments – tabla, guitar and keyboard. The duration of each course is three months with each course having three levels, for a grand total of 24 sessions. “Guitar is the only course we have five levels in.”
Boasting some of the music industry greats as teachers, Fuzail says, “For guitar, we have Jayantilal Gosher. He is the person who played the iconic mandolin tune for ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (even humming the bars for me). We have singer-composer-music director Bishakh Jyoti who recently won a National Award (2019) for Best Non-Feature Film Music Direction teaching vocals along with Kanikaji (Joshi), who has sung for films like ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’, ‘Bajirao Mastani’, ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’, ‘Dedh Ishqiya’” and ‘Janeman.’ (Joshi has also been a part of the acclaimed A.R.Rahman Hindustani Classical Choir for MTV Studio). And our keyboard teacher got his degree from the UK’s premier Trinity College.”
As the institute grows, Fuzail wishes to add more courses, and more instruments, to make it a true one-stop-shop for all things music. As to why launch during a pandemic and lockdown, Fuzail says that it was the best decision as the pandemic definitely boosted enrollment. “During the lockdown, everyone was stuck at home, facing different kinds of hardships. Some were bored, some had lost jobs. These people were looking to do something fun and music is something that stirs one’s soul. Music has something for everyone and every mood – anger, sadness, love, joy – music makes you feel better. So, what better to do than learn music during these difficult times.”
Fuzail himself is no stranger to music, having grown up listening and singing his grandfather’s songs. “I used to play the harmonium,” says Fuzail, who learnt to play under his father, playback singer Shaid Rafi’s tutelage. “He used to make me play dada abba’s song ‘Yaad Na Jaye’ on the harmonium.” Fuzail has also dabbled in piano, having taken a few classes. “For me music is part of my soul. I am connected to music.” Fuzail, who sometimes sings but only when he is alone, further adds, “Honestly, I never thought of playback as a career because my grandfather was and is still a legend. That level of singing no one has or can achieve. I never wanted to be compared to him. I want his legacy left untouched and untarnished.”
Fuzail remembers growing up under the shadow of the legend. “I never got to spend time with my grandfather. And as I was growing up, I never realized what a name he had had. No one spoke about it at home. But whenever my parents and I would go out, the way people showed their love and affection for him towards us, I began to realize what a big name my grandfather had and has left us with.”
Remembering one such fan moment, Fuzail laughs as he says, “Once when I was really young, a fan came home and he came and touched my feet, although he was much older than me. I jumped back and pushed him away as this shocked me at the time. But my mother, who was next to me said, ‘beta, this is the love people have for your grandfather. They see him in you. This was the moment I realized the legend my grandfather was!”
Today, Fuzail is grateful at seeing his dream realized. “It is both overwhelming and exciting. Words fail to express how I feel. I am blessed that it has taken shape and is finally coming to fruition with an amazing and dedicated team, brainstorming and working on this project so tirelessly. Each day passes with a tribute and a prayer towards my dada abba, Mohammed Rafi saab; without whose blessings this would not have been possible.”
As to his favorite song by his dada abba, Fuzail says there are too many to count, but adds, “It is hard to pick as I have many favorites in every genre. but my all-time favorite is ‘Gulaabi aakhein’. Hearing dada abba’s voice in the song gives me goosebumps.”