Retired bank clerk Hardeep Singh is regarded as the late Mohammed Rafi's number one fan in Malaysia with a collection of over 3,000 songs by the versatile Indian singer.
"I started collecting these records when I was 17. My father gave me $1 every month as pocket money which I spent on records," said Hardeep, 65, who has dedicated a room in his house in Bukit Senjuang, Malacca, to the collection of gramophone records of his idol.
Hardeep still plays the records on a second-hand gramophone he bought 30 years ago. "These records are very precious and I will not sell them. When I am gone, I'll bequeath them to my children," he said.
The records were purchased from jukebox and record stores all over the country and Singapore, The New Straits Times said Monday. Hardeep has 2,007 records in all, some dating back to the 1940s. Eighty per cent of the collection is songs by Rafi.
Rafi, who died in 1980, recorded more than 26,000 songs in his career that began in early 1940s. Hardeep recalled an advertisement in The New Straits Times in 1972 announcing a concert by Rafi at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
He said he paid $2.8 for a first-class ticket to the show. He still has the original advertisement. He inserts an advertisement in the paper on July 31, the day Rafi died, every year. The money for the advertisement is collected from friends, who are the singer's fans.
"I have a lot of respect for him. He started singing at a time when such a career was considered disgraceful. Even his father was against his singing but he stood his ground and became a household name with the song 'Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki' from the 1950s Hindi movie, Dulari."
Hardeep, who met the singer once, remembers him as soft-spoken, but a man blessed with a melodious voice.