When he came to Bollywood with dreams of making it big in playback singing, many had felt that he could fill the void created by Md Rafi’s death. Singer Sonu Niigaam’s tryst with Rafi takes a new turn this week. Sonu, who considers Rafi to be one of his biggest inspirations, is proving them right.
This week, Sonu will start recording 18 of the legend’s evergreen hits in Mumbai with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. “This is probably one of the most rewarding moments of my career as a singer,” says Sonu.
The orchestra, which had long been planning to do an album of Rafi’s songs and was looking for the right voice, zeroed in on Sonu last month. The album has been titled Rafi Resurrected and will be released in July. The album is the brainchild of the orchestra’s composer-arranger Tim Pottier, who listened to Rafi’s songs for over a year. Pottier then did extensive research before picking 18 songs.
“I didn’t have any idea that the offer would come to me. Saregama had been saying that they were looking for a dream project for me and last month they offered this. It’s really a dream come true,” says Sonu who feels popularising Rafi’s songs in the west is a big responsibility.
Sonu plans to sing in his natural style, keeping in mind the originality of the songs. “It’s a complicated job both for the musicians and me because it’s being done with a symphony orchestra,” he says.
“We have selected only those songs where western instruments can be used. So, many songs that are brilliant but have an Indian classical base or use of instruments such as tabla had to be left out,” says the singer who is pleased that his favourite Rafi song, Jat yamla pagla deewana, will be included in the album.
Sonu is confident of doing justice to the songs, including Yaad na jaaye (Dil Ek Mandir), Pathar ke sanam (Pathar Ke Sanam), Tareef karoon kya uski (Kashmir Ki Kali), Tum jo mil gaye ho (Hanste Zakhm
“I feel proud when Rafi saab
’s family members say that I am the one who has come close to matching his voice,” says Sonu, who considers this album to be his tribute to Rafi.
“He is my musical father, though I have never heard him performing live. He died when I was a child,” he says.