100-feet tall ‘Minar’ coming up in Punjab to mark Mohammed Rafi’s birth centenary

By Quaid Najmi 

Mumbai, Dec 23 : The stage is set for grand year-long celebrations to mark the birth centenary of the legendary singer Mohammed Rafi in Mumbai, and erecting a 100-feet tall ‘Rafi Minar’ in his birthplace in Punjab, starting from Sunday (December 24, 2023), the organisers said here on Saturday.

The main gala will be held on Sunday at the Shanmukhananda Hall in collaboration with the World of Mohammed Rafi Welfare Foundation (WMRWF) and the Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha (SSFASS), with a series of events scheduled for the next 12 months of 2024, culminating in a mega musical crescendo on Rafi’s 100th birthday on December 24, 2024 (December 24, 1924–July 31, 1980).

“The centennial will have 12 special concerts featuring only Mohammed Rafi songs on the 24th date of each calendar month. We shall invite popular ‘Rafi specialist’ singers from all over India to perform and bring alive the memories of Rafi Sahab,” WMRWF Founder-Director N. R. Venkitachalam told IANS.

Besides the audiences at the Shanmukhananda Hall, all the shows will be live-streamed on YouTube to enable Rafi’s fans worldwide to enjoy the thrill of the master singer, he added.

The concerts will include multifaceted themes on the axis of genre, music directors, lyricists and actors for whom Mohammed Rafi has sung, to be rendered by renowned male singers and also females for some timeless duets, to make it an unforgettable experience, said Venkitachalam.

Along with the shows tomorrow, a series of charitable, medical and social initiatives for the poor shall also be launched, funded from the proceeds of the Rafi concerts, said SSFASS President Dr. V. Shankar.

The SSFASS will start an endowment in Rafi’s name at the Shanmukhananda Community Charitable Hospital here to provide free kidney dialysis to one patient daily, at its dialysis centre which is the second largest in India.

Also, SSFASS has instituted a ‘Sri Shanmukhananda Mohammed Rafi Centenary Memorial Award’ for a young musician, carrying a cash reward of Rs 5-Lakhs, a trophy and a live concert at Shanmukhananda Hall on the great singer’s birth anniversary (December 24) every year.

In a unique and unprecedented initiative for any singer anywhere, the SSFASS and WMRWF are constructing a 100-feet (30.5-metres) tall ‘Rafi Minar’ (tower/turret) in memory of Mohammed Rafi at his birthplace in Kotla Sultan Singh village, near Amritsar (Punjab).

“The ‘Rafi Minar’ will be made of steel, and have 100 of the top songs of Rafi Sahab engraved on it along with the lyrics to remind all future generations of his valuable contributions to enrich human lives through his singing. At the top, the Indian Flag will flutter majestically. The memorial will be ready in the first half of 2024,” said Venkichalam.

Additionally, the two organisations are also revamping Mohammed Rafi’s alma-mater, the Government Elementary Urdu School where he studied till Class IV before moving to another higher educational institution in the same village.

“We shall completely renovate Rafi Sahab’s school with all facilities, provide computers, and in the Class III where he studied, a music section will be started in his memory,” said Venkitachalam, who had built the ‘Mohammed Rafi Memorial’ and arranged to rename a road in Bandra, Mumbai, in 2016 on the singer’s 92nd birth anniversary.

The WMRWF has over 850 Mohammed Rafi fans’ associations from India and another 1,500 from across the world as its members, and many are expected to organise localised Rafi music shows/concerts/programmes in the singer’s memory during the year.

The organisers urged the government of India to issue a Mohammed Rafi Centenary Rs100 commemorative coin, a Rs 5 postage stamp by IndiaPost, a special cover and postcard through the Maharashtra Postal Circle, and appeals to the state and Centre for a plot of land to for a permanent befitting memorial to the singer in Mumbai, his ‘karmabhoomi’.