The audience walked back into the golden era of Hindi music at the Mohammed Rafi tribute concert in the city recently

Thirty years after his death, tribute concerts for the legendary Mohammed Rafi still draw a full, emotion-packed house. Moist eyes, swinging hands, shaking heads, tapping feet, happy smiles…the incomparable crooner's aficionados are a frenzied lot. And they are delighted to have found Anil Bajpai — the Rafi incarnate.

Short and slender with a tremendously high energy level, Bajpai reproduces his idol's songs with near-perfect intonation, voice-modulation and expression.

At the fund-raiser organised by the Rotary Club of Chennai Skyline on Saturday at the Music Academy, Anil Bajpai and Mohammed Aslam enlivened the evening with a fine mix of pathos and peppy songs.

Sample this: “Tum mujhe yuhn bhula”, “Kaun hai jo sapnon mein aaya”, “Ehsaan tera hoga”, “Khoya khoya chand”, “Teri aankhon ke siva”, “Tere husn ki kya tareef”, “Mujhe kitna pyaar”, “Gunguna rahe hai”, “Baharon phool barsao” and “Madhuban mein radhika naache re”.

As the duo presented gem after gem, one realised what made the songs of yore timeless creations — a combination of brilliant lyrics, music and voice.

Though Bajpai was not his usual soulful self in some numbers, he brought his mentor alive in “Mere Mehboob” and “Abhi na jao chod kar”, a staple on his shows.

Retro favourite

In the recent past, Mumbai-based Bajpai has been performing in the city often and has become a favourite of retro music lovers here. At the end of a song, an elderly person stood up and shouted “We love you Anil”. This time Bajpai's environmental engineer-wife Sharmila, who is from Chennai, was introduced to the audience. And, as she walked up the stage, the usually-shy Bajpai burst out singing: “Aane se uske aaye bahaar, jaane se uske jaaye bahaar, badi mastaani hai meri mehbooba”, as the audience cheered.

Mohammed Aslam chose songs such as “Akele akele kahan jaa rahe ho” that suited his open-throated singing, but he could do well by investing his rendition with some more melody. For, replication can be enjoyable when it goes beyond technique and encompasses emotion too.

Shruti Jauhari's earnestness and classical training came through in “Teri aankhon ke siva” and “Woh jab yaad aaye”.

What irked the listeners most was the lacklustre and off-key rendition by Shahnaz Aslam. She has a good voice but needs more taiyari to be on stage.

For most part, the orchestra successfully recreated the golden era.

The graves of Mohammed Rafi and a few other luminaries such as Naushad and Madhubala might have been dug out recently in Mumbai due to space crunch. But, truth be told, Mohammed Rafi lives on in millions of hearts as he did that evening.