Musical brand

Bappi Lahiri: the king of disco who embodied his own brand of “cool pop”

If there was ever a character perfectly in tune with his songs, it must be Bappi Lahiri, the man who introduced disco to Hindi films, his young-at-heart and popular music as unaware of disapproving purists as he may have been one of those who raised their eyebrows at her gold chains and dark glasses.

The singer-songwriter, who was just 69 when he died in a Mumbai hospital on Tuesday night, embodied an irreverent cool pop all his own with his looks and his songs, mostly in the 80s and 90s that seen hits such as “I’m a disco dancer”, “Koi yahaan naache naache” and “Jimmy Jimmy”.

There were many others too – “Yaar bina chain kahan re”, “Kaliyon ka chaman”, “De de pyaar de”, “Jawaani jaaneman” and “Tamma Tamma” among some of them. The swagger in the many numbers inseparable from the singer and creator, whose career spans five decades of melodies.

In what is a credit to the longevity of his music, Lahiri’s songs are among the most repurposed or remixed in Bollywood, being used in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur: Part 1’, for example, as well as in the gay romance ”Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”.

If Mithun Chakraborty was the star of the 80s, Lahiri was the voice behind him and the music behind his dance moves. The two have memorably collaborated on ”Disco Dancer”, ”Prem Pratigya”, ”Wardat”, ”Suraksha”, ”Guru”, ”Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki” and ”Commandos”.

Lahiri, who introduced the disco era to Bollywood, also ventured into politics when he joined the BJP in 2014. He is survived by his wife Chitrani and two children – daughter Reema, also a singer, and his son Bappa Lahir, composer. He tried to bid in electoral politics when he contested the Srerampur Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal but lost to Kalyan Banerjee of the All India Trinamool Congress.

It was only a chapter of a life essentially devoted to music.

Born Alokesh Lahiri in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, into a musical family, Lahiri’s inclination towards music began at the age of three when he started learning tabla. His parents Paresh and Bansari Lahiri were both well-known musicians and singers, as was their son later in life.

Kishore Kumar, who sang ”Pag Ghunghroo” and ”Chalte Chalte” for him, was his maternal uncle.

Lahiri pioneered synthesized disco music in Indian cinema from the 70s to the 90s and continued to hit hits in the 2000s as well with the hits ”Bambai Nagariya” from ”Taxi No 9211” ( 2006) and ”Ooh La La” from ”The Dirty Picture” (2011), both directed by Milan Luthria.

More than anything else, it was her personality that resembled a pop icon, Luthria said.

”He was the only composer to face the Big Three in the 70s and 80s – Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman and Kalyanji-Anandji. In the 1990s there was Anu Malik, but Bappi da held on,’ Luthria told PTI.

Lahiri, who has created several classics for Amitabh Bachchan, also lent his voice to Abhishek Bachchan in AR Rahman’s composition ‘Ek Lo Ek Muft’ from Mani Ratnam’s ‘Guru’ (2007).

”#RIPbappida…..Bappi Lahiri, the Disco King of Hindi cinema!” tweeted Rahman.

He was also one of the singers who sang ”Tune Maari Entriyaan” from 2014’s ”Gunday” as the filmmakers wanted to return to 80s music and who better than Lahiri to recreate the era he was leading.

While the brilliant moniker of ‘Disco King’ weighed heavily on his music, he proved his versatility with softer numbers, including in ”Chalte Chalte” and ”Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezaar Aaj Bhi Hai” ghazals. ‘ and ”Aawaz Di Hai” from ”Aitbaar”.

He also looked west to increase his musical reach.

Lahiri dubbed in Hindi for singing icon Elton John for 2017 spy comedy ”Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and for Jemaine Clement in 2016 animated film ”Moana”. He also composed and sang ”Shona” (Gold), the Hindi version of ”Shiny”.

When parts of ”Kaliyon Ka Chaman” were included in American singer Truth Hurts’ 2002 song ”Addictive”, copyright holders Saregama India, Ltd. sued Interscope Records and its parent company, Universal Music Group for over $500 million. A federal judge in Los Angeles later banned further sales of the CD unless and until Lahiri was listed in the song’s credits.

In 2017, his classic song “Jhoom Jhoom” was featured in the Hindi promotional music video for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”.

Lahiri has also given music to films in Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Gujarati.

He started his career with the 1972 movie ”Daadu”. His first Hindi film as a composer was ”Nanha Shikari” in 1973.

It was the Hindi film ”Zakhmee” of 1975 which brought him to notice with songs such as ”Aao Tumhe Chand Pe Le Jayen” and the Holi song ”Zakhmee dilon ka badla chukane”.

The film brought him to ”Chalte Chalte”, ”Surakshaa” and others as his disco beats became popular among the youngsters, earning him the title of Disco King in India.

Disco may have gone out of fashion in the later years of Bollywood music, but the singer, in a 2019 interview with PTI, said he was grateful to have voiced for some of the biggest stars of their era.

”I’m so proud to have come this far and to have worked with all the extremely talented people in the industry. Simply put, my life is Dilip Kumar to Ranveer Singh. From ‘Dharm Adhikari’ to ‘Gunday’, I’ve done it all,” he told PTI.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)