Remembering The Disco King
Musicians ponder on the talent, oeuvre and the influence of Bappi Lahiri
Bappi Lahiri, the Disco King of India, breathed his last yesterday, leaving a treasure trove of music—mostly consolidated in Hindi, Bengali, and Telugu—to be savoured. The musician was instrumental in influencing the sound of the ‘80s, influencing musicians both up in the north and down south. With a body of work consisting of over 5000 songs from 500 films, Bappi will remain an inspiration for many established, contemporary and upcoming artists. Some of them reflect on their association with the musician and what his compositions mean to them.
Tanishk Bagchi, Composer-Music Producer
Working with Bappi da was the most memorable time of my career so far. I did ‘Tamma Tamma Again’ with him, followed by ‘Arey Pyaar Kar Le’ and ‘Bhankas’, his last song. I grew up on ‘Pag Ghungroo’, ‘Tamma Tamma’, ‘Disco Dancer’. He had a big influence on me. When I recreated Tamma Tamma, he was the first person to say I had done a good job. He called me personally and said he liked my arrangement and the decision to keep his voice in the track. He never discouraged me or anyone else from doing recreations. In fact, we were meant to collaborate on some more songs. He was always excited about how to reinvent the sound of a generation. When we listen to Dua Lipa or The Weeknd, we see that disco music coming back. Before the lockdown, Bappi da called me to his studio but we ended up meeting at a conference. He blessed me and told me he likes my work. He said, ‘Don’t listen to what others are doing, just do what you want’.
Rumi Jafferi, Director
“I knew Bappi da closely. His son is married to the daughter of my close friend Mahindra Verma. Bappi da changed the music of our industry. He introduced pop and disco in our soundtracks. I’m sure he has composed over 4-5000 songs. His voice was different from all singers. It was sweet and romantic. In Disco Dancer, in Armaan, he brought a fresh wave into our songs. Before that, western influence in our music was much more subdued. His formula clicked with the audience and fetched some big hits.”
Anees Bazmee, Director
“It is unbelievable that Bappi Lahiri is no more. I’m still shocked and saddened. I had a close relationship with him. I was a writer on Shola Aur Shabnam, Aankhen, Mr. Azaad and Andaz, for which he gave the music. I would sit a lot with him when he was composing. His Juhu bungalow in Mumbai was our haunt. It used to be a fun environment, he was a really engaging person. I remember when he was making ‘O Laal Dupatte Wali’, he would act out parts of the song. He was a great composer who created his own niche.”
Ila Arun, Singer
'Bappi da didn’t just wear gold. He was a golden man with a heart of gold. I have sung many songs with him. I have also toured extensively with him. Lakhs of people would throng to his performances. He was a complete showman. He entered the industry at a time when Kalyanji–Anandji, RD Burman, Naushad and Laxmikant-Pyarelal were ruling the roost. Bappi da’s repertoire was not limited to Disco Dancer or Ramba Ho. In Namak Halaal, for instance, he composed ‘Pag Ghungroo Bandh’ with such musical taste.
My first song with him was ‘Khali Peeli Pyar Se’ from Aitbaar (1985). It was an instant hit. ‘Gutur Gutur’ from Dalaal (1993) was iconic. I also sang ‘Kundi Dhire Se Khatkana’ and ‘Tere Har Sawal Ka’ for Bappi da. He encouraged me to do solos even when there were other singers around. He trusted me a lot. He understood your limits and urged you to sing in your own style. Even in lockdown, he called me to perform a song at his home studio.
I was close to Bappi da’s family. Every Saraswati Puja he’d call us over. He loved celebrating his birthdays. His kids, Rema and Bappa, were close to him. He changed his getup post the 80s success. He was bringing rock and disco music in and wanted to look like those performers. He was doing a lot of movies in the south as well, which must have influenced his style. We’d always joke that he wore more jewellery than me. He never consumed alcohol but he loved eating, especially home-cooked Bengali food.
Dada was media-conscious and he enjoyed fame. He’d tell me, ‘Ila, come in the evening, there will be a lot of press.” He loved giving interviews. All his chairs were designed like thrones. At the same time, he was a man of culture. He stayed connected with the community and helped others. He never had problems with people remixing his songs. He understood they would do it irrespective, so it’s better if he took part in those songs. In his late age, he had difficulty walking, but continued performing in shows. He had the energy of a bullet. His ears were always sharp. He was a serious musician and it’s a big loss to the fraternity and us.'
Mano, Music composer and playback singer
Bappi Lahiri knows the audience's pulse so well and each song of his has different moods and a fresh sound. The songs are not only melodious but also hummable. He always made it a point to keep his compositions simple so that even a layman can sing them. He popularised disco music and he ushered in a new sound in the Indian film industry. I began admiring him when I was a class X student in Vijayawada. I used to sing Yaar Bina Chain Kaha Re on a loop and wondered what his sound technique was like. I am fortunate to record over 15 songs for him in several films. My love for gold ornaments has increased after seeing him. I began wearing gold chains, rings, and sunglasses like him and people fondly called me 'Andhra Bappi Lahiri’ in those days. He would visit my home in Chennai and enjoy eating sweets. On every trip to Mumbai, I used to go and see him. He made immense contributions to our Indian music and his sad demise leaves a void that is difficult to fill.
Sai Kartheek, Music composer
All his songs instantly managed to strike a chord with the masses due to their upbeat music. I recreated Bappi Lahiri garu’s chartbuster song Arey O Samba (Rowdy Inspector) in Pataas. However, I met him only during the recording sessions of Action 3D for which he rendered a song. He was a synonym for commercial cinema and it was an enriching experience to work with a legend like him. He was all praise for the orchestration I have used in Action 3D and I always treasure those moments of performing in front of him at the audio launch event. He will truly be missed and his unparalleled legacy would continue even after his death.
Sri Krishna, Playback singer
Bappi Lahiri garu was an iconic music composer. After KV Mahadevan garu, he was one of the sensational music composers, who made a lasting impression in Telugu cinema. He redefined the trend with his unique tunes. After S Thaman garu composed Rum Pum Bum for Disco Raja, he wanted Bappi garu to sing it. The next day, my friend Rahul Ram went to Mumbai and got the recording done with Bappi garu in two days. Although I didn’t get an opportunity to record the song with Bappi garu, I am delighted that I share the credit with him. Personally, Aakasam lo oka tara (Simhasanam), Boyavani vetaku, Kunthi kumari (Rowdy Gari Pellam), and his other songs from Chiranjeevi garu’s Gang Leader and State Rowdy are my favourites. I am pained by his death and my deepest condolences to his friends, family, and fans.
(With inputs from Murali Krishna)