India's very own rockstar

India's very own rockstar

Disco King

Well, he is none other than Bappi Lahiri, the man who pioneered the use of disco music in Hindi cinema.

Son of Aparesh and Bansari Lahiri and related to the legendary singer Kishore Kumar, Bappi revolutionised music in Bollywood. Born in a Bengali family (his father was a well known Bengali singer and mother a musician), Bappi started playing the table at the tender age of three. Noticing his interest in music, his parents nurtured his innate talent and eventually, Bappi moved to Mumbai and composed music for his first film — Daadu (Bengali) — when he was only 19.

“Music is in my genes. My family was into classical music but I was more inclined towards international music and wanted to introduce it in India; I continue to do so today. Currently, I am working with MC Hammer on an international album,” explains Bappida.

In the beginning of his career, Bappi Lahiri concentrated more on Indian music. Be it the famous Kishore Kumar number Chalte chalte from Chalte Chalte or the Yeh naina yeh kajal from Dil Se Mile Dil, Western influences hardly influenced his compositions.

However, in the ‘80s, Bappi’s focus largely shifted to international music and he gave us the cult classic, I am a disco dancer.  “I wanted to create my own identity, which I did. It’s humbling to know that people call me the ‘disco king’ and that they still love listening to my compositions,” says an excited Bappi.

While there is no doubt about his role in popularising disco music in the Indian film industry, many believe that he also brought in large scale plagiarism in Bollywood. Quite a few of his numbers —  popular ones in fact — are straight lifts from Western hits. Be it Hari om Hari (similar to One Way Ticket by Eruption) or Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache (Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles), there are innumerable examples of Bappi Lahiri being ‘more than inspired’ by other musicians.

But he is also credited with creating original and memorable songs for films like Sharaabi, Namak Halal and Chalte Chalte, to name a few.  Commenting on the status of the Indian music industry, Bappi rues, “Sadly, today’s songs have absolutely no melody. They are devoid of any heart or soul. Its all about remixing old numbers and adding a few thumping beats!”  Perhaps, he has a point.

Bappi Lahiri is working on some Bengali albums of late. “I just released a new album in Bengali titled Reena O Reena. Also, very soon, I will also be fulfilling a long term desire — of releasing a Rabindra Sangeet album,” he says.

And if you thought he is trying to shed his rockstar image, you are mistaken. “I am working in a film where I will be playing the role of a disco king. The film is called It’s Rocking - Dard e Disco,” adds an ecstatic Bappi.

So what next? He has been seen judging a few musical reality shows on television. Does he wish to continue? “Television is a very powerful medium. I love guiding aspiring singers and wish to continue doing so,” he says.