The king of Bling

He started writ­ing mu­sic at 11, holds the record for most songs com­posed in a year and has worked with Bol­ly­wood le­gends and global mu­sic stars, but Bappi Lahiri still isn’t sat­is­fied, he tells Shiva Ku­mar Thekkepat

Friday - - Front Page -

Bappi Lahiri can still stop traf­fic even at the age of 62. On a week­day morn­ing, pos­ing for Fri­day’s ex­clu­sive photo shoot out­side at Dubai’s Busi­ness Bay, scores of peo­ple grav­i­tate to­wards him like iron fil­ings to a mag­net.

It wasn’t just be­cause of his shiny pur­ple jacket, huge gold-rimmed sun­glasses, his long shaggy hair and the amount of bling he wears – five heavy gold chains with huge pen­dants, rings on al­most all his fin­gers, a clutch of bracelets and a chunky watch. “Isn’t he that fa­mous singer?” a 20-some­thing on­looker asks, des­per­ately try­ing to name him.

He was ob­vi­ously too young to have been ex­posed to the disco fever Bappi spread across the Bol­ly­wood mu­sic scene with songs such as Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja Aaja, Yaad Aa Raha Hai and Chalte Chalte many decades ago. When I give him Bappi’s iden­tity, he’s thrilled. “If my hands weren’t dirty, I’d go and shake his hand,” he grins.

A staid-look­ing mid­dle-aged of­fice worker who’s on his way to the car park pauses, does a dou­ble take and runs back to greet Bappi. “It’s a great plea­sure to have met you!” he smiles. Bappi takes it all in his stride, of course. “Well I am the leg­endary disco king of Bol­ly­wood,” he laughs. That’s how he de­scribes him­self on a brochure he gives me as we sit down to chat. Un­der­neath are the words ‘The orig­i­nal bling king!’

Bappi, who is in Dubai on hol­i­day, has worked as a com­poser and singer in the Bol­ly­wood in­dus­try, as well as sev­eral re­gional films, since 1973 when he com­posed mu­sic for the Hindi film Nanha Shikari when he was only 21. In fact, he started play­ing the tabla (a per­cus­sion in­stru­ment), very early and be­gan writ­ing mu­sic at 11.

“I don’t re­mem­ber when ex­actly I started play­ing,” he says. “My par­ents told me that it was at three, and I per­formed on stage the next year. I was billed as Mas­ter Bappi, and was pop­u­lar in Kolkata, my home­town in the east­ern In­dian state ofWest Ben­gal. I re­ceived my first award for play­ing the tabla on stage at the age of four.’’

He’s gone on to re­ceive 300 awards to date and was fea­tured in the Limca Book of Records – the In­dian ver­sion of Guin­nessWorld Records – for scor­ing mu­sic for 180 songs in 35 films in a sin­gle year – 1986.

Bappi comes from a mu­si­cal fam­ily – his fa­ther, Aparesh Lahiri, was a pop­u­lar Ben­gali singer in the 50s and 60s and friends with leg­endary play­back singer Lata Mangeshkar. “I re­mem­ber my dad show­ing pic­tures of me, as a tod­dler, sit­ting on her lap,’’ says Bappi. Years later, Bappi would com­pose songs for Lata.

“She heard me play­ing the tabla at a con­cert at Eden Gar­dens, Kolkata, and was so taken in that she told her men­tor Shan­taprasadji from Be­naras to come to my con­cert,” says Bappi.

“Later I also learnt to play the pi­ano. When I was 17 I com­posed

mu­sic for a Ben­gali film, Dadoo Dadoo (Grand­fa­ther). Even then I had a burn­ing de­sire to make it in Bol­ly­wood, so as soon as I fin­ished school at 18 I took off for Mum­bai.”

Af­ter Nanha Shikari came a pe­riod of strug­gle for Bappi un­til he hit it big with Tahir Hus­sain’s (Bol­ly­wood su­per star Aamir Khan’s fa­ther’s) film, Zakhmee in 1975. In only his sec­ond film, the top four singers in Bol­ly­wood at that time – Mo­ham­mad Rafi, Kishore Ku­mar, Asha Bhon­sle and Lata Mangeshkar – sang for him. He even ended up singing a song with Rafi and Kishore. “Jalta hai jiya

mera bheegi bheegi raa­ton mein…” (My heart is smoul­der­ing in this rainy night) he bursts out, singing one of the hits from the film. “Af­ter that I had two su­per hits,

Bam­bai Se AayaMera Dost [My friend has come from Bom­bay] from the filmAap Ki Khatir [Just for you] and the ti­tle track from the film Chalte Chalte [on the move].” The two songs are still pop­u­lar decades later.

But his real claim to fame is ush­er­ing in disco in In­dia in the early 80s. “I started the disco craze,” he beams. “To­day, de­spite all the other kinds of songs I’ve done, I’m known all over the world as the disco king – Bling bling Bappi Lahiri!

“When Michael Jack­son came to Mum­bai for a show in the 90s, he met me. He said he loved my chain.” He holds up one of his thick gold chains.

“He was re­ally kind. He said he loved my com­po­si­tion Jimmy Jimmy

Aaja Aaja from the film Disco Dancer. That was the only Hindi song he knew,” he says.

Since then, Bappi’s lost count of the num­ber of sil­ver ju­bilees (as su­per hits are known in Bol­ly­wood) he’s scored. “Na­mak ha­lal [loyal], Sharaabi [al­co­holic]…” he reels off a string of ti­tles that helped him be­come the high­est-earn­ing com­poser of the 80s ac­cord­ing to trade news­pa­per, Screen.

He says he’s scored mu­sic for more than 500 films, in four lan­guages, but is not in­ter­ested in pitch­ing for a Guin­nessWorld Record. “I have proof of up to 400 films,” he smiles. “The rest some­one else will have to [find].”

What he’s es­pe­cially proud of is hav­ing sung for five sets of fa­ther-son lead­ing ac­tors in Bol­ly­wood. “I am the only singer-com­poser who’s sung for Amitabh Bachchan and his son Ab­hishek Bachchan; Su­nil Dutt and his son Sun­jay; Dev Anand and his son Suneil; Dhar­men­dra and his son Sunny; and Jee­tendra and his son, Tushaar Kapoor!”

While mur­murs of pla­gia­rism have dogged Bappi through­out his ca­reer, he shrugs them off. “Those ac­cu­sa­tions are noth­ing new,’’ he says. “But do you know that I filed a case in the US against a singer?”

In 2003, Bappi filed a law­suit in a Los An­ge­les court ac­cus­ing Dr Dre, whose real name is An­dre Young, of ‘bor­row­ing heav­ily’ from his song, Thoda Re­sham Lagta Hai sung by Lata Mangeshkar, for the hip-hop hit Ad­dic­tive from the al­bum Truth­fully

Speak­ing by Truth Hurts, with­out credit or roy­al­ties. “In the end I got credited for my work on the track by Dr Dre’s Af­ter­math Records la­bel,” he says.

Over the past few years Bappi’s songs have gained pop­u­lar­ity in North Amer­ica and Europe. Hip-hop producers are now do­ing ver­sions of his hits. For in­stance, Bri­tish record­ing artist M.I.A. par­layed his

Jimmy Jimmy into the track Jimmy in the 2007 al­bum Kala. He’s also cut al­bums with MC Ham­mer, Snoop Dogg, Boy Ge­orge and Apache In­dian.

“I am just back from New York mix­ing a song called Ru­paiya with Snoop Dogg, and it should be out this year,” he says.

So has he slowed down since then? “I can never slow down, never stop com­pos­ing,” he says, singing a pop­u­lar line from his song Disco Dancer: “Zindagi mera gaana, main isika dee­wana [My life is my song, I am crazy about life].”

But you get the im­pres­sion that Bappi’s stepped back from com­pos­ing to leave the field open to his son, Bappa Lahiri, who had been help­ing his fa­ther for a few years un­til he struck out on his own in 2008. “Bappa has scored many su­per hits on his own and doesn’t need my help,” Bappi smiles.

His daugh­ter Rema, 36, is also a singer. Her hits in­clude Chan­damama

Bole and Lit­tle Star Na­maskar. Chil­dren and the fu­ture are on Bappi’s mind, and to that end he has made a doc­u­men­tary World Peace, Love

and Har­mony, which he hopes will win a Na­tional Award.

“Ac­tor Kabir Bedi has nar­rated the movie and it’s about the im­por­tance of peace in the world,” he says. He’s al­ready won a Na­tional award for best film in 1997 with Ben­gali fea­ture film, Lal Darja (the red door).

Al­though he’s set tunes for hun­dreds of Bol­ly­wood songs, Bappi is now aim­ing for a Grammy nom­i­na­tion for an al­bum of his own.

“I’m a mem­ber of the jury for the Grammy awards,” he says. “I have sub­mit­ted four al­bums so far, the lat­est be­ing Global Le­gends, about Ma­hatma Gandhi, Shakespeare, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Nel­son Man­dela. Last year I did a jazz al­bum, Walk­ing on the Love Street. But so far, I’ve not won a nom­i­na­tion yet. That is my dream now. I’ll be very happy if my al­bum is nom­i­nated.”

So, what’s the se­cret of his suc­cess? “I can tell you in one sen­tence: My songs never get old,” he says. “You go to any disco and you’ll find all my old hits still be­ing played. I guess I am young at heart!”

‘I’m known all over the world as the disco king – Bling bling Bappi Lahiri!’

He’s known as ‘Bling bling Bappi Lahiri’ for a rea­son

Af­ter his as­tound­ing suc­cess, Bappi isn’t short of con­fi­dence

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.