New Delhi : Iconic Bollywood singer-composer Bappi Lahiri, who passed away due to OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) on Tuesday night, was a name best known for popularising disco music to the Indian mainstream. He was 69 when he breathed his last.
Fondly known as Bappi Da, the musician experienced massive success in the 1980s and 90s due to his work on films such as ‘Disco Dancer’, ‘Namak Halaal’, ‘Dance Dance’ and ‘Commando’. He earned the title of ‘Disco King’ for popularising the use of synthesized disco music in Indian cinema.
Apart from his popular disco-electronic music, Bappi Da was also known for his signature look that consisted of gold chains, golden embellishments, velvety cardigans and sunglasses.
Born as Alokesh Lahiri on November 27, 1952, in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, he was part of a family with a rich tradition in classical music. His father, Aparesh Lahiri was a famous Bengali singer and his mother, Banshori Lahiri, was a musician-singer who was well-versed in classical music and Shyama Sangeet. He was their only child.
At the mere age of three, Bappi Da had started to play the table and went on to keep learning different instruments like saxophone and guitar. His maternal uncle, legendary Indian singer Kishore Kumar, along with his parents were a huge part in making music such an indispensable part of Bappi Da’s life.
After initially being trained by his parents, he received his first opportunity in a Bengali film, ‘Daadu’ (1972) at the age of 19. The first Hindi film for which he composed music was ‘Nanha Shikari’ (1973) and his first Hindi composition was ‘Tu Hi Mera Chanda’ sung by Mukesh.
His career took a turn when he worked on Tahir Husain’s Hindi film, ‘Zakhmee’ (1975), for which he composed music and doubled as a playback singer. For the same film, he composed a duet with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar named ‘Nothing Is Impossible’.
Bappi Da’s compositions ‘Jalta Hai Jiya Mera’ (Kishore Asha duet) and Lata Mangeshkar solos like ‘Abhi Abhi Thi Dushmani’ and ‘Aao Tumhe Chand’ from the same film also became popular and brought upon him national recognition.
The songs from his next film, ‘Chalte Chalte’, became a huge rage, and with Ravikant Nagaich’s ‘Surakshaa’ his singing and music became even more popular.
He also scored music for many Hindi films produced in South India. Bappi Da even composed music for some ghazals namely ‘Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezaar Aaj Bhi Hai’ and ‘Aawaz Di Hai’ for the 1985 film ‘Aitbaar’.
He had tied the knot with Chitrani Lahiri on January 24, 1977. The couple gave birth to two children, Bappa Lahiri and Rema Lahiri. His wife Chitrani comes from a family of singers, his daughter Rema is also an excellent singer, and his son Bappa Lahiri has inherited his father’s keen sense of music and joined the Hindi film industry as a music director.
During the ’80s, he further made melodious tracks sung by Kishore Kumar either as duets with Asha Bhosle or Lata Mangeshkar in films starring Rajesh Khanna like ‘Naya Kadam’, ‘Masterji’, ‘Aaj Ka M.L.A Ram Avatar’, ‘Bewafai’, ‘Maqsad’, ‘Suraag’, ‘Insaaf Main Karoonga’ and ‘Adhikar’. Post the success of ‘Himmatwala’, he regularly composed duets sung by Kumar for several films starring Jeetendra.
Bappi Da made a record by composing for 12 super-hit silver jubilee movies starring Jeetendra as the lead actor in the period between 1983-1985. His name was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for recording over 180 songs for 33 films in 1986.
Through his compositions, he also paved the path to fame for Alisha Chinai and Usha Uthup. Bappi Da’s reign over the Hindi music industry continued throughout the 1990s when he provided music for the Prakash Mehra produced ‘Dalal’ starring Mithun Chakraborty. The song ‘Gutur Gutur’ from the film was a major hit.
Even in the 2000s, Bappi Da’s reign and popularity with the masses remained as strong as ever. His album ‘Bappi Magic – The Asli Baap Mix’, featuring popular numbers such as ‘Gori Hai Kalaiyan’ and ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ was released in 2004 to great fanfare and attained great success. The following year, he composed the background score for the Jahnu Barua film, ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara’.
For the first time in 2006, Bappi Da lent his voice to another composer with ‘Bombai Nagariya’, which he sang for Vishal-Shekhar, for the movie ‘Taxi Number 9211’. Subsequently, he lent his voice for the title track of the Mani Ratnam film ‘Guru’, in which the music has been composed by A.R. Rahman, which also went on to become a super hit.
In 2006, having conquered the world of big-screen Hindi films, he turned his attention to reality shows and appeared on the popular television show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs’ on Zee TV as co-judge with singers Alka Yagnik and Abhijeet.
His other TV stints included Zee TV’s ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007’, Sony Entertainment Television’s ‘K For Kishore’ reality show, among others. All of these reality shows gained a tremendous amount of worldwide popularity.
In late 2016, Bappi Da lent his voice for the character of Tamatoa in the Hindi-dubbed version of Disney’s 3D animated fantasy adventure film ‘Moana’. For the film, he also composed and sang ‘Shona’, the Hindi version of ‘Shiny’. This was his first time dubbing for an animated character. At the 63rd Filmfare Awards, he had won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bappi Da had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on January 31 2014, in the presence of Rajnath Singh, the then national President of Bharatiya Janata Party, to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He was made a BJP candidate from Srerampur (Lok Sabha constituency) in 2014, however, the musician lost to Kalyan Banerjee of All India Trinamool Congress.
Bappi Da was famous for his constant desire to reinvent himself and face the challenge to keep up with the rapidly changing preferences of current generations.
With his multiple talents as a singer, music director, and percussionist, he was a complete entertainer and superstar whose contributions to the music industry will be etched forever in the hearts of future generations.