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Bappi Lahiri – The King of Disco and music revolutionary of Bollywood

Having composed and sung songs in some of Bollywood's biggest classics such as “Disco Dancer” and “Namak Halal”, in terms of his music he was best known for his upbeat energy packed dancing grooves which would get feet moving.

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By Anand Venkitachalam

New Delhi: Bappi Lahiri was the ‘King Of Disco’ in Bollywood. Iconic in every sense of the word, Bappi Lahiri revolutionized music in the Hindi scene, setting trends by synthesizing the power of disco with sensibilities of the Indian audience that defined the day back in the ’70s and ’80s, and to this day his work is followed with great passion.

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He was renowned for his melodic, powerful voice combining filmi music with disco flamboyance and attitude and ever strong over the top theatrical presence on stage. His death comes only a few days after the ‘Nightingale of India’ Lata Mangeshkar, robbing India of yet another icon.

Having composed and sung songs in some of Bollywood’s biggest classics such as “Disco Dancer” and “Namak Halal”, in terms of his music he was best known for his upbeat energy packed dancing grooves which would get feet moving.

In other words, he was the perfect blend of the East and the West in an unmatched style which can never be imitated or done by someone else, for he was an exceptionally unique persona. But it wasn’t just his songs that set him apart from the rest of Bollywood’s composers and playback singers but also his sense of fashion, for the ‘King of Disco’ was also the ‘King of Bling’ as he was famous for wearing substantial amount of jewellery, particularly gold displayed by his rings and his chains, which was one of the trademarks of his attire.

Born in a Bengali family, Lahiri was proficient in Indian classical music having been trained in an early age. The nephew of the legendary Kishore Kumar, he began showing signs of musical greatness at a young age and began composing at the age of eleven, getting his debut as a composer in the 1973 film “Nanha Shikari” though he got his big break in 1975 with the Tahir Hussain film “Zakhmee”, with songs like ‘Jalta Hai Jiya Mera Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein” and “Abhi Abhi Thi Dushmani”.

Since then he went on a roll, composing music and singing songs for various films in an inimitable style, some of which became classics today such as “Yaad Aa Raha Hai”, “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja”,“Tamma Tamma Loge”, “Ooh la la”, “Auva Auva Koi Yahan Nache”, “Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re”, “Thodi Si Jo Pee Lee Hai”, “Ramba Ho Ho Ho, Samba Ho Ho Ho”, “Tune Maari Entriyan” etc.

Throughout his career he worked with a number of artists ranging from Vijay Benedict, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, A.R Rahman, Vishal-Shekhar, Shaan, KK, Sunidhi Chauhan, Arijit Singh. Later, Bappi turned his attention to reality shows. In 2006, he 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.

Bappi and was also one of the celebrated judges for Zee TV’s ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007,’ along with fellow music composers: Himesh Reshammiya, Ismail Darbar, and Vishal-Shekhar. Bappi was also a judge for Sony Entertainment Television’s ‘K For Kishore’ reality show that sought to find the ‘heir apparent’ to Kishore Kumar. All of these reality shows gained tremendous amount of worldwide popularity.

Bappi Lahiri also made his debut in Disney animated production, ‘Moana’ for which he not only composed the song ‘Shona’ but also voiced the dialogues and sang for the character of Tamatoa, a giant crab with a fondness for shiny treasures.

The lilting number “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja Aaja” from the Mithun Chakraborty starrer “Disco Dancer” composed by Bappi Lahiri also featured in the Adam Sandler film “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”, and he was given due credit for it. In 2019, the composer revealed that he has recorded two songs with Lady Gaga, for which he sang his portions in Hindi while she did so in English.

Bappi Lahiri joined the BJP in January 2014 in the presence of Rajnath Singh to contest the Serampore Lok Sabha elections but lost. He won the Filmfare Award in 1985, Filmfare Lifetime Award in 2018, Mirchi Music Award in 2012 and Zee Rishtey Award in 2007. He died of obstructive sleep apnea in Mumbai at the age of 69. 

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