Disco – did it really exist in India? Some see it through the eyes of a pre-liberalised India, others cringe at the high-camp register and the aping of Western tunes. But there’s no doubt the music from ‘Qurbaani’, ‘Nammak Halal’, ‘Karz’ and ‘Disco Dancer’ soared in all its Bollywood glory.
What did India’s disco king, Bappi Lahiri understand of the genre’s soul influence or its non-Indian synth sound? One might ask this without crediting his inclusion of the dholak in ‘Bambai Se Aaya Mera Dost’ and the bongo in ‘Humko Aaj Kal Hai Intezaar’.
But Lahiri was more than the glitz of his enormous gold chains and the kitsch of disco. With this playlist, we remember him for his versatile range and mastery over rhythm.
Aao Tumhen Chaand Pe Le Jayen
Bappida, as he was fondly called, composed this song for the movie ‘Zakhmi’, at 24. It’s an evergreen children’s day special and sometimes a lullaby. Less popular than ‘Re Mama Re Mama Re’ and more musically complex than ‘Dadi Amma Dadi Amma’. It is a patronising response to the innocent Big questions that Bollywood likes its kids to ask. A sweet young un’ might ask his uncle, where did my parents go? They’re there with the stars above, he will be told. In this case, it’s the moon.
Pag Ghunghroo Baandh
What is this Meera bhajan among the repertoire of a composer who also brought us the sexy ‘Raat Baaki Baat Baaki’ and heady ‘Jimmy, Jimmy Aaja Aaja’? Except that it’s not the least bit devotional or spiritual. The video’s got Amitabh Bachchan playing casual slapstick gags to the lyrics and the lyrics go, “Aap andar se kuchh aur, bahar se kuchh aur nazar aate hai (You look different on the inside and on the outside).” This song has been revitalised on TikTok and Instagram, with one of the most hilarious edits being of Mads Mikkelsen.
Kaliyon Ka Chaman/ Resham Lagta Hai
This banger was the cause of a million-dollar lawsuit. After being sampled by Dr. Dre for ‘Addictive’, Saregama rushed to sue Universal Music Group for unauthorised use of Lahiri’s song. American rapper Cardi-B too played used the track to make an announcement last year. Ironically, the song was remixed by Harry Anand to become more club-ready, the original is heavy on the dholak.
Ek Lo Ek Muft
During the recording of ‘Bumbai Nagaria’, filmmaker Milan Luthria and composers Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani instantly agreed to get Lahiri on as the vocalist. His unaffected, iconic voice perfectly matched the vibe of Mumbai, the filmmaker said. He sings with the same enviable confidence and self-assurance for AR Rahman in ‘Ek Lo Ek Muft’.
Maana ho tum behad haseen
Not only did Bappida give music to Telugu, Tamil and Kannada cinema, he also brought Malayali artist KJ Yesudas to Bollywood.