CREATORS’ CORNER – Interview with BappiLahiri – IPRS

CREATORS’ CORNER – Interview with BappiLahiri

The name AlokeshLahiri will not ring a bell to most ears. But once you refer to him as ‘Bappi’ all eyes will light up. BappiLahiri or Bappi Da, as fondly called, recently completed 50 years as a composer. A commendablefeat by any music creator.

A child prodigy, Bappi Da hails from a musical family. His parents, Aparesh and Bansuri Lahiri were famous Bengali singers and musicians and trained in Indian classical music and ShyamaSangeet. They initiated him into music at an early age. Under their tutelage, Bappi Da started learning the nuances of the tabla at the tender age of 3.

“It was only due to the influence of my parents that I was attracted to music. They are my only gurus. It’s their blessings and the love of the people that made BappiLahiri who he is today,” said the legendary composer humbly.

At the age of 19, he moved to Mumbai and started working with the great Singer Mohammad Rafi. There onwards, he went on to compose more than 5,000 songs for over 500 films.
Though he popularized synthesized disco music in Indian cinema, Bappi Da credits his Indian classical music roots to making him a versatile composer.

“The exposure to Indian classical music made me a complete composer. The influence of classical music reflects in many compositions. I have made numerous songs in Hindi, Bengali, Telegu, and other languages based on ragas, folk, and semi-classical music.” Bappi Da pointed out.

It was on his first world tour that Bappi Da was exposed to the disco sound when he heard the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack at a Chicago nightclub. His then-upcoming Bollywood film Surakksha demanded a modern style of music. Bappi Da composed a soundtrack with disco and western music influences that were unheard of before in Bollywood. It was followed by his compositions in movies like Vardat, NamakHalaal, Dance Dance, Commando, Sharaabi. BappiLahiri became the king among composers of the time.

Though some of his contemporaries started catching up to his style, BappiDa’s magic was unparalleled. The 1982 film Disco Dancer brought him widespread fame. He continued to belt out non-stop super-hits collaborating with greats like his maternal uncle Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Asha Bhosle, LataMangeshkar, and the Pakistani pop star Nazia Hassan.

“The media labeled me the Disco King in India as I brought disco music to the country. I have mixed disco music with traditional Indian music in many songs like ‘PagGhunghroo’ and ‘Yaar Bina Chain Kaha Re’. The audience loved them. ‘PagGhunghroo’ has a sargam and folk music along with western beats. The credit for this song goes to the director of the movie Namak Halal, Prakash Mehra. It was his vision to compose a song extraordinary enough that people will remember for years. He gave me the freedom to compose it the way I wanted,” recalled the Disco King.

A self-proclaimed fan of SD Burman and Salil Chowdhury, he insists that the atmosphere in the recording studio has completely changed with time. A change not so good.

He reminisces about times when he was in the studio and would have Mohammad Rafi or Kishore Kumar sitting next to him and discussing the song. Now things have changed completely. But being the one to move on with the time, Bappi Da has not let the new age affect him or his penchant for music.

But did he have to change while composing for films in various languages?
“The style of rhythm changes in every region. Bollywood prefers western styles, and the Telegu audience wants a mix of Indian and western, while the Bengal music industry loves traditional music. I am devoted to my music and compose music as is required. There is no difference for me when it comes to composing for different film industries,” explained the veteran.

Bappi Da is regarded as the man with the ‘Midas Touch’ and has a knack for predicting things correctly. But he admits that is not always the case. Dwelling on this while recalling an incident from the past, he said,“At most of the times, while composing a song, I am sure that the song will be a hit. However, when I composed ‘HaanPehliBaar, EkLadkiMeraPakadKar’, I was not sure about the song doing well. Though the song was sung by Kishore Kumar. The song was good but it was featured in a small movie called ‘AurKaun’ so the chances of it becoming a hit were less. Surprisingly the song became a super hit, and people still remember it.”

After a long and decorated career, Bappi Da still has the jest of a youngster making inroads into the industry. His admiration for young talent, fresh thoughts is well known, and he is always at hand for advice.

“I would like to tell the aspiring singers that listen to the composer. The man has composed a song with some thought, and it is his baby. Don’t question the composer, and you will make it big. The composers should be adept at creating music in all genres. Don’t limit yourself to a particular style. Learn and listen to varied kinds of music, be it classical, folk, ghazals, semi-classical, rap, funk, jazz, etc. Keeping an open mind is the gateway to success,” emphasised Bappi Da.