Disco Inspired by our Folk Tunes
Bollywood singer-music director Bappi Lahiri aka the 'Disco King' doesn't need an introduction. He has been entertaining audiences all over the subcontinent with his tunes for over four decades. He created waves in the music industry by singing in Hindi, Bengali and many other regional languages. Lahiri was recently in Dhaka. Nazmus Saquib caught up with him.
Saquib: You seem to have an attachment with Bangladesh…
Lahiri: Although I was born and raised in Kolkata, my family was from Bangladesh. My father Aparesh Lahiri was from Pabna and my mother Bansari Lahiri was from Sirajganj. So I guess I have a certain attachment to Bangladesh and the people here. During the Liberation War (1971) I was 18, and composed inspirational songs “Hajar Bochhor Porey Eshechi Phire Ei Banglar Bukey” and “Sharey Saat Koti Manusher Aaj Ekti Naam Mujibur”. Moreover, I have also composed songs for mainstream Bangladeshi movies like "Shami Keno Ashami" and "Meyerao Manush". I feel proud of my roots and hence despite my hectic schedule I do manage time and come here over and over again whenever I get an invitation.
Saquib: In your four decade-long music career, you have had the opportunity to work with iconic Indian singers as well as up and coming artistes. You have also worked with some celebrated Bangladeshi singers. Can you share some of those experiences?
Lahiri: I have had the opportunity to work with the legendary Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeskar and many other prominent artistes. I have also worked with the Bangladeshi diva Runa Laila on her first disco album in 1982. The songs "Haiya Ho", "De De Pyar De" recorded by her are still hummed by many. Runa Laila and Sabina Yasmin have both sung under my direction. I also enjoy working with talented young singers. Anik Dhar -- a music reality show winner -- has recently sung for the soundtrack of the film "Shibaji" under my direction. Moreover, from another music reality show, Bangladeshi singers Beauty Das and Munir have caught my attention and I am interested to work with them as well.
Saquib: The music scene in 80s' Bollywood was redefined by you when you pioneered 'Disco Music' in India and became the 'Disco King'. Do you reminisce those days?
Lahiri: Mithun Chakraborty was a newcomer back then (1979). My first film with Mithun was "Suraksha" and the song "Mausam Hain Gaane Ka" was a hit. In 1980, I composed once again for Mithun's new movie "Disco Dancer" and the title song "I am a Disco Dancer" became the cult hit of that year and the rest as they say was history. Later I continued to come up with more disco numbers -- "Yaad Aa Raha Hain Tera Pyar", "Disco Station", "Yaar Bina Chain Kahan", "De De Pyar De", which were also superhits. Actually, I went to USA in 1979 and during that time disco was very popular there. I was greatly inspired by the music played by the disc jockeys in USA and I wanted to produce the same kind of music in India and that inspired me to come up with these songs.
Saquib: What inspired you to collect Bangla folk music and give them a 'disco flavour'?
Lahiri: As I mentioned earlier, I am a proud Bengali and I believe our folk music has an incredible appeal. To make folk music more popular, especially among the younger generation, I have composed a lot of disco music inspired by timeless Bangla folk songs like "De De Pyar De" ("Allah Megh De Pani De"), "Yaar Bina Chain Kahan" ("Je Jon Premer Bhab Janey Na") etc.
Saquib: Do you listen to a lot of Bangladeshi songs?
Lahiri: I do and I love pop and rock music of Bangladesh. James, Mila and Tishma are doing very well and I love their styles.
Saquib: What's your observation regarding the current music trend in Bollywood?
Lahiri: I think most of the contemporary composers lack originality. These days we hardly come across compositions which can pass the test of time. Perhaps that's the reason why evergreen old songs like "Dum Maro Dum", "Pyar Do Pyar Lo" etc are being remade for new films.
Saquib: What are your upcoming projects?
Lahiri: To spread the message of peace across the globe, I have released an international album, tiled "World Peace Love and Harmony". I'm expecting to release an album in Bangladesh next month. I have also composed songs for the Hindi films "Ragini MMS", "Tera Deewana" and a Bangla film called "Love Me".
Saquib: On a different note, what's the reason behind your fascination with jewellery?
Lahiri: Actually jewellery has helped create my image and I have been wearing them since I gave my first hit. All over the world, I am known as "Bling Bling Bappi-Da" and I am happy with this identity. I believe gold is lucky for me.
Saquib: Any message for your Bangladeshi fans?
Lahiri: I get overwhelmed by the love and hospitality of the Bangladeshi people whenever I come here. This country has progressed a lot over the years. You have successfully hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and proved to the rest of the world what you are capable of. I wish Bangladesh all the best from the core of my heart.