On November 27 Bappi Lahiri turns 60. This is also his 40th year in the film industry as singer-composer-producer and now actor. On December 2, in New York’s Millenium Theater, he will be presented with the ‘Legend’ Award for ongoing contributions and influences in the recording field at the 5th Annual Big Apple Music Awards. The hat-trick calls for a triple celebration, but all’s quiet at the Lahiri house because, in memory of Balasaheb Thackeray, he has pushed it ahead to January 2013. “In 1992, Balasaheb came home on my birthday. How can I celebrate within a fortnight of his demise?” he asks.
The music award is his birthday gift. It makes a special mention of his scores for Chalte Chalte (1976), Disco Dancer (1982), Namak Halal (1982) and Sharaabi (1984) and an excited Bappida is already singing ‘Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy aaja aaja.’ The British-Sri Lankan alternative musician M.I.A. had re-recorded it as ‘Jimmy’ for her 2007 album Kala. The Russian techno group Ruki Vverh’s came up with a cover version too, as did Tibetan artiste Kelsang Metok. In 1996, during his India tour, Michael Jackson had told Bappida he loved both ‘Jimmy’ and ‘I am a disco dancer’ and in 2008, the Adam Sandler film, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, had used the interlude music, with his name in the credits.Jimmy Jimmy country!
“Recently, in Kazakhstan, my musicians were told, ‘Oh, you are from ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ country,” chuckles Bappida, pointing out that not only ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ but also ‘I am a disco dancer…’, ‘Goron ki na kaalon ki’ and ‘Yaad aa raha hai’ were equally popular, particularly in former Soviet Union states like Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
India’s Golden Man recalls how his uncle, Kishore Kumar was supposed to dub ‘Yaad aa raha hai’ on returning from London.
“But when he heard the scratch I’d recorded, he insisted we retain my voice. Director B Subhash wanted me to sing ‘Disco Dancer’ too, but I introduced Vijay Benedict and only sang it for Golmaal 3 (2010),” he says.Songs on the disc… disco!
Bappida got disco music to India, using disco beats in ‘Mausam hai gaane ka’ from Mithun Chakraborty’s Bond thriller, Surakshaa (1979). He’d first heard the term from a DJ at a Chicago club to describe the long-playing records playing on the disc all night.
Interestingly, the King of Disco also composed the desi ‘Pag ghungroo’. “Namak Halaal was a big film and this 12 minute song on Amitabh Bachchan had Kishore mama astounded over its length. We recorded it over four days at Mehboob Studio with a 100-piece orchestra,” he reminisces.Sapna come true!
Live recordings were re-introduced by Sajid Khan for his Himmatwala remake that willl be unveiled in 2013. Bappida compliments Sajid-Wajid and Mika Singh for the new version of ‘Taki taki’ and shares his memories of the 1983 Jeetendra-Sridevi blockbuster. “For ‘Nainon mein sapna’ I got 40 percussionists to play everything from the tabla to ghungroo tarang. Ravi Gurtu even played the matka live. When Latadidi (Mangeshkar) saw all the rhythm players of Mumbai at Mehboob studio her reaction, was, ‘Bappi what have you done?’”Encore!
Last year, Bappida returned with a bang with ‘Oo la la…’ the Vishal-Shekhar version of his Mawwali chartbuster, ‘Ooi amma’ for The Dirty Picture (2011).
“From Thailand and Vietnam to South Africa and the US, everywhere, people from six to 60, everyone dances to its tune. I’ve had to sing it a minimum of three times at every show,” he beams.
Every show ends with the ‘Chalte chalte’ track penned by Amit Khanna that Bappida had set to tune at Dev Anand’s Navketan Studio. “Since we didn’t have a tape recorder, I asked my mother Bansari who was also a musician-singer to remember the tune for me. When Bhisham Kohli dropped by at my Khar Danda house and told me he wanted some songs for his film Chalte Chalte (1976), I presented him with this song, substituting the first two words ‘Aye dost’ with his film’s title.”
‘Chalte Chalte mere yeh geet yaad rakhna kabhi alvida na kehna,’ so true for Bappida who even at 60 continues to be a chartbusting Royal Bengal Tiger!