The year was 1976. German music producer Frank Farian produced Daddy Cool with four young performers — Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell. Though the song was released in the month of May, it took four months for it to become a chart-topping disco hit. And for many Indians, this song was their introduction to western music.
Four decades since then, Boney M’s lead singer, 63-year-old Mitchell is in the city to perform for the first time with her band — Boney M featuring Liz Mitchell — on November 21. “It feels amazing that we have so many fans in India, and (I) hope to see as many of them as possible during the tour,” says Mitchell, in an email interview. As part of the tour, she will also perform in Pune on November 20.
Originally, the group’s purpose was to simply lip-sync for television and do disco performances of Farian’s song Baby Do You Wanna Bump (1976). But when the record was released as a single, it was credited to Boney M, a pseudonym Farian had created after watching an Australian detective show, Boney. So, the group came to be known as Boney M.
For Mitchell, it was a call from Barrett that persuaded her to join. “I met Frank Farian and he asked if I would work with him on this project. And four to five months later, we had our first hit Daddy Cool,” recounts Mitchell.
Characterised by blingy costumes, Farrell’s gyrating moves and outrageously catchy lyrics, Boney M was perhaps the most scandalous band at the time. For their second album, Love for Sale (which released in 1977 and featured hits like Ma Baker and Ma Baker ), the band members were shot semi-naked and chained like slaves, which appeared in some versions of the cover.
This depiction was especially tough for Mitchell, who came from a traditional background. “I was isolated with my thinking. (But) I never strayed from my faith… I held on to (my) values and morals,” she says, adding, “The photo shoots were not easy. I cried and refused to do anything that would shame my mother and father,” adds Mitchell.
The big break-up
After a decade of producing hit numbers like Rivers of Babylon, Brown Girl in the Ring, and the disco anthem Ra-Ra-Rasputin, Boney M decided to split in 1986. Since then, many versions of the band have been touring the world, but Mitchell’s band is the closest to the original R&B and reggae sound. In fact, Mitchell claims that the other bands perform to her voice on stage.
“It is a shame, and I feel sad for the audience that write to me and complain. I believe if they didn’t mime to my voice, their show would be far better received,” she says.
But will the original band ever come together for a concert in the future? “I will never say never. If it is god’s plan, it will surely happen. It was god’s plan when we met and he allowed us to do great things together,” she adds.
A lot has changed in the world of music since the ’70s. EDM is the new-age disco music, and pop music has been reduced to nostalgia-evoking sounds. How does a band with a legacy that goes back over five decades react to the music of today? “I think the ’70s was a very special time. Melodies and rhythm ruled as dancing climaxed. (But) the new sound of EDM is complementary to the life of young people today. They have a lot of anger (in them), and this music is drowning and perfect for their feeling,” says Mitchell.
What: Boney M will perform for the first time in Mumbai on November 21
Where: Dublin Square at Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla
Tickets: Rs 1,000 onward
When: 7.30pm onward