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Composers today copy my tunes: Bappi Lahiri

"There's no melody in music these days," cribs Lahiri. Arnab Banerjee catches up with the music sensation.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2005 19:10 IST

He has come a long way from the timewhen his name featured in every Friday release. The films were mega hits. A few years later, all his films bombed and their music was ridiculed for being "straight lifts" of some foreign hits. Nevertheless Bappi Lahiri has been a grand success. And now, some two decades later Bappi Lahiri can take it easy because "there's no melody in music these days," he cribs "and producers want me back."

There are other reasons why he hogs media attention - chunks of heavy jewellery and dark glasses, which have become his trademark. But Bapida, as he is fondly called, remains unpurturbed by stories doing the rounds about his personal life. He is back with a bang with 5 top notch banners signing him on.

Recently conferred with the Asha Bhosle Puraskar, he is confident that his days of glory would soon be back. A freewheeling chat with the 80s sensation.

Where have you been hibernating? One doesn't hear of you much?
C'mon give me a break I have spent 32 years and have a track record of 441 films. I feel the need to take it easy now. Also, I have found a new genre – background score which is still unheard of, with the exception of the master composer Salil Choudhury's contribution. My background score in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara has been well received. I am also composing numbers for some forthcoming films.

What are looking forward to?
There is a lot to look forward to. My new album Bangla/Hindi/ English album on the Tsunami tragedy. I am hoping this would get short listed for a Grammy nomination for sure. Also, I have composed 4 of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's verses (which have not been set to tune ever). I have stuck to Gurdev's style while retaining my own as well. I feel truly blessed and greatly honored to have been given the rare opportunity to compose tunes for his verses. Then my son Bappa's turns composer next year. He'll create history by being the third generation of composers to record with the legendary Lataji. My composer father Aparesh Lahiri had recorded with her and then as a music director, I did a lot of songs with her. I feel very excited that my son's first song will be recorded in a living legend's voice.

How do you rate various singing contests across channels?
I know for a fact that all these channels have to look for various means to increase their TRPs. But please get it clear- as a judge, I have a different agenda. For the new role as a someone who has been given the honor to sit in judgment, I have been asked to judge Channels (V')s Mobile Singer contest which is primarily to look for 'playback singers' and not performers or concert singers. So the agenda is entirely different. I wish people knew the difference between singers, playback singers, classical singers and singers with performing skills.

How did you like the quality of singers?
It must have been a difficult decision to make. What can one make out since the callers croon on their mobile phones and one has to make a quick decision. I'll be judging in the third week of December when 15 out of 100 selected singers will be short listed for audition. By the way, the callers have to sing my compositions only. Some of my difficult songs likeYaar bina chain kahan re and Haan mere jaisi haseena… have to be perfected to be able to do justice to them.

Can anyone from among the present lot of singers be compared to the legends?
Definitely not. Legends are born. That too once in a while. The present lot is talented too and thanks to television they have a lot more exposure than we could even imagine.

What quality are you looking for?
Some quality that allows them to stand the test of time for one. They also must be original. But definitely not Lataji, Ashaji, Kishoreda or Rafi saab. Can there ever be singers like them? But I would insist on sur, taal and originality. I have had a long run during which time I did some pot boilers starring Jeetendra and Sridevi then moved on to melody with films like Sharabi and Angan Ki Kali and then finally hit big time with Namak Halaal, Sailaab, Prem Pratigya and Pyara Dushman which was dubbed the "disco phase. Now of course I have, apart from composing for films, background score which I have find very challenging.

Do you insist on classical training for singers?
Not necessarily. Kishore Kumar as we all now, wasn't a trained singer but could sing any difficult note with great ease. At the same time, some renowned classical singers cannot sing light songs. What matters is one's emotive range.

Who do you admire among composers?
I like Ismail Durbar a lot. He is trying to do something original. So is A R Rahman - he too is great and has his own style. Other music composers copy left right and centre. Even Pakistani songs are not spared and are lifted straight.

Since you were accused of copying for long what do you have to say about plagiarism in music today?
What do you want me to say? Some of these so-called music directors today are blatantly copying my songs after ripping me and Panchamda apart for years Tell me is this fair?

Karan Johar almost pays a tribute to your style with the song It's the time to Disco.
I was very amused by all this (laughs). I think the film Kal Ho Na Ho's music was very good.

Why do wear such heavy jewellery?Is it a style statement?
It's my style which my mother made me wear initially. She gave me a gold chain to wear and then it became my signature. Gradually it caught on like a rage and today there are umpteen followers of this particular style even in the USA. I feel blessed to have been given many malas by many of my gurus which I do wear all the time. But I do take them off before going to bed.

First Published: Nov 19, 2005 19:10 IST