Bappi Lahiri passes away: Life and legacy of Bollywood's disco king

Singer and composer belonged to a family of musicians who were closely involved in the entertainment industry


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Bappi Lahiri. Photo: AFP
Bappi Lahiri. Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 16 Feb 2022, 12:31 PM

Indian singer and composer Bappi Lahiri, 69, who won millions of fans with his penchant for feet-tapping disco music in the 1980s and 1990s, has died in a Mumbai hospital.

Music influenced Bappi Lahiri from a very early age. His experiments with music began when he was just three; it was then when he started playing the tabla.

Bappi Lahiri belonged to a family of musicians who were closely involved in the entertainment industry.

He was the only child, and his parents were both musicians, while his uncle was Kishore Kumar, the legendary Bollywood singer. Alokesh Lahiri (who popularly became known as Bappi Lahiri) treasured happy memories of Kishore.

"Kishore Kumar Ji had rendered his last song 'Guru Guru' for me in Mehboob Studio on October 12, 1987," he told a journalist in an interview. "I still remember the film was 'Waqt Ki Awaz', starring Mithun Chakraborty and Sridevi. The song had a naughty vibe to it, and he was amazing during the recording."

His 'mama' (as he referred to Kishore) made everyone laugh a lot that day but passed away later in the evening. "Whenever I remember him, it brings tears to my eyes," Bappi had mentioned.

He began his Bollywood foray in the early 1970s and made his mark in Chalte Chalte, a romantic musical thriller. The title song, sung by Kishore, was on the Binaca Geetmala annual list in 1976.


And from then, there was no looking back for Bappi Lahiri, who took Bollywood by storm with his 'disco' numbers, merging it with pop music. Namak Halaal, his first film with director Prakash Mehra, was very special for Bappi.

"The music that I did for Namak Halaal is remembered and hummed to this day," recalled Bappi in an interview about two years ago. “One cannot imagine ‘Namak Halaal’ without ‘Pag Ghungroo’. It was shot by Prakash Mehraji in an 11-minute sequence, the longest song sequence in a Hindi film. Kishoreda sang 'Pag Ghungroo' as only he could. He rightly won the Filmfare award for his vocals. I consider 'Pag Ghungroo' among my best achievements."

Before working with Prakash Mehra, he had been associated with the top music duo Kalyanji-Anandji. They included films such as Zanjeer (1973), Haath Ki Safaai (1974) and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978).

But Namak Halaal' was a big challenge for him. Later, "Prakash Mehaji and I did 'Sharaabi' (1984) with Bachchan Saab, again taking the songs to unexpected heights," revealed Bappi.

The turning point for his career in Bollywood was the film Zakhmee (1975). Many of the songs from the film – including Jalta hai jiya mera bheegi bheegi raaton mein, (Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle), Zakhmee diloon ka badla chukane (Kishore Kumar) and Aao tumhne chand pe le jaaein – were hugely popular.

The versatile musician also sang for many Telugu, Tamil and Kannada songs. The most remarkable songs of his, however, were in Bollywood hits including Wardat, Disco Dancer, Namak Halaal, Sharaabi, Naya Kadam, Bewafai, Maqsad, Suraag, Insaaf Main Karoonga, Dance Dance, Commando, Saaheb and Gang Leader.

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