Dubai: Bling-loving Bollywood singer and music composer Bappi Lahiri, who was known for his trademark gold chains and statement necklaces, won’t sparkle anymore on the Indian music scene.
Credited as the ultimate ‘Disco King’ in India — a moniker he earned for introducing vibrant disco beats to his compositions in the ’80s — the singer and music composer with a flamboyant personality died unexpectedly in a Mumbai hospital. The doctor who was treating him told local reporters that the singer was suffering from OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) and was under his treatment for nearly a month.
Lahiri died aged 69 and is survived by his wife Chitrani and his two children. Lahiri — who would have put Liberace’s glittering wardrobe to shame — had recently recovered from battling COVID-19 and was dealing with various health issues.
Lahiri, born as Alokesh Lahiri, was the kind of jolly singer who stepped on to a red carpet and declared that ‘Gold is God’. But it was not just his outlandish clothes and chains that grabbed attention. The ‘Ooh La La’ hit-maker from blockbuster ‘The Dirty Picture’ was a composer and singer who had his pulse firmly on what his fans enjoyed. His songs such as ‘Tamma Tamma Loge’ from the blockbuster Thanedar’ and ‘Raat Baaki Baat Baaki’ from the film ‘Namak Halaal’ -- were invariably hummable and dance-worthy.
Lahiri was born in Kolkata to a family of singers, and music folklore has it that he began playing the table at the age of three. His father, Aparesh Lahiri was a famous Bengali singer and his mother, Bansari Lahiri was a singer trained in classical music. But Lahiri had bigger ambitions. In several interviews, he spoke of how he wanted to create music that was ‘perfect blend of East and West’. At 19, Lahiri made the plunge into the world of music composition and direction with the 1972 film ‘Daadu’ and a year later broke into Bollywood with the 1973 film ‘Nanha Shikhari’.
But the movie that established him in Bollywood was Tahir Husain’s Zakhmee (1975), for which he composed music and doubled as a playback singer. Lahiri single-handedly heralded a new era in music with his sounds. After he worked in films such as ‘Chalte Chalte’ and ‘Surakshaa’, Lahiri became one of Bollywood’s most sought-after music composers. His brassy sound also compelling him to sing many of his compositions.
His songs — just like his quirky personality — were fun and hummable. But in every artist’s life there’s one film that defines his career and his body of work. For Lahiri, his work in the film ‘Disco Dancer’ was that career-defining film. The hit song entrenched Lahiri’s sound into the fabric of Indian music and made him a force to reckon with.
He reigned large in the 80s and early 1990s. Who can forget the song ‘Gutur Gutur’ from Mithun Chakraborty-starrer ‘Dalal’ or ‘Gori Hai Kalaiyan’ or ‘Jimmy Jimmy’?
Even though he was a classically trained singer and musicians, he was never a purist. He’s a singer who revelled in making music accessible. He had fun with his own compositions and that vibe always reflects in his hit songs.
The multi award-winning singer, who was honoured with the 63rd Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, never sat still. When he wasn’t creating music for Hindi films, he was judging reality shows on television. His larger-than-life gentle bear personality made him a popular fit for shows that essentially shepherd young talents. In 2006, he appeared on the popular television show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs’ on Zee TV as co-judge with singers Alka Yagnik and Abhijeet.
Lahiri also enjoys immense goodwill among his peers. According to reports, Shah Rukh Khan famously asked Lahiri to compose a musical score for his Kolkata Knight Riders team in the Indian Premier Leage 2008. His swan song in Bollywood was ‘Bhankas’ from Baaghi 2 in 2020.
Just like the gold chains on his person, his sounds and songs will remain precious.