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Remembering Bappi Lahiri through 20 of his Best Songs

This is perhaps the worst month ever in the history of Indian music! The losses keep adding up with legends departing for the heavenly aboard. Within a couple of weeks of loosing the greatest Indian singer of all time Lata Mangeshkar, we have now lost the disco king at the age of 69. Bappi Lahiri passed away a week ago on 15th Feb 2022 with multiple health issues and his loss is a mammoth one to the Bollywood industry!

Lahiri is a musician who can be credited for truly making Bollywood music what it is today, a global sound! He brought western music to an industry that was heavily dominated by a traditional classical music. He effortlessly blended the western and Hindustani Bollywood sound to create a wave of hits after hits not just as a composer & music producer but also as a singer. His voice is a clearly distinguished sound and one cannot ever mistake him for anyone else making him a genuinely unique talent.

He was a breath of fresh air at a time when Bollywood music was evolving and the movie industry was growing to new a new scale with cinemas all around and the true star power of celebrities taking centre stage. The world was connecting and modern trends were coming all around in fashion and lifestyle but not in music. Lahiri changed that with his synthetic disco sounds elevating pop culture into the Indian music landscape. He worked across languages from Bengali to Hindi to even down south in Telugu and Kannada. His style was unique in mixing electronic sounds with Indian melodies and he created something magical with Hindi vocalists across the board. Where he couldn’t, he used his own voice and created a brand that was unique to him.

He made an identity for himself not just with his singing and compositions but also with his unique style and look. Longish hair, trademark sunglasses and loads of gold jewellery around his neck! He became the trend setter of his time and appealed to the youth of India with his brilliant music and fusion style. The man had it all and truly was an intrinsic part of Indian pop culture and a brand name in himself that still worked across the music scene, in TV reality shows and even for his short stint in politics. He leaves such a strong legacy behind that truly only an iconic artist of his stature could do.

Looking back at some of his biggest Hindi hits, the list can be huge considering his music ruled the charts spanning three decades in various genres, not just disco and dance. But here is looking at 20 of our all-time favourite Bappi Lahiri songs.

1982 was perhaps the best year for Bappi Da as he delivered two of the biggest hit albums of his career. Each song was path breaking superhit from ‘Disco Dancer’ (1982) and ‘Namak Halaal’ (1982). I am a Disco Dancer is not just one of the most defining songs of his career but also of actor Mithun Chakraborty. For a movie about music and performance, Bappi Da was the best choice and he used the opportunity to create a Disco movement across India. Two other songs from this album are worthy of being in the top 20 of his songs, Usha Uthup’s collaboration with him on Koi Yahan Nache is a melody like none other that made Auva Auva a catch phrase that is still hard to forget. Also his own vocal on Yaad Aa Raha hai is one of the best ever that blended romance into disco. Anjaan’s lyrics on each of these songs is brilliant and gave Bappi Da a great platform to showcase his music and vocal abilities.

But it was the other album ‘Namak Halaal’ that year that made him a legend with three major timeless hits. Two of these are perhaps the most remixed songs ever in Bollywood history and still a rage on the dancefloor even in its original form. Asha Bhosle and Lahiri’s collaboration on Raat Baaki, Baat Baki and Jawani Jaan-E-Man is music hall of fame worthy stuff. They are till date the best desi disco songs and truly brilliant songs to listen to. The music was truly innovative with synthetic sounds never heard before anywhere and the vocals are truly epic thanks to the brilliance of Bhosle and how Lahiri has conducted the production of these songs. Pag Ghungroo Bandh is a brilliant song and truly unique in its style that blends classical signing with disco melody. The sheer brilliance of this song in its composition and execution by the great Kishore Kumar won him the award for the best singer that year.

One of the best ever songs of Lahiri is Yaar Bina Chain from the movie ‘Saaheb’ (1985). This is one of the best disco tunes ever created in the history of Indian music and the execution is perfect is every department.

Around the same time came one of his other biggest hit albums ‘Sharaabi’ (1984). This album was one of the shinning star albums in the career of the great Kishore Kumar who had four best singer nominations all from this same soundtrack. Intehan Ho Gayi is a genius piece of music that is a classic for every drunk situation. The slow execution is a piece of creative brilliance that made this song a cult classic. Another cult piece of excellent work is De De Pyar De that has such a strong musicality that it is very memorable and can be heard on a repeat. This was one of the songs that till date is a must play song for brass bands at every Indian wedding. Lahiri also showed his talent for producing slow sad romantics with Manzilen Apni Jagah Hain that won Kumar the best singer title again that year. This is a classically sound song that has some brilliant lyrics to it with a great musical arrangement.

He revived disco music again in a big way with Tamma Tamma Loge for the movie ‘Thanedaar’ (1990). The song’s melody was inspired from western songs but that didn’t stop everyone from falling in love and making this song an epic hit. The quirkiness in this song was its real strength and demonstrated Lahiri’s capability of appealing to the masses.

Apart from his disco styling, Bappi Da did brilliantly in other genres too. One of his iconic early hits include Bambai Se Aaya Mera Dost from the movie ‘Aap Ki Khatir’ (1977). The uniqueness of this song is truly in its lyrics and composition. A proper sing-along song that became an anthem for the people of Mumbai, and it was Lahiri who created that appeal with his execution and vocals.

Another masterpiece of Lahiri was a song called Thoda Resham Lagta Hai from a lesser know movie ‘Jyoti’ (1981) but this song got its international recognition when a sample of this was used by Truth Hurts in a song called Addictive. Apart from Lata Mangeshkar’s brilliant vocals, it is the melodic composition of this song that truly makes it addictive and catchy.

In a similar style was the classic Gori Hai Kalaiyaan from the movie ‘Aaj Ka Arjun’ (1990). This song is a typical Bollywood 90s stylised song that defined the sound of the decade. It also proved Lahiri could do traditional Bollywood composition as effortlessly as western disco sounds.

Talk about cheesy fun songs and Lahiri could do a great job at those too. He made Jetendra a big hit with the masses with songs like Taki O Taki from ‘Himmatwala’ (1983). A proper cult hit of the time, this song can be painful to listen to as it can be annoying as it is so catchy that it gets stuck in the head. That is the sheer brilliance of its composition.

He demonstrated he can bring this much fun in every decade with Laal Dupatte Wali in ‘Aankhen’ (1993) as a composer and Tune Maari Entriyaan from ‘Gunday’ (2013) as a singer. Both songs have that strong element of fun with an iconic distinguished sound that made them superhit songs of their decade while he proved he can deliver relevant music in his style through the ages.

He even delivered one of the best item numbers of the 2000s with Ooh La La from ‘Dirty Picture’ (2011) as a singer making it one of his most memorable recent hits.

Finally another aspect of his versatility can be seen in the composition of one of the best gazal’s ever delivered in Bollywood – Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezaar Aaj Bhi Hai from the movie ‘Aitbaar’ (1985). This disco king delivered here an arrangement that is true to his Hindustani classical roots. Conducting this song couldn’t have been easy with a singer of Bhupinder’s stature and only a great musical composer could have rendered such a great tune.

All these songs are just a tiny fraction in the legacy of the disco king that Bappi Lahiri was and he will truly be missed for generations as these songs will last the test of time for centuries ahead. May he rest in peace!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.