India’s Disco King, Bappi Lahiri succumbs to death at 69. Mourned by millions of fans.

Bappi Lahiri

Bappi Lahiri
Bappi Lahiri

A special tribute given to Bappi Lahiri, the Disco King of India on his sudden death.

On Feb. 15, Bappi Lahiri, an Indian film composer who merged the melodrama of Bollywood film storylines with the flamboyance of disco’s electronic orchestra sound, igniting a pop frenzy in India and earning him the moniker “Disco King,” died in Mumbai. He was 69 years old at the time.

According to his son, Bappa, who was his arranger, manager, and bandmate, the cause was obstructive sleep apnea.

In 1979, Mr. Lahiri was a rising pop star who flew to the United States to perform a series of shows for Indian American fans. He took in the final months of American disco fever by touring nightclubs in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. He bought a Moog synthesiser, many drum machines, and so much other music gear in New York that it took up two taxis.

When he returned home, he used those instruments to create a career-launching music for the smash film “Disco Dancer” (1982). It was a disco musical with relentless bass rhythms and soaring horns and strings, and it was a confession of love for the genre. A frantic crowd and the protagonist, a superstar disco performer, spell out and yell the word “disco” in one scene.

“Disco Dancer,” which chronicles the ascent to celebrity of a young street urchin named Jimmy and his battles with a family of thuggish plutocrats, was the first Indian film to gross one billion rupees (about $230 million in today’s money), and its music fueled disco frenzy in India.

It also boosted the career of Mithun Chakraborty, the sad-eyed, bouffant-wearing star, and spawned two of the most memorable dance anthems in Indian pop history, both sung by Mr. Chakraborty onscreen: “I Am a Disco Dancer” and “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja.”

Those songs have lasted long after the film was released in theatres in India. They’ve been known to get everyone from ageing aunts to groomsmen’s friends on the dance floor at weddings.

Mr. Lahiri would use a recognisably Indian tune to underpin several of his disco songs, and he quickly recognised he’d found a winning formula, resulting in 1980s successes including “I Am a Street Dancer,” “Super Dancer,” and “Disco Station Disco.” By recording the soundtracks to 37 films in 1987 alone, he gained a position in the Limca Book of Records, which recognises Indians’ global achievements.

His boyhood adoration for Elvis Presley encouraged him to acquire a mega-celebrity fashion sense. A mound of gold jewellery hung from his neck, and he wore tinted sunglasses both inside and out.

Bappi Lahiri was born on November 27, 1952, in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Aparesh Lahiri and Bansur (Chakravarty) Lahiri, his parents, were both vocalists who met while performing for All India Radio. Bappi showed talent as a child playing the tabla, a traditional Indian drum, and studied with tabla teacher Samta Prasad on the advice of famous singer Lata Mangeshkar.

When he was a teenager, his family relocated to Bombay (now Mumbai) in order for Bappi’s career to advance. There, he discovered a formidable ally in the family’s spiritual guru, Amiya Roy Chowdhury, who introduced him to Bollywood actor Dev Anand through a letter.

Mr. Lahiri’s composing career spanned decades and included both disco and Indian classical forms such as ghazal. He is thought to have written about 9,000 songs, which were featured in approximately 600 films. He’d hire four studios in a single day and use up to 100 musicians for a single song during his most creative days.

Mr. Lahiri is survived by his wife, Chitrani (Mukherjee) Lahiri, whom he married in 1977, his mother, Rema Bansal, and two grandsons, in addition to his son.

Though disco had declined in popularity in the United States by the time Mr. Lahiri rose to prominence, he became a prominent figure in the disco movement in other countries, especially the Soviet Union. Mr. Lahiri’s songs are still used in musical performances on Russian television, and his film “Disco Dancer” was one of the most successful in the Soviet Union.

A journalist from India’s Express News Service discovered a swarm of “Jimmy” fans during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia.

As he took out his phone, one local fan, identified only as Yuri, said, “Everyone knows him where I come from.” “Let me show you my favourite of his tunes.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here