For Bappa B. Lahiri, his dad, legendary singer Bappi Lahiri, was the 'coolest' since childhood. He recalls, “My father wore sunglasses to a party at night in the '80s. Clearly, he was ahead of his time.”
The world knows Bappi Lahiri as the iconic singer and music composer with shades and bling that make for his signature look. His son, Bappa, remembers the time when people would criticise his father’s choice of couture and style. “As a child, I would think why were my friends talking about him, his clothes. Today, when I look back, he has made his mark. I see a lot of people dress up like him; many sport gold chains and sunglasses. I always knew my father was someone special and I’m really proud of him,” Bappa says.
After creating music for nearly five decades, it is hard for a musician to come out of his dad’s shadow, says Bappa, who assisted the legend for more than 15 years. He says, “I don’t think I can be what he is. I can't even put a dot on it or the things that he has done. Obviously, you cannot compare. I have studied and programmed his music. If he would do the songs, I’d do the background score for the films that he did in mid-2000. I always say music comes from your heart, it’s something that you feel rather than make. The songs that I’ve done sound different than dad's. But at the same time, I’ve learnt a lot from him. When you compose a piece of music, your approach is always different. My first inspiration and how I got into music is from him.”
While Bappa’s music is poles apart from his father's, he asserts that the two consider each other’s views when creating their own compositions. “He always thinks ahead of everything. His music is so different that, though, sometimes I say ‘you can’t do that’, he has proven me wrong. We have conflicts sometimes when we are working, because he’s sung for me a couple of times. But he’s more of a friend, chilled out and humble.”
Earlier this year, Bappi Lahiri was hospitalised after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Calling it the most challenging time of his life, Bappa says, “I am currently living in Los Angeles with my wife and son. I got a call from my dad in March and he said ‘I want to see you all, it’s been a year and a half’. I wasn’t there because I couldn’t travel at all and he wanted to spend some time with us. We came to India, and as soon as I landed, I got a call that my dad has COVID-19. He was in the hospital for 15 days; alone and in pain. We were only talking to him through video calls. That's when it really hit me. You hear it in the news and all, but it was a serious matter and it affected me and my family.”
Bappa was a part of the Vax.India.Now, a virtual concert, courtesy of the Anuradha Palakurthi Foundation, Juju Productions initiative to raise funds for the country's fight against COVID-19.
The eclectic line-up featured some of the biggest names in classical and popular music from India and abroad.
Bappa says, “It was a very big achievement for me to compose the theme song “Hum Saath Hai”. It’s a hard time and the only thing as musicians we can do is to uplift everybody’s morale and spirit. It is also something that keeps us going, it is our duty to do that.”
Bappi Lahiri has been credited with popularizing disco music in India. He is the maverick creator of songs like "I Am A Disco Dancer", "Raat Baaki, Baat Baaki", and “Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re" among others.
When asked if he feels any pressure of carrying forward his father’s legacy, Bappa says, “I am his son; his legacy are his songs. People celebrate that and I cannot change it. I will simply breathe air into it and take it further.”
He further adds, “My compositions and career will be on my own. It will be my journey, but I truly believe that dad’s work is huge. For me just to be there and share that, will be great. I would rather have my work speak for itself. I will try to entertain people, but never compare myself to him.”
Unlike his father, Bappa has enjoyed working in the west. While some may assume he has steered away from Bollywood, the young musician begs to differ and states, “I had the opportunity to work there (US) because I enjoy that style of music. My son was born there, I had to stay because we had bigger plans with Juju productions. Dad’s already done a lot of music in India. So, I thought why don’t I go abroad and try to make things for myself there.”
As an '80s kid, Bappa has grown up seeing his dad make songs with a plethora of evergreen singers and composers like Kishore Kumar, Kumar Sanu and Laxmikant–Pyarelal to name a few.
Weighing in on the current scene in Bollywood music, especially the culture of remixes that has invaded films lately, Bappa says, “Today, musicians are doing a great job. Yes, some remixes don’t work, because certain songs are made to touch a level that when you hear it again with a new singer it doesn’t hit you well as at this point it is overdone. We have great composers and musicians in India right now who are capable of doing new songs and I think we should push that.”
Although it might seem like playback singing in Bollywood has come to a standstill with unending remakes, and films which often do not require songs, thriving solely on background score, Bappa agrees that content, especially on OTT platforms, will probably continue without any over-the-top music. He says, “When we go to see a Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan movie, it makes you want playback singing and I am in support of it because I’ve grown up with it and would always want to see an actor sing those romantic songs in a masala film. Playback singing will have its ground because that’s what we’re known for. We should continue to do what we’re best at. I know with some films it doesn’t work. I did the background score for Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, we intended to include a song but it didn’t work because we didn't need it.”
Bappa, who has travelled across the globe, states that a few years down the line, Bollywood music is going to be worldwide. “We’ve seen a boom in K-pop music, which is doing so well. Our music is growing and it’s going to be bigger than anyone can imagine,” he signs off.World Music Day 2021: 'We should use our music to propel more progressive ideas', says Jonita Gandhi
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