Meet Bappi Lahiri
; the spectacularly successful composer, singer and producer who successfully sued Dr. Dre, has been sampled by M.I.A. and collaborated with MC Hammer
. Born in Calcutta in 1952, Lahiri composed his first film score at sixteen and two years later had moved to Bollywood where he quickly established himself as a songwriter for movies. While his first major success came in 1976 with a hit-laden soundtrack for Chalte Chalte
, it was in 1982 that the Lahiri legend really kicked off.
By the early '80s disco had largely fallen out of favour in the West but it quickly found a new home in India with the release of a movie that became an instant cultural phenomenon. Disco Dancer
, the rags-to-riches tale of a street performer who becomes a star but must overcome guitar-phobia after his mother is fatally electrocuted by an electric guitar, not only shaped '80s Bollywood but would go on to inspire Devo
. Even though other Indian musicians were playing with synth-heavy dance music at the time (this
Bollywood session musician may have inadvertently invented acid house in the same year), the success of Disco Dancer
(starring the awesome Mithun Chakraborty - pictured above) ensured that it was Lahiri who became synonymous with disco culture, earning him the moniker of India's "King of Disco".
And he looks the part too, favouring tracksuits and gold jewelry, and lots of it. His weakness for gold could explain his decision to sue Dr. Dre, Interscope and Universal Music over the similarities between their 2002 Truth Hurts hit 'Addictive' and his 1981 composition 'Thoda Resham Lagta Hai'. Lahiri called it "cultural imperialism" and won the case; a brazen stance considering his own reputation for openly stealing from Western hits (see below). Recently he even accused J.Lo of ripping him off with her Lambada-sampling "On The Floor" single, because he'd had the vision to rip it off first
19 years ago. Ballsy.
Laser zaps, tom-toms, proto-techno synths, dreamy Bollywood vocals and often mind-bending choreography; it's all there in these disco-toting movies, whether they were westerns (Wanted!
) or ninja-packed action flicks (Commando
) and you can find them in Australia at shops like Bollywood Buzz
or from Baba Home Entertainment
; worth a go for the covers and title-sequences alone.
Without further ado then let's get Lahiri-ous. First up, some original work, followed by works "inspired" by others.
The theme from Karate
'Wanted' sung by Asha Bhosle, from "curry western" Wanted!
'Joo Joo Joobi Joobi' from Dance Dance
(1987). It takes a minute to get going but stick around for the title graphics which feature Super Cassettes Industries Inc. and some excellent heavy breathing (2:09). And somebody needs to sample that sound at 2:16, immediately.
From Disco Dancer
'Bad Girl' from Guru
Lahiri was a huge Michael Jackson fan, resulting in this 'tribute' to 'Billie Jean' and 'Thriller'
The Buggles 'Video Killed The Radio Star'
Michael Jackson's 'Jam' reworked as 'Traffic Jam' for '80s glamour model and 'Touch Me' singer Samantha Fox.
'The Heat Is On' from Beverly Hills Cop
Final words go to Bappi himself in his moving tribute to Michael Jackson. Take it away, Bappi.
Words by Andy R. More at thevine.com.au