King of Bollywood disco dies at 69

Mark A. Carlson
Indian Bollywood music composer and singer Bappi Lahiri poses during the Christmas and New Year's Bollywood Disco Carnival in Mumbai on December 18, 2015.

Bappi Lahiri was known for his groovy disco tunes

Indian music composer Bappi Lahiri, who was known for his groovy disco tunes and eye-catching fashion style, has died at the age of 69.

Lahiri, who recovered from Covid in April last year, was in hospital for the past month. He died on Tuesday.

His funky, foot-stomping music had Indians fall in love with disco and had an entire country dancing to his tunes.

Politicians, cricketers and Bollywood stars have mourned his death, with many remembering their favourite songs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by Lahiri’s death.

“His demise leaves a big void in the world of Indian music,” Mr Modi tweeted. “Bappi Da will be remembered for his versatile singing and lively nature.”

Fondly known as “Bappi Da”, Lahiri is credited for getting the disco ball spinning in India.

His music from the movie Disco Dancer introduced a new form of freeform dancing in Bollywood. It also turned actors like Mithun Chakraborty into icons, whose groovy moves to the bouncing synths, immortalised him as a dancing legend.

Lahiri composed songs for several other hit Bollywood flicks such as Himmatwala, Sharaabi, Adventures of Tarzan, Dance Dance, Satyamev Jayate, Shola Aur Shabnam, among others.

But often, the most striking characteristic about Lahiri was his casual, ornamental bling.

Always seen sporting gleaming gold chains and bracelets, he was a style icon for many. His flashy velvet jackets and sequinned robes were also a trademark style.

Bappi Lahiri at his Juhu residence.

Lahiri’s love for gold jewellery made him a fashion icon

In 2016, the musician explained that his love for gold was connected to his fondness for American rockstar Elvis Presley.

“In Hollywood, famous singer Elvis Presley used to wear gold chains. I was a huge follower of Presley. I used to think, if I become successful someday, then I will build a different image of mine. By the grace of God, I could do it with gold,” he told ANI news agency.

After he recovered from Covid last year, there was speculation about his health and in September, he said he was “doing well” and that it was “disheartening” to learn that there were rumours circulating about him.

As the news of his death became public on Wednesday morning, tributes began pouring in for the “Disco King” of India.

“Bappi Da, your voice was the reason for millions to dance, including me. Thank you for all the happiness you brought through your music,” tweeted actor Akshay Kumar.

One fan said that Lahiri’s music transcended boundaries and wrote about the popularity of his smash hit – I am a Disco Dancer – among Russians and other former Soviet Union countries.

Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal – where Lahiri was born and based – also condoled the musician’s untimely death.

“A boy from our North Bengal, he rose to all-India fame and success by the dint of his sheer talent and hard work, and made us proud by his musical contributions,” she wrote on Twitter.

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