On May 21, the Tata Theatre crowd danced to classics like Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Village People’s YMCA, Lipps Inc’s Funky Town and Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, besides medleys of songs by ABBA, Boney M, Michael Jackson and from the film Grease. The musicians were Mumbai-based and appropriately, the show organised by Silly Point Productions in association with NCPA was called Disco & More.
The audience was a mix of age groups. While those in their 50s or early 60s related to the music most, it was heartening to see kids and teenagers join, even if it wasn’t for the nostalgia but because they wanted to be part of the fun.
This was one of the many shows which recently used popular English retro music as its theme. Since the live music scene opened up after the Pandemic, we’ve had a fair share of Beatles and ABBA tributes, the Soulful Blues Festival at the NCPA and That Christmas Spirit show at Bandra’s St Andrew’s, which had as many pop songs as Yuletide numbers. To add to that, the Broadway staging of The Sound Of Music at NMACC in Bandra Kurla Complex has led to a revival of its evergreen soundtrack, at least among select audiences in Mumbai.
There’s more lined up. On June 16, the Timeless: Always & Forever concert is being held at St Andrew’s, and in July, pop star Shweta Shetty will pay tribute to the pop and soul divas at NCPA. The target audience again consists of people who’ve grown up on hit songs of the 1970s and early 1980s, when they were teenagers owning their first LP, having their first crush or buying their first pair of faded jeans. Often, the same youngsters forayed into rock or even jazz and the blues, suddenly finding pop music frivolous.
Aap Jaisa Koi |
Yet, nostalgia will never fade away. People just love to go down melody lane. Besides romantic ballads and evergreen anthems, the ‘pop’ palette would include soul, rhythm n’ blues, popular country, funk and disco. Let’s look specifically at disco. In India, it was huge in the late 1970s, specially through Boney M, Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Cerrone and the more danceable tunes of ABBA. It was a sub-culture, having an influence on lifestyle, party behaviour and sartorial habits. Films like Saturday Night Fever, Thank God It’s Friday and Can’t Stop The Music gave it mainstream exposure. Young men wanted to dress, walk and comb their hair like actor John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, whereas the ladies looked upon Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA as role models. Couples danced to the latest hits.
Upcoming musicians idolised producer Giorgio Moroder, who was associated with Donna Summer, Suzi Lane and Irene Cara. Other disco hits included Le Freak by Chic, Yes Sir, I Can Boogie by Baccara, Let’s All Chant by Michael Zeger Band, That’s The Way I Like It and Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band, Born To Be Alive by Patrick Hernandez and Ring My Bell by Anita Ward.
The disco craze invaded Bollywood too, through Biddu’s Aap Jaisa Koi, sung by Pakistani artiste Nazia Hassan in Qurbani, and many songs by Bappi Lahiri, including I Am A Disco Dancer and Koi Yahaan Naache Naache (from the film Disco Dancer), Ramba Ho (Armaan), Tu Mujhe Jaan Se Bhi Pyara Hai (Wardat) and Disco Station (Hathkadi).
In the early 1980s, the style of pop music changed, and the arrival of MTV made musicians think visually, besides sonically. Though the scale kept getting smaller, disco kept making brief comebacks, specially in Europe. DJs playing electronic dance music (EDM) and house music incorporated disco sounds and samples. Older hits like I Will Survive, YMCA and the Saturday Night Fever songs continue to be popular in clubs.
Over the past few years, disco has been used intermittently by Kylie Minogue, Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. Others like German producer Purple Disco Machine, British singer Jessie Ware and French DJ Kungs have shown the influence. Yet, nothing clicks like those older gems, and concert organisers know that.
Give me a D….