Bollywood’s sound, if not its glamour, filled the High Point High School auditorium Sunday evening, when singer-composer Bappi Lahiri brought some of his greatest hits to Beltsville. The resonant-voiced tenor couldn’t bring them all, of course. A 40-year veteran of Indian movie musicals, Lahiri was introduced as having worked on 465 film soundtracks.
Few of Lahiri’s songs are known beyond Bollywood buffs, and the concert’s audience was heavily of Indian origin. But the Kolkata-bred musician’s work has often been sampled by Western electronic and hip-hop musicians, and one of his tunes, “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja,” has been revamped by M.I.A. and for the soundtrack of Adam Sandler’s “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”
Backed by a percussion-heavy sextet and sometimes joined by other singers, Lahiri performed on a bare stage. There were no dancers, video projections or other features of bigger-budgeted Indian-pop tours. But then Lahiri is a show in himself. A short, portly man with a hairstyle that’s as much mane as mullet, the singer was dressed primarily in black, with red-lensed sunglasses. He wore a long scarf covered with glittering white stones for the first set and switched to a gold vest during the second. For both, he sported multiple gold chains, the longest of which held a small figure of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god.
Lahiri is known as the man who brought disco to Bollywood, and a bass line not unlike the one from Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” percolated beneath “I Am a Disco Dancer.” Yet the arrangements, and the band, were eclectic. Lahiri’s 100-minute performance incorporated features of rock, blues, salsa, polka, flamenco and more; synthesizers and effects pedals allowed the group to add the timbres of violins, sitar and even accordion. The vocal melodies — especially the ones trilled by sopranos Maampee Nair and Dipanwita — often sounded plaintively traditional. But the hook to “Auva Auva,” which the crowd enthusiastically sang, echoed the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Lahiri’s latest hit is “Ulala Ulala,” from the 2011 movie “The Dirty Picture.” He sang it twice in his first set, and both times fans sprang from their seats to dance. But the response was less eager when he tried it a third time near the show’s end. Maybe Lahiri and the band should have worked up just one more of his hundreds of tunes.