The Lord of keys and percussion

Probably the most complete and versatile multi-instrumentalist, Kersi Lord immortalised Hindi film songs with his music

The keyboard-percussion instrument glockenspiel, often compared to the xylophone, was popularised by rock acts like Jethro Tull, Rush and Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street Band.

But Indian audiences heard it for the first time back in 1961, in the Jaidev score for Hum Dono, thanks to multi-instrumentalist Kersi Lord.

The instrument was also used as part of the hit ‘Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata Chala Gaya’, which remains one of the most famous themes in Hindi film music. Lord, who passed away in Mumbai on Sunday morning, was also known for many other achievements.

The accordion on S.D. Burman’s ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ in Aradhana, the arrangement of Madan Mohan’s Hanste Zakhm classic ‘Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho’, the electric organ on R.D. Burman’s ‘Duniya Mein Logon Ko’ in Apna Desh and the theme from R.D.’s Shalimar were all feathers in his cap.

He played percussion and keyboard instruments in jazz and Western classical music, and was a well-known name in the world of ad jingles and teleserials. In the 1970s, he plunged into electronic music and popularised the Moog synthesiser, often associated with rock keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the Doors.

An era is over. Those who have followed Lord would probably describe him as the complete or totally versatile musician. Yet, there are many things known only to diehard film music aficionados. In the general scheme of things, while most composers, singers and lyricists are recognised, less attention is paid to the arrangers or musicians, who represent the limbs of each song.

Lord succeeded many such names: harmonium player Vistasp Balsara, accordionists Goody Seervai, Enoch Daniels and Sumit Mitra, violinist Anthony Gonsalves, and arrangers Vasudeo Chakravarty and Sebastian D’Souza.

He had great company too, when in his prime. His contemporaries included saxophonist-flautist Manohari Singh, guitarists Dilip Naik, Bhanu Gupta and Bhupinder Singh, percussionist Homi Mullan, keyboardist Louiz Banks and violinist-arranger Uttam Singh. Though known primarily for classical music, santoor player Shivkumar Sharma, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and sitar players Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan and Rais Khan also contributed immensely to Hindi cinema.

Born in Mumbai on February 14, 1935, the young Lord had acquired talent from his genes. His father Cawas Lord was a pioneering Indian percussionist. His mother Banubai came from a family of musicians. His younger sister Hilla played the piano and brother Burjor (better known as Buji) became an ace percussionist.

After learning to play Latin American percussion instruments and the standard drum kit, Lord started learning the piano, but developed a fondness for the accordion. He also studied jazz, western classical music and Indian instruments harmonium and tabla.

There were obviously many sides to Lord’s musical personality. On the one hand, he would be part of classical renditions like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burrana and Bela Bartok’s Sonata For Two Pianos And Percussion. With the support of R.D. Burman, he started using the electric organ, wah-wah pedal and drum machine. Another dimension was the music he composed for Alyque Padamsee’s play Tughlaq.

There are many anecdotes about Lord. A famous one revolves around the creation of ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ in 1969. Music director S.D. Burman had told him in Hindi: “You do whatever you want with your accordion, but I need your part to be totally romantic, something that everyone will remember.”

The rest is history, and the magic lives on.

The author is a freelance music writer

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Printable version | May 22, 2020 3:26:28 PM |

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