Beating the Beats Babla Style

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20th November 2020, marks 50 years of the release of Johny Mera Naam. A quintessential noir film by Vijay Anand is as fresh and delightful as it was then. For all his films, Vijay Anand heavily depended on his music directors. Be it S D Burman, R D Burman or in this case Kalyanji Anandji. Johny Mera Naam (JMN) have got some of the most fabulous songs of that era and they still sound very modern. Even the background score of JMN played an important part to raise the thrill quotient of the film, including its title music which was composed by Babla and the congos are played by him too. Coincidentally, it is also his birthday today.

Laxmichand Virji Shah, a child prodigy, was born on 20th Nov 1942. We also know him as Babla. Having Kalyanji and Anand ji as his elder brothers, Babla started playing musical instruments at a very young age. Getting the initial formal training under the maestro Cawas Lord and dholak training under Abdul Karim, Babla blossomed as a percussion artist. He had a panache towards rhythm. He took to music arrangements as fish takes to water. It is said that he played the bongo in the song from Satta Bazaar (1959).

He joined his elder brothers as a musician in Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965). But just after that he started as a music arranger with them, looking after the entire recordings, rehearsals of song recording and keeping all the acoustic instruments in perfect notes. It was in the late 60s that Babla started travelling abroad and he brought the African Tumbas from abroad. He used it for the first time in Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani(1970).

It was Pyarelal ji who liked the sound of the Tumbas and he called upon Babla to play for the background of Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) –

Don (1978) has most of the work by Babla. The two songs Khaike Pan Banaraswaala and Yeh mera dil both are his compositions.
Yeh mera dil is a landmark songs for all the artists involved in the song. In this song in the M2 second interlude we hear a typical sound before the brass and throughout non stop till the interlude ends, it is the percussion instrument Lali. He had brought from Fiji. Lali is a Fiji folk instrument.

In 1976, during the USA tour, Babla brought the Roto Toms from the famous Remo Drums Company. He brought the full set of 6,8, 10, 12, 14, 16, &18 inches toms set. Roto toms are drums whose skin is a plastic leather and because the player has to rotate the drum for tunings the note it was named ROTO toms.
Roto toms were first used by Babla in Muqaddar ka Sikander (1978). He also used the Roto toms in Lawaris, Hadsa, Qurbani and few more.

Meanwhile, with assisting and arranging, he also did some films as a full fledged music director. These films include – Khara Khota, Hero Heeralal, etc.

But his real talent comes out in the stage shows he did from time to time. In his stage shows he used to present a solo item Around the world with Rhythm where he used to play the world popular tunes and themes with all these instruments. It was Babla who made the Disco Dandiya popular throughout India. He introduced the Timbali drums, the Simon drums and the Octaban drums which he specially used for the dandiya music.

His famous and finest works for Hindi film music came through the title music of Johny Mera Naam, Haath ki Safai, Kashmakash or music arrangements for songs of Faraar, Don, Dharmatma. With music in his blood and rhythm in his heart, Babla, will always be synonymous with the beats and cadence of the songs.

(Images courtesy – Babla ji’s FB page)

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan


  1. Joy Christie

    November 20, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    Superb write up. Thank you the SongPedia team for this detailed article on Babla Shah on his Birthday today. Looking forward for more new write ups.

  2. Dilip Apte

    November 22, 2020 at 5:39 am

    Beautifully articulated and encapsulated the high points of Babla’s entire career graph – Deepa

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