The Last Musical Lord

The great Parsi entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit was the grandfather of Rattanbai Petit, who became the wife of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. But Petit is not a common Parsi surname. It was started a hundred years before Sir Dinshaw. His great grandfather spoke French and English, for which he was sometimes the interface between the colonising British and French in India. Apart from his bilingual skills, he was cute and small, which is what invited the French to nickname him Petit, meaning little in French. In a few years, this pet name became a Parsi surname.

The British too found a Parsi they enjoyed interacting with: for the aristocratic manner he carried himself, they nicknamed this man Lord. That would be the father of Cawas Lord, and the grandfather of Kersi and Burjor (popularly known as Buji) Lord, the amazing musicians who came to be associated with thousands of Hindi film songs recorded by scores of composers for dozens of singers.

But what exactly did the Lords do? They were multi-instrumentalists in the golden years of Hindi film music. Between the three of them, they played over a dozen instruments like the accordion, ghunghrus, triangles, xylophones, cymbals, glockenspiels, bongos and congas, drums, Chinese temple blocks, castanets, and some more. The amazing thing also is, they played many of these instruments interchangeably! If one was playing the castanets and another the bongos in one song, their roles could reverse in the next recording. While sometimes only one of them would be called to the recording room, often times there would be two of them, and in quite a few songs, even all three handled different musical instruments. Examples of this last kind include Hai isi mein pyaar ki aabroo (Anpadh, 1962) and Raat bhi hai kuchh bheegi-bheegi (Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963). Needless to say, at the time, even as such musicians were respected within the industry, outsiders in general were not really aware of their names and work, since these artistes were always away from the limelight.

Buji’s vibes

One interesting instrument that the younger Lords played was the vibraphone, or vibes as musicians call it. Let’s get up close with this instrument and look at the songs that were graced by it, with just Buji’s artistry today. If you want to really hear this instrument’s sounds, do listen to Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho (Anubhav, 1971), featured below this story, where the song begins with Buji’s vibes, remains a faithful companion to Geeta Dutt’s voice in this minimalistic offering, and finally also brings the melody to an end. Buji is the one most associated with the vibraphone in the sounds of Hindi film music of yesteryear. It’s also his birthday in a few days, so we have a good reason to celebrate this celebrated musician, the last, but not least of the musical Lords.

Buji (pronounced budge-ee) Lord was born at Bombay on 19th July 1941. His father wanted him to become a musician like himself, so the young boy was put in the hands of tutors, like Babu Singh, who taught Buji the harmonium. The boy also learned to play piano at his school. But his heart was not in music; he wanted to see the world, so he decided to become a Marine Engineer. However, he was an average student; his average marks ensured he couldn’t get into Marine Engineering College. So his informal musical education began taking firm roots, with his learning the rudiments of the maracas, ghunghrus, xylophone, vibraphone and drums. One day, his elder brother Kersi fell sick, and could not make it to a Shankar-Jaikishan recording. At this time, the composers’ assistant, Dattaram (who was also an independent composer), requested Cawas Lord to send for his younger son instead. That’s how the young Buji came into the recording rooms of our films.

Now about the instrument itself. The vibraphone belongs to the mallet percussion family, in which a padded stick hits something to create sounds. This family also has the xylophone (xylo for short). But in the xylo, the bars the mallets hit are made of wood, while the vibraphone has metal bars. In the latter, each of these bars is hooked up to a metal pipe that furnishes natural amplification. The metal bars of the vibraphone offer a longer sustain, which is controlled by a pedal. Additionally, vibraphones have a motor and fan to add a vibrato effect, something that xylophones cannot do. Thus the vibraphone becomes a great team player; because its sounds are mellow as compared to the xylo’s, it blends well with other elements in popular bands.

In the same mallet percussion family we also find the marimba, which like the xylophone has wooden bars, making it very difficult for beginners to tell the difference just by their sounds. Visually though there often are differences, the main one being in a xylo, the bars are arranged in size, from the shortest to the longest. In a marimba, all bars are usually the same size. And then there’s the glockenspiel, with metal bars but usually without any resonators, and short ones if they are there. All this may sound complicated to us, but musicians can generally identify the differences quite easily.

The picture above has Buji on his vibraphone, and here now are images of the other three instruments mentioned above. The one on the left is a xylophone. 






This one is a marimba, seen being played by two people: 


And here’s a picture of what a glockenspiel can look like: 

Here are some songs in which Buji Lord’s vibraphone made solo and audible appearances:

  • Koi humdum na raha (Kishore/Jhumroo, 1961)
  • Hai isi mein pyaar ki aabroo (Lata/Anpadh, 1962)
  • Raat bhi hai kuchh bheegi-bheegi (Lata/Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963)
  • Agar mujhse muhabbat hai (Lata/Aap Ki Parchhaiyaan, 1964)
  • Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat (Lata/Kohra, 1964)
  • Main to ik khwaab hoon (Mukesh/Himalaya Ki God Mein, 1965)
  • Saathi re (Lata/Poonam Ki Raat, 1965)
  • Chhupa lo yoon dil mein pyaar mera (Hemant, Lata/Mamta, 1966)
  • Tu jahaan jahaan chalega mera saaya (Lata/Mera Saaya, 1966)
  • Bahaaro phool barsao (Rafi/Suraj, 1966)
  • Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu (Kishore/Aradhana, 1969)
  • Roop tera mastaana (Kishore/Aradhana, 1969)
  • Aa jaan-e-jaan (Lata/Inteqaam, 1969)
  • Kaheen door jab din dhal jaaye (Mukesh/Anand, 1970)
  • Chingaari koi bhadke (Kishore/Amar Prem, 1971)
  • Raina beeti jaaye (Lata/Amar Prem, 1971)
  • Meri jaan, mujhe jaan na kaho (Geeta/Anubhav, 1971)
  • O meri o meri o meri sharmilee (Kishore/Sharmilee, 1971)
  • Rajnigandha phool tumhaare mehken yoon hi jeevan mein (Lata/Rajnigandha, 1974)
  • Is mod se jaate hain (Lata, Kishore/Aandhi, 1975)
  • Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to naheen (Lata, Kishore/Aandhi, 1975)
  • Dil aisa kisi ne mera toda (Kishore/Amanush, 1975)
  • Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi (Bhupinder/Mausam, 1975)
  • Bade achhe lagte hain (Amit Kumar/Balika Bodhu, 1976)
  • Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein (Mukesh, Lata/Kabhi Kabhie, 1976)
  • Honthon se chhoo lo tum (Jagjit Singh/Prem Geet, 1981)

Many years ago, Buji lost his gifted father, Cawas Lord, and later, in October 2016, his elder brother Kersi, and so is the only surviving musical Lord who can be called great. Much before that, he had quit films and moved away from Mumbai to Nargol in Gujarat, where, as he told me in a long interview for WorldSpace Satellite Radio, he lives a calm life, punctuated by developing properties like bungalows. The electronic sounds that had started creeping into Mumbai’s music recording studios triggered his decision to move away. He resented those sounds and said no to commerce when it came to differentiating between sound and music. Buji is an exemplary man, who lives low-profile and with brutal honesty in a world that has been taken over by cacophony. The world that people who made songs like Chhupa lo yoon dil mein pyaar mera can barely identify with.


(Originally published in DNA Jaipur of 16 July 2017)

(page 11)


15 thoughts on “The Last Musical Lord

  1. Been hearing about both these gentlemen a lot across musical sessions. Great characters who have contributed a lot through instrumentation to HFM. May their tribe grow ……

    1. What will happen if their tribe grows Vineesh? Where will they play their instruments? This was a great breeze that came and went…now we live in its memory…

  2. One easily gathers from this article that he indeed is a musical lord. The songs to which he contributed are indeed some of the finest, and the music lovers must ever remain indebted to him for this. This tribute is very gripping, for it is penned by one who really admires this lord.

    …… he lives a calm life, punctuated by developing properties like bungalows…. this is interesting – this switch-over .

    1. Jee jee Vijay! He was there at RTS 2014, which you could unfortunately not be part of. We celebrated three great Parsi musicians for 3 hours then, Homi Mullan, Kersi Lord and Buji Lord. The former two have already left us last year 🙁

  3. What a lovely tribute to both the instrument and the man that popularized it in HFM. Wishing Buji Lord a happy birthday from fans of the music of yesteryears. Music that I am only now beginning to appreciate, as it should be.
    It is heartening to know of people who live by their principles. Kudos to you, Buji Lord, sir, for having said no to noise, having spread so much fragrance with your music!
    We know of a French family here with the ‘Petit’ surname, but haven’t come across any others. It was interesting to know how this Parsi man got his name and title.
    I wonder if it is possible for articles that deal with instruments to append pictures of these same instruments to make it easier for people like me to relate to them? In this case, that would be the xylophone, the marimba, the glockenspiel and the vibraphone. A picture is worth a thousand words and stays far longer in the memory… just a thought.
    Lovely, musical start to my Sunday! Thank you, Manek.

    1. Thanks Monica…and interesting to know there is a family of Petits in St, Charles, wow!

      As for your point about images, I got it, so have edited the story to display images…thank you 🙂

      1. A family of Petits lives- or used to live – in Fairfield, Iowa (not St. Charles, Missouri) – Americans to look at, but French roots.
        Revisiting this article with the pics of the instruments – thank you! It makes such a difference to be able to relate the descriptions with images! _()_

  4. This is such a wonderful article, Manek ji. Thoroughly loved it. So full of information and entertainment, also love and respect for the talented humble souls. Overwhelmed. Will re-read it 🙂

    1. I get that overwhelmed feeling too, Deepa. Buji, especially, wonderful man and musician. An introvert who has made such a difference!

      1. Thank you Manek and ALL the music lovers for your appreciation & compliments . Hope I am fit to deserve all this appreciation.

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