In 1969, Hindi film music fans were enthralled to hear the songs of Aradhana, a film starring a budding actor by the name of Rajesh Khanna and the well-known actress Sharmila Tagore. Each song was hummable, but the one that really became a rage, especially with younger listeners, was Roop Tera Mastana, which was used in the background to set the mood for a scene where the hero seduces the heroine on a rainy night.
The husky singing of Kishore Kumar was complimented by the skillful use of the accordion, which was played by one of the country’s most talented musician Kersi Lord. At the time, no one outside the film industry knew his name but towards the last few years of his life, the affable Lord had become a celebrity among fans and music mavens alike. When news spread on Sunday that Lord had died at the age of 81, tributes poured in on social media.
Kersi Lord was a second generation musician in the film industry. His father, Cawas Lord, was a master arranger and percussionist. Lord senior played in several jazz bands in Bombay’s hotels and soon found himself playing and arranging for the top music directors of the 1950s. Arrangers were in great demand because they could read and write western style notations that Hindi composers couldn’t.
Lord reputedly introduced the bongo and the conga to the film business. Among the Lord family’s contributions to Hindi film music was the glockenspiel, which was used for the famous song Mein zindagi ka saath (composed by Jaidev) in Hum Dono.
Young Kersi and his brother Burjor, fondly known as Buji, followed in their father’s footsteps. Kersi’s daughter Jasmine writes on a blog that he often skipped school to play for Naushad and S D Burman and soon became adept at many instruments, from Latin American percussion to the accordion to electronica-he was responsible for bringing the Moog synthesizer into Hindi film music. This was a perfect fit for the new generation of music directors emerging on the scene in the late 1960s and early ’70s, such as Rahul Dev Burman.
Kersi’s touch was heard in songs like Chura Liya Hai Tumne. R D Burman – Pancham to his friends and fans – built a group of extremely talented musicians around himself, such as Manohari Singh (Sax), Bhupinder (Guitar) and Lord. Kersi always spoke warmly of Burman and his Facebook page was peppered with photos and references of the time. Later in life, apart from western music, Lord also learnt Hindustani classical music and the tabla. Among his other arrangements for music directors was the bluesy Madan Mohan number Tum jo mil gaye ho from Hanste Zakhm, which changes tempo and beat in every verse.
Kersi was always welcoming of fans and writers who wanted to talk to him about music and the ‘good old days.’ He personally loved western music and had a vast collection of LPs of classical, jazz and popular music. Apart from many interviews he gave, he and his family were subjects of a documentary, The Human Factor which looked at the contribution of the musicians behind the scenes of some of the most loved songs of Hindi cinema. With Kersi Lord’s death, a unique, 60-year association of one family of musicians with Indian films has come to an end.