Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


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Liz Mitchell at Phoenix Market City, Kurla, Mumbai

ON November 21 and 22, popular 1970s disco group Boney M, featuring original vocalist Liz Mitchell, rocked at Phoenix Market City, Kurla, and Willingdon Gymkhana, Santa Cruz. Besides popular hits like ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Rasputin’, ‘Sunny’, ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ and ‘Rivers of Babylon’, it stormed the crowd with ‘Maa Baker’, ‘It’s a Holi-holi-day’, ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Malaica’, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, ‘Bahama Mama’ and a wonderful version of the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’.

Boney M was the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian, who named the group after an Australian detective show ‘Boney’. Besides Liz, the early line-up included Maizie Williams, Marcia Barrett and Bobby Farrell, who passed away in 2010.

In the Mumbai shows, Liz had a wonderful stage persona. She displayed a unique voice that blended her Jamaican roots with her London upbringing, and a fantastic range. Whether it was a disco stomper or a slow ‘a cappella’ piece, her notes were perfect.

Before her shows, this writer spoke to Liz over the telephone for an article published in the dummy run of ‘The Hindu’, which was launched in Mumbai on November 28. Excerpts:

It’s been 40 years since Boney M first became a rage. Can you talk about your early association with the group?

Frank Farian, the producer, had a fantastic vision to do dance music influenced by sounds of the Caribbean. I joined in January 1976, and soon we had a string of hits like ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Sunny’, ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ etc. The rest, to use a cliché, is history. We had a huge tide of success in our first four albums, and ‘Daddy Cool’ and ‘Rasputin’ were played all over. We released a few albums after that but politics in the music business interfered with our success.

What went wrong?

The business had changed. The politics in our record company became bigger. We too had problems struggling with our own success. Expectations of fans ran too high and it was difficult to consistently match them. Punk music had become the latest craze. Bobby Farrell’s departure from the band had its own effect.

You yourself have been in out of the Boney M scene since the late 1980s. Was that a conscious decision?

Travelling the world is very difficult. I love being with my family. In fact, the singers accompanying me are my family members, one being my sister. Most of my family members work with me. They all love Boney M and can reproduce the music well.

An older generation grew up on your music. But how many of the younger audiences identify with Boney M?

They get to know of us somehow. Songs like ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Rasputin’ and ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ are still played in clubs and restaurants. So many others. Many have been sampled by modern musicians. At our shows, the youngsters really enjoy even if they are hearing us for the first time.

Being in a disco or dance music group, did it restrict you from exploring other forms?

I personally listen to all kinds of music, be it jazz, blues, gospel, reggae, classical, rock, country, you name it. Each genre has something to offer. Music is a universal language. Boney M was great at its own style, and we stuck to that. Good we did.

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