It takes extraordinary willpower to master something seemingly difficult. And so, we admire missionaries from faraway lands who master Indian languages or foreigners who learn Indian classical dances through sheer dedication. And it delighted us immensely to find that a Chinese man, Qi Mi -- who now works at Microsoft in Seattle, USA -- rendering a popular film song in Tamil composed by the legendary Ilaiyaraaja and originally sung by another great vocalist, S P Balasubrahmanyam.
SPB or Balu, as the vocalist is endearingly addressed sang Kalyana Malai Kondadum Penne in the 1989 K. Balachander’s hit movie, Puthu Puthu Arthangal.
Watch: Qi Mi’s version of Kalyana Malai Kondadum Penne
It is this number rendered in celebration of marriage that Qi has sung with remarkable passion -- something that could have emerged only from the kind of reverence he has for not only composer Ilaiyaraaja but also the Tamil language, its beauty and its grace. In fact, Qi’s rendition was a tribute to Ilaiyaraaja’s recent American tour.
After listening to Qi’s song, SPB told this writer in an audio message that “Tamil is not an easy language. It is very difficult especially for a foreigner. Qi’s song is musically so perfect, and it is a pleasure to hear him speak in Tamil. And sing in Tamil. Some people may find fault with Qi’s pronunciation. But people who have been born in Tamil Nadu and whose mother tongue is Tamil and who have been singing professionally in Tamil make lots of mistakes in pronunciation. So unfortunate.”
Watch: The original song
“And this gentleman is born in China, and for people from there, Tamil is a very tough language. But he has learnt Tamil, has listened to the Ilaiyaraaja number and has sung a song from a Tamil film so beautifully. We should appreciate it. We should feel proud of it. My best wishes to him,” SPB added.
It is no secret that Ilaiyaraaja is one of India’s greatest composers, a maestro who has written thousands of lyrics for Indian cinema. In 1993, he was the first composer from the country to perform at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.
Listen: The other hits of Ilaiyaraaja
And SPB has been voicing Ilaiyaraaja’s compositions with mesmeric melody. He hit international headlines in the 1980s with the Telugu movie Shankarabharanam that led to an increasing use of Carnatic music in films made in the state. His recordings with female playback singer, Janaki, were hugely popular in the 1970s and the 1980s.
It is quite possible that much like Rajinikanth, who got Tamil cinema into the Japanese psyche, Qi’s haunting song can get the Chinese humming an Ilaiyaraaja number on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. Yes, indeed. For, last year during the Cairo International Film Festival, there was one Egyptian taxi driver who still remembered that evergreen Raj Kapoor song, Main Aawara Hoon. Music has this immortality about it, a kind of magical force that can bind and strengthen relationships between two completely different kinds of people.
Follow @htshowbiz for more