How would you define ‘success’ for a musician? That their song receives millions of views on YouTube? Or Superstars like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan cannot stop listening to it on loop? Or that it has become the trendiest song of the year on social media? Yohani De Silva, a 29-year-old singer from Sri Lanka, has seen it all happen with her song ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ within just seven months. 2021 could have been a bland year for many of us, but for Yohani, the feeling of overnight stardom she received this year, especially from India, is yet to sink in.
Yohani always thought accounting was her plan B. Having completed her graduation in logistics and Masters in accounting, she never thought transitioning to music was going to be an easy ride.
“Switching to music is something we aren’t taught even in school. Music is thought to be an extracurricular activity. Nobody teaches us to be an artiste or a musician. I think that has been the biggest challenge for me. But what matters is you being happy with what you’re doing,” she said in an interview, pretty much encapsulating the feelings of any other Indian millennial or Gen Z with a passion for the arts.
Making celebrities dance
The 29-year-old was not a household name in India until August this year, but it all started when the cover of Sinhalese song, originally created by Sangeeth, Satheesan Rathnayake and Dulan ARX in 2020, translating to ‘baby in my heart’, started trending on reels. On 15 August, one of Hindi cinema’s biggest superstars Amitabh Bachchan shared a video made by her granddaughter Navya Naveli showing his dance from ‘Jahan teri yeh nazar hai’ edited and perfectly synced on the Sinhalese song. He wrote, ”Manike playing in loop whole night…impossible to stop listening to it…SUUUPPEEEERRRB.”
Cut to October, the Sri Lankan singer is making actor Ranveer Singh groove on it and teaching the lyrics to Salman Khan on Bigg Boss. The song has already garnered 196 million views on YouTube in just seven months and almost nine lakh reels have been created on Instagram. From Parineeti Chopra to Jacqueline Fernandez and Tiger Shroff, various Bollywood celebrities have grooved on the song. The singer has already signed up for a song in Ajay Devgan’s upcoming film Thank God and also recorded another Hindi song for the film Shiddat.
Apart from celebrities, the song has also spurred music artists from across India to make covers of it in their language. It has so far been sung in at least 21 different languages in India — from Santali to Dhivehi. ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ has also marked its presence across the world. A video of Ukrainian young violinist Karolina Protsenko playing the song on her violin also went viral.
No formula for going viral
Short video formats captured everyone’s attention in 2021. After TikTok was banned in India, which was one of its largest markets in the world, the ‘desis’ shifted to Instagram reels, which has taken the Internet by storm. Whether it was Yohani’s song, Sahdev Dirdo’s ‘Bachapan Ka Pyar’ or Pakistani influencer Dananeer Mobeen’s ‘Pawri Ho Rahi Hai’, nobody really knows what cracks up the Gen Zs and becomes a viral trend.
‘Manike Mage Hithe’ also got picked up from reels in India and became popular on YouTube and Spotify as well. The listening went up by 10 times on Spotify and Yohani’s followers grew by over 80 times. She is the first Sri Lankan female musician to get over three million subscribers on YouTube. The song was on YouTube Charts for Top Music Videos for 11 weeks.
Not every viral trend translates to great success for an artist though. We have seen a couple of examples in recent years of how it eventually fizzles out — whether it was ‘Teri Meri Kahani’ fame Ranu Mondal or the Baba from ‘Baba Ka Dhaba’, not everyone gets as successful and continues to rule people’s hearts like Yashraj Mukhate did. After his ‘Rasoda’ meme video went viral in 2020, he came up with back-to-back viral tracks like ‘Kya karun main itni sundar hoon’ and ‘two pieces only’, etc. Yohani, however, continues touring across various cities in India for music shows and we hope she can bank on her viral success and continue to produce hit numbers.
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(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)