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Unsung Indian, this Singh is king in Japan

Wednesday, 8 October 2008 - 12:57am IST | Agency: PTI

First Japanese enka singer of Indian origin is all set to make waves after 30 years

First Japanese enka singer of Indian origin is all set to make waves after 30 years

TOKYO: Not many know Sarbjit Singh Chadha (56) in his home country India, but in Japan, crowds throng to hear him sing and fans jostle to get his autograph even three decades after he burst into its music scene.

Chadha, the first non-Japanese singer of enka, a genre of Japanese music similar to the American country music, came from India as a teenager and fell in love with its music.
With no formal education in enka, Chadha, whose first album made waves in the country in 1975 and sold 1.5 lakh copies, said he learnt by listening to other artistes.

The Japanese love their music and the response was amazing especially as I was from India and the first non-Japanese to make a mark on the enka scene, he said.

His fan following included a whole generation of Japanese, most of who know him by his last name and took up Hindi after hearing him sing. I learnt Hindi after listening to his songs, said Takebayashi Yuri, programme producer of Japanese Broadcasting Corporation.

After a brief stint, however, Chadha withdrew from the music scene and returned to India to take care of his family business. But as he crooned in Tokyo again after a gap of 30 years, Chadha, who is making a comeback bid, was mobbed by joyous fans.

He will now be releasing a new album this month called Odoru Mahachadha named after the famous Rajnikath-starrer Odoru Maharaja (The Dancing Maharaja), a cult movie among Japanese youth.

But Chadha will have some stiff competition from the latest enka rage, Jero (27), an African American whose voice has mesmerised the Japanese audience.

Jero has revitalised enka and I am grateful to him. But his music has more of a hip-hop element. Fans tell me they hear the real enka in my songs, he said.

Asked why he quit after his initial success, Chadha cites tough visa rules that made long stays difficult in the country. After every six months we had to return to India. In the music industry too things were not as easy as they are today, he said.

Even after so many years, people remember Chadha and I am confident this time too I will get a bigger response, he said.

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