Singer-composer Yohani says she never expected her cover of “Manike Mage Hithe” to become one of the most viral tracks of 2021. Months after she became a viral sensation in India, the singer is yet to wrap her head around how far her ‘simple song’ went. “The recording was really simple, song was simple, everything was just simple. And there was nothing much going on, it was just one angle. We did it for fun,” she exclusively told indianexpress.com.
“Manike Mage Hithe” currently has nearly 193 million views on YouTube. Within days of release in May this year, it flooded social media with reels, TikTok videos and covers in several languages by fans. “It was amazing. I never thought it would go this far. It just shows what music can do,” Yohani shared while revising the track’s virality and how it brought her into limelight in 2021.
The song started trending in India when celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Madhuri Dixit, Parineeti Chopra and many others talked about it on social media. “I don’t think I’ve still gotten it into my brain,” Yohani said with a laugh, adding that when such Bollywood biggies noticed the song, she realised “this has gone a lot farther than what I thought.”
“Manike Mage Hithe” is a Sinhala language song by Satheeshan Rathnayaka. Yohani has joined Satheeshan in performing its cover. The song has so far been dubbed into multiple languages.
The 29-year-old has ever since been touring India and other regions to perform and promote the number. She has shared the Bigg Boss 15 stage with Salman Khan and also Ranveer Singh in The Big Picture. Pointing out at the incredible response by Indian audience, she said, “I sing a lot of Sinhalese music so at first I thought maybe they won’t understand it, but apparently the crowd in Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai was amazing.”
So has Yohani been able to pick anything in Hindi? She said she’s still struggling with the language but is confident that she’ll master it one day. “I’ve learned to say ‘jaldi chalo’. But I can’t get ‘main’ and alphabet H,” the singer said reminiscing the trouble she had while recording her first Bollywood number recently — the title track of Sunny Kaushal-Radhika Madan starrer Shiddat.
“Shiddat was a bit difficult because they told me I need to send the song in two days. I spent the entire day trying to record it. I tried it four times and then I spoke to Sonu who manages me in India. He went through each word with me. I was driving at that time. I stopped the vehicle and started writing everything down. That’s how ‘Shiddat’ happened. I know I didn’t get it entirely right. But maybe in the future I’ll be able to.”
Yohani, is now looking forward to the Hindi version of “Manike Mage Hithe” in the upcoming film Thank God, featuring Ajay Devgn, Sidharth Malhotra and Rakul Preet Singh. “I have to come to India to re-record it because I got some pronunciation wrong. I’ll be doing that in January. It’s been really interesting learning a different language,” she shared.
Now that Yohani is looking forward to opportunities in India, what difference does she find in the work culture of music industry here as compared to Sri Lanka? She revealed that things are done really fast in India. “Sri Lanka is a little bit slower when it comes to the process, so I need to get used to that,” she said. “But I just want to explore music. It could be any language, any genre because I’m also figuring out my side. I want to try anything that I like, and if it makes sense to me,” Yohani added.
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Yohani shifted from accounting to music. And that, she says was a real challenge, especially being a girl in her country. According to her “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.”
Yohani, who claims to have grown up on AR Rahman songs, wishes to collaborate with artistes like Badshah, Divine, Neha Kakkar and Yo Yo Honey Singh. “They are really cool. We listen to them all the time.” She laughed of at the mention of shaking a leg with Jacqueline Fernandez in Instagram reels on “Manike Mage Hithe” and also her recently released new song “Moving On”. She said she feels a mix of nervousness and excitement doing such fun stuff. “You learn a lot of things from other artistes as well,” she believes.
Yohani also feels Alia Bhatt can carry her voice in Bollywood. “She is really cool. I love her,” Yohani signs off.