To get by most of her life, Melody G Fanai, has worked an assortment of jobs: at 7, she sold fruits on the hilly roads of Aizawl; at 12, part of a Church choir, she released a cassette of Gospel songs; at 23, she taught Hindi to a motley group of Mizos; at 28, she lent her silky voice to the female characters on local television; and today at 30, she is Mizoram’s favourite crooner, often found, singing her heart out at hotels, concerts, government programs, and on occasion, in her own Youtube videos.
But there’s another side-job Fanai does, one so unique that she is probably the only person in the world doing it. And despite that, not many know that from 2014, Fanai has been hired as a professional “Whatsapp-voice-note-artiste” by girls and boys across Mizoram, most in the throes of young love.
Fanai doesn’t quite remember when she started doing it, or how it really happened. It was probably when her friend recorded a clip of her saying “ka hmangaih che” (“I love you” in Mizo) and forwarded it on Whatsapp. Or it was perhaps when one of her students at the LH Hindi School Chanmari in Aizawl, requested her to “record her magical voice” for a Valentine’s Day message he wanted to send his girlfriend. “It’s been so long — I really don’t remember how it started. Maybe it was in 2014. Is it that big a deal?” asks Fanai, bemused at the supposed uniqueness of her serendipitous side-job.
Now, four years later, thousand odd “voice notes” stored on Fanai’s computer tell different stories: of undying love, of warm birthday wishes, of condolence messages, of profuse apologies and of pleas for forgiveness.
“Often, people ask me to record ‘sorry’ messages for their partners. They tell me that there is ‘something’ about my voice that melts hearts,” says Fanai, a mother of two, who works seven days a week. Just the previous night, she had been at the local TV studio dubbing till 3am. The next day she is slated to sing at a BJP campaign rally for the upcoming Mizoram Assembly elections.
In this busy schedule, Fanai says, she tries to squeeze in all her voice note requests whenever possible.
“It is not like I simply do the recording on the phone. I go to the studio and record it there. Sometimes I add a hint of dramatic music too,” says Fanai, who charges anything between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 for one message, depending on the length.
“It is a hard life but I enjoy what I do,” she says, “People come and tell me my voice is unique. They hear a dialogue on TV, and they say ‘Oh that’s Melody’s voice’ without even seeing my face. That makes me happy.”
Almost 90 per cent of Mizoram’s television runs dubbed content (hundreds of English, Korean, Thai, Turkish and Hindi TV shows and movies are dubbed in Mizo every year) and Fanai’s voice has seeped into almost every other household in Mizoram. “Till date, I have dubbed about 800 movies and 400 TV shows. I actually say my dialogues with a lot of feeling — maybe that is why people like it,” says Fanai.
22-year-old Nunoi, who lives in Lunglei district, first heard Fanai’s voice on TV and “fell in love with it”. “I contacted her on Facebook, and asked her to record a note for my boyfriend. I am a writer myself, so I composed the text,” says Nunoi, over the phone from her village. Fanai’s voice notes became such a hit in the village that soon many were coming to Nunoi to compose messages for them, too. “So I began writing the messages, and I would then send them to Fanai, who would record it and send it back to me. We now have a Facebook group for this purpose,” says Nunoi, adding that she charges Rs 500 for every message she drafts.
“Back in school, many would request me to help them compose love letters. So things haven’t changed much, just that now my writings are mending broken marriages. It feels really nice to help people,” says Nunoi. In the last message Melody recorded for Nunoi on October 11, the text, in Mizo, read: “We met before, Under the moonlight, You had said I love you, Why did you break my heart, Please come back.”
George KC Zoremsiama, 25, who first “gifted” a Fanai voice note to his girlfriend in 2014, has parted ways with her now. But he still remembers how happy it had made her. “She did not care that it was another woman’s voice. She was just happy that I had put so much thought into it,” says Zoremsiama, who is of the opinion that many Mizos like him are die-hard romantics, deeply influenced by the television they watch, especially Korean romance dramas.
His cousin, Lalchhandama, 23, who is a teacher, finds Fanai’s voice “charming, clear and controlled” — and that led him to ask her to record a voice note for his mother. “My parents got separated and my mom was depressed. I thought making a voice note would motivate her. I just wanted to tell her that she can raise us even without a dad,” he says. That was in 2016, Lalchhandama recalls. In December 2017, he got Fanai to record another “very special” voice note — and this time it was a romantic one. Who was that for and what did it say? “Sorry, that’s a secret,” he says, “But it solved the problem, like always.” For a voice like Melody G Fanai’s, works both as salve and solution to the soul-stricken of Mizoram.