Singh is King rocks in Japan too!
Not many people know Sarbjit Singh Chadha 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, 56, the first non-Japanese singer of enka, a Japanese folk tradition 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, says he learnt by listening to other artistes. His first album made waves in the country in 1975 and sold 1.5 lakh copies.
“The Japanese love their music. The response was amazing especially as I was from India and the first non-Japanese to make a mark on the enka scene,” says Chadha, dressed in a colourful shirt and red turban.
His fan following included a whole generation of Japanese, most of whom know him by his last name and took up Hindi after hearing him sing.
“I learnt my Hindi after listening to his songs,” says 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), which is virtually a cult movie among young Japanese.
But the Indian will have some stiff competition from the latest enka rage, Jero, a 27-year-old African-American who has grabbed the imagination of Japanese.
“Jero has of course revitalised enka and I am grateful to him. But I feel his music has more of a hip-hop element. Fans come to me and say that can hear the real enka in my songs,” he says.
The modern enka style was developed in the post first world war period with themes of love, loneliness and defeat. 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 says.
“Even after so many years, the people remember Chadha and I am confident that this time too I will get even a bigger response,” he says as he obliges fans waiting anxiously have a photograph with him.