Manike mage hithe (In my heart), the Sinhala song broke the internet, with celebrities and ordinary people grooving to its singing tune. A love song with a teen-pop aesthetic, it’s a simple melody that plays on a loop, a catchy folk beat suitable for clubs, and contemporary orchestration with a hint of sarangi. There are also some rap tracks by Satheeshan Rathnayaka. Sung by Sri Lankan musician Yohani Diloka de Silva with rapper Satheeshan, it wowed Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan last month. He tweeted his obsession with the song with a video edited by his granddaughter Navya Naveli, who superimposed the Sinhala song on Bachchan’s song-dance sequence Jahan teri yeh nazar hai (from Kaalia, 1981). The actor even spoke about it on his Hindi-language TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati when de Silva appeared in a question.
After calming down Sri Lankans who were quarantined three months ago, the song reached India and garnered over 110 million views in no time. If Hindi film actors Madhuri Dixit, Parineeti Chopra and Tiger Shroff danced to it on their social media, K-pop boy group sensation BTS listened to it in a “reaction video.” The popularity generated spans the world, instrumental as well as in many languages, including Tamil, English, Telugu, Konkani, Hindi, Bengali and Kokborok of Tripura; boosted TikTok videos, Instagram posts and memes, bringing instant fame to de Silva. His older songs are starting to find new listeners now.
In Colombo, 28-year-old YouTube star de Silva was sitting at her home and watching what it was like to go viral. It was the world moment of the unintentional single. “It was a really random rendition of the song. It wasn’t planned… it was a big deal for us. We never thought it would appeal to so many people,” de Silva said in a video interview.
Produced by Sri Lankan composer Chamath Sangeeth, de Silva’s piece is a cover of a single released last year. Sung by Satheeshan and written by Dulan ARX who also performed the original rap, it wasn’t even a blip in the charts. “I am a big fan of Chamath Sangeeth. So when I saw the song, I did a TikTok version, after which Chamath asked if we could do a full version, ”says de Silva. The idea and the conversation both originated during lockdown, so she wasn’t able to record it in a professional studio. She found the next best option – a corner in her house. The video was made in Chamath’s studio in Colombo.
T 3998 – .. हो गया 🤣🤣!
But really an ode to this incredible Sri Lankan song ‘Manike Mage Hithe’. ?? pic.twitter.com/va0kEUHHVq
– Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) August 15, 2021
De Silva is also touched by how a song in Sinhala from Sri Lanka, “a small country”, suddenly becomes all the rage. “A lot of our music is inspired by Bollywood, probably because we are neighbors. The influence is really strong. But I see a renewed interest in Sri Lankan music and especially for our language… For me, this kind of love is also representative of a link between India and Sri Lanka ”, explains de Silva, who has also sang a Sinhala cover of Pehla nasha (by Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, 1992) some time ago.
De Silva was an Internet kid, learning to play guitar on YouTube, creating a channel on the platform at 23, and uploading her music and videos. The daughter of a former army officer and former flight attendant, de Silva grew up listening to different languages and a range of music thanks to her parents and her travels. While her parents enrolled her in piano lessons at an early age, she played the trumpet and French horn in her school orchestra. She traveled to the UK and Australia to study accounting, where a mix of many types of music marked her. The highlight was Eminem’s Rapture concert in 2019 in Australia.
“My influences are probably the reason why I didn’t stick to a genre. I love to experiment with my music and explore whatever I can. I rap, I sing, I play guitar, ”says de Silva, who started her career doing covers of Sinhalese songs and Bollywood songs dubbed in Sinhala. She has collaborated with friends for music videos and produced many original pieces, but it wasn’t until she returned from Australia in 2019 that she got into music professionally. She joins a label, Pettah Effect, released Aaye (One Day) in 2020, in which she sings her outstanding nudes, of a life without money, singing in pubs to make ends meet. She followed him with Rawwath dasin in 2020, a song about 30 years of civil war in Sri Lanka. At the moment, she is working on her first album. An upcoming single, due out this month, will be “completely different from Manike mage hithe,” she said.
Ignoring the melodic structure of Pilu, the classic Hindustani raga of romance, de Silva loosely followed his pattern – like many Hindi movie songs – in Manike mage hithe. Offers of Bollywood and Indian live-shows are already knocking on his door. “I will start by learning Hindi. I don’t understand it at all. When I sing it too, I don’t think I have the right accent, ”she said, before singing the highest-grossing number once again.