Sri Lankan singer Yohani Diloka de Silva recorded a cover of Satheeshan Rathnayaka’s ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ on her phone in the middle of a lockdown.
The online response was exciting and soon, the producer of the original had called her up, asking whether she would like to record an official version.
The lilting, playful song, featuring lyrics and a rap verse by Dulan ARX, was posted to YouTube on May 22.
By Sept 17, in a little under three months, it had 110 million views – a massive hit by any standard and particularly for a song in Sinhala.
“It has been amazing,” singer Yohani told bdnews24.com in an exclusive interview.
“The responses – all the shares and all the likes – everything has been really incredible. And I’m so thankful to everyone who shared it, watched it and likes it.”
Bachchan discovered the song through his granddaughter, who edited the video of a dance sequence from his 1981 film ‘Kaalia’ to show the Big B grooving to ‘Manike Mage Hithe’.
“It was crazy, because we never expected anything like that,” Yohani said.
“For him to comment on it and share it on his Instagram and Twitter… we never thought anything like that would happen in our careers [laughs]. Not at all. And many other Bollywood actors, actresses and singers shared it too. We are very grateful.”
Naturally, the hit has drawn international attention and has made her a part of the conversation in Bollywood and other industries.
Yohani says she is excited about the possibilities of working with others.
“Of course I’m interested,” she said. “I’ve even gotten a few calls for collaborations and we’re looking into them. We’ve gotten quite a few offers inside Sri Lanka as well. It’s a rollercoaster ride at the moment [laughs].”
“The album is the main thing I’m working on,” she said. “The first song will be coming out in about a month. The album is set for release next year.”
The album is titled ‘Khella’, which means ‘girl’ in Sinhalese and will feature 12 tracks.
Yohani says that her major inspirations are her drive to complete the album and the delight she gets in performing live in front of a crowd.
“That truly inspires me to make more music, and try out different ideas.”
The singer said that she greatly missed the energy of doing live performances.
“There are zero live shows in Sri Lanka at the moment, so you don’t see the full potential of the music because we can’t perform it live.”
“I honestly miss that part of the industry.”
Despite the recent acclaim, one of Yohani’s fondest memories of performing professionally is also one of the earliest.
But that doesn’t mean she is any less excited by the breadth of people ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ has reached. She was delighted to hear that people in Bangladesh were loving it, sharing it on social media and even performing their own covers.
“I am extremely grateful to any of you who have been watching and listening to the song,” she said, addressing her Bangladeshi fans. “We’ve got a crazy amount of love for the song and it’s been amazing. I hope you will also enjoy my future music as well!”
She was also open to the idea of recording a Bangla version of the song, as she did in Malayalam and Tamil, but said her limited experience with the language was holding her back for the moment.
“But I like to explore languages, and if I learn the language, I’d love to do it.”
Yohani, who had once been to Bangladesh, said: “I visited with my parents, but I don’t remember much of it. I was really small.”
But, Yohani says she is hoping to make some new memories of the country sometime in the near future.
“I’m hoping to come for another visit soon – within the next two years for sure.”
“In the future, we’ll be able to perform live again. I’m waiting for that moment. And I’ll definitely come to Bangladesh as well.”