Velvet voiced

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An enchanted evening with Kamahl at Her Majesty’s for OzAsia, writes PRIYADARSHINI CHIDAMBARANATHAN

 Honouring Kamahl

The “velvet voiced” Kamahl  held his audience enraptured for more than two hours as he sang and reminisced during his show My Music, My Life. The show was part of the OzAsia Festival 2013, which took place on September 28 at Her Majesty’s Festival Theatre in Adelaide.

He sang over ten songs including favourites such as The wind beneath my wings, and Some enchanted evening from the hit musical South Pacific, Memories and many more. He then went on to Amazing Grace and his all-time hit, The elephant Song. He sang with such aplomb and grace in his truly magnificent voice. The mostly senior members of the audience clearly adored him, and responded well to every question thrown at them.

Each song was preceded by an explanation of what they meant to him, and between songs, he talked about many incidents that had shaped his life and career.

It was interesting to hear of his early history in this country and the tough times he had faced. An episode played from the ABC’s Australian Encounters that described part of his journey. Born Kandiah Kameswaran in 1934 to Srilankan Tamil parents in Malaysia, he was sent to Adelaide in 1953 to complete his schooling at the Kings College. Almost as a reaction to being so different, he learnt to sing, especially the songs of Nat King Cole, who was a favourite. It was at one of his performances at an Adelaide hotel that he met Rupert Murdoch. It was Murdoch who encouraged him to move to Sydney and shielded him from the immigration authorities when his attempts at a university education failed. The Australian Government finally granted him a PR in 1965.

With a singing career spanning many decades, Kamahl has performed around the world and released many albums and singles, the most recent one being Heart and soul. He has rubbed shoulders with a number of famous personalities. A montage of his achievements and photographs with many of these people, was displayed as a slideshow during the show.

He regards the most important meeting of his life as the one with Barack Obama, whom he met in Canberra in 2011. He said that this two minute meeting inspired him to learn the Gettysburg Address which he recited during the performance in his deep resonant voice.

The mood of the evening was mostly romantic, as were his songs. He talked about the time he met his wife and fell in love almost instantly. He distributed roses to a few lucky ladies in the audience while also singing Treat her like a lady. And all the audience, especially the old timers responded enthusiastically.

He talked about the time his career was at a low and he hired the London Palladium for a performance. The show luckily sold out and came to the notice of his Dutch recording company who offered him The elephant song, which was part of a worldwide campaign for the World Wildlife Fund. He almost refused, but was luckily convinced to go to Amsterdam to record the song, which went on to become one of his most famous.

Close to the end of the night he recited My home /Australia, his own composition, where he described what it felt to be Australian. It was while he was writing this that he started his long friendship with Sir Donald Bradman.

The concert, fittingly, drew to a close with My way by Frank Sinatra, a fitting song from a man who has certainly gone his own unconventional way.

For most people in the audience, the night felt like a walk down memory lane, with their favourite singer leading the way.