Indian Origin Australian Girl Is The Youngest Contestant of The Voice

“I am twelve,” the world was dumbstruck by the reply of a stellar performer! With her spine-tingling rendition of the American singer Billie Eilish’s song ‘Lovely’, Janaki Easwar captured the imagination of the global audience as the youngest contestant in the history of The Voice. The soulful, deep and captivating voice that has gone viral on various social media platforms belongs to this Melbourne schoolgirl, who happens to be the daughter of Indian immigrants Anoop Divakharan and Divya R.

Janaki has set another milestone of being the first Indian origin to be among the top 20 contestants of ‘The Voice Australia’. She had already been popular with the Malayali music lovers through her re-orchestrated cover version of the song ‘Ennadi Mayavi Nee’ composed by Sumesh Parameswar, another Malayali. Today, she is also a songwriter and had recently released her debut single ‘Clown’.  

So, the immensely talented singer and songwriter Janaki shares her experience of being the youngest and first Indian origin contestant on The Voice with NRI Vision. Here are the excerpts of the interview. 

How do you feel to be the youngest contestant in the history of The Voice? Have you ever thought that you were too young for this? 

I’ve been watching The Voice ever since I was young, and I always looked up to everyone on The Voice, and even my singing coach, a lot of his students were on the show, so I always just thought of it as such a great platform. And I didn’t know I would be on it this early and at this age. I’m really grateful to be on the stage. Well, I don’t feel I am too young for this, but a lot of people obviously do feel that way about me. Like, ‘Oh! You’re young. You shouldn’t be on the show’ and things like that. Personally, I don’t feel any pressure or anything likewise. So it is fine. 

Before The Voice happened your cover version of ‘Ennadi Mayavi Nee’ became a great hit. How do you reflect on your musical journey before The Voice? 

We used to go to India at the end of every year in December, but since the advent of the Coronavirus, we could not visit the country. In 2019, when we went to India, we did a recording, three songs ‘Autumn Leaves’, ‘Ocean Eyes’ and obviously ‘Ennadi Mayavi Nee’. I definitely didn’t expect it to reach out to a large audience. I was really surprised and grateful for all the support that I got from the song. So I already had a lot of followers due to the song and when I was on The Voice things got a lot better.  

You are trained in Carnatic music. How was your shift to Western music? 

I started learning Carnatic music when I was five to six years old. I had been doing that and I still do it. But I started learning Western when I was eight years old. Carnatic has obviously played a big part in my music career because a lot of the things that I learned from Carnatic music helped me in my Western singing and songwriting. However, I really started enjoying music when I began to indulge in Western music as a singer because that’s where I found my true calling.  

You have a very deep and captivating voice. How do you maintain it? 

A week before my performance, I refrain from cold, sweet or spicy items. I opt for a neutral diet, I’d say. But if I don’t have any performance coming up or if there is a two-week gap before my performance, I don’t take any precautions because it doesn’t affect me too much. However, a week before my performance, I use hot water instead of cold water, which prevents my throat from getting dry. These are the main precautions that I take. 

Which experience of The Voice would you describe as the most nerve-wracking one? 

To be honest, the most nerve-wracking was definitely the knockouts when I sang ‘Dusk till dawn’ because the stage was fancy and I was standing on a platform in heels. So, I was a little uncomfortable. Also, the song was quite hard and I was nervous that day because I was competing against some great artists, and I didn’t know what would happen. It was the most nerve-wracking experience for me.  

How did it feel when you saw each of those giant chairs turning around you one after the other? 

It was overwhelming, but also comforting because as I was singing the chairs turned, I felt that I accomplished something. So when all of them turned, which I didn’t expect, I was very surprised, and I was so happy. It was honestly great to see all their reactions. 

How difficult was it for you to choose Jessica Mauboy from four extremely talented, versatile singers? 

It wasn’t easy at all. But I had actually thought Jess was the coach that I wanted to go with. I didn’t expect a four-chair turn. So when I was on that stage and all four of the coaches had turned, I was confused because they were all amazing, and I felt they could all help me one way or another. But I decided that Jess would be the best choice because I really liked her music, and I find her so sweet and welcoming. 

It was a great pleasure seeing your parents with loads of emotions at your side on the dais. How do you feel making your Mom and Dad the proudest parents at such a young age? Out of the two, who is the biggest critic of your singing? 

It’s great because my parents always tell me how proud and glad they are. It was great to be on that stage. And a lot of people were talking about my mom’s reaction. It was really funny. 

Mom always has something to say about my singing. My dad is also a singer, but it is my mom who always criticizes me.  

Tell us about your experience of showcasing Indian heritage on a global platform through the song ‘Maathe Malayadhwaja’? 

I was really happy that I got to showcase my culture and heritage on such a big platform because it means a lot of people got an insight into my culture. It’s a great way of sharing, and a lot of people liked it. I was very happy about it and am grateful that I got to show it. 

Being a Malayali at the core, how challenging was it to step into a completely different genre from the one you were familiar with from your very early days? 

I did start with Carnatic music, but I mainly listened to English songs when I went to school. So it wasn’t weird or anything. And when I switched to Western singing, I didn’t find it extremely different because it’s only in another language with a couple of different techniques and stuff. I didn’t find it too difficult or surprising to switch. 

What do you miss the most about Kerala or India being an NRI? 

It’s definitely my family because in Australia it’s only me, mom and dad. We don’t have any family in Australia, all my relatives are back in India, so I get to hang out with them and go to different places when I am in India. So, yeah, that’s what I miss the most. Also, one of the things I miss the most is the food there. I love the beef biriyani from the Rahmath Hotel. 

Janaki with Parents
Image Credits: Samayam Malayalam

How do you balance between the Indian and Australian identities? 

I don’t think it’s too hard to bounce between the two, because I always call my grandparents who are in India and I’m attached to the culture as well, because like I said, I go there every year. I didn’t find it hard to balance my two cultures because we do all kinds of celebrations here as well; like Onam among our Malayali friend group. So yeah, I find it pretty easy to connect with both cultures. 

If not music, where would Janaki Easwar have been? What are your other hobbies or interests apart from music? 

I like dancing and doing makeup and I also enjoy art. But when I was a lot younger and before I dabbled with Western music, I wanted to be a scientist but that obviously is not going to work out as I am not that smart. 

In music, who all have inspired you? And what are your dreams or where do you see yourself in another ten years? 

My musical inspirations, I’d say, are Tori Kelly, Yebba and Eva Cassidy. I’ve been listening to them three since I was very young. 

I honestly see myself as a songwriter and releasing a whole bunch of songs. I would like to see myself, hopefully, achieving a bit more fame. These are definitely my dreams. 

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