From business reporting to singing Bollywood hits

GEORGE TOWN: How does a Malaysian business journalist make the move into singing Bollywood songs in New York and yet not be able to speak Hindi?

Perhaps it’s a mixture of fate, happenstance and passion.

Former The Star journalist Barani Krishnan, now a senior analyst for an investment company in New York, did just that after he pursued his long-hidden passion and now sings at Bollywood-themed Indian restaurants in the Big Apple.

“I love to sing, basically everywhere, while writing an oil report or trying to burn 1,000 calories, or while munching on a sandwich at 3am,” he said.

Barani, 55, said he got his first break a few years ago when he sang a famous Hindi tune for a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary party.

“It opened the doors to more party invites and opportunities,” he said in a phone interview from New York.

Last year, Barani, who has sang 250 Hindi songs to date, got his first gig at a restaurant in Jersey City in the US state of New Jersey for Valentine’s Day.

“It was a two-hour show at a glitzy Indian restaurant on the Jersey City waterfront.

“Seeing the diners swaying in their seats as they sipped their cocktails, occasionally raising their glasses at me, told me I was doing something right,” he said.

Since then, he has been in touch with various Bollywood-themed nightclubs and restaurants in New York and New Jersey, and is expecting to be busy in the summer with more gigs.

He called his singing venture “Bollywood Kahani” – “Kahani” meaning story, a word which he had to look up on the Internet because he does not speak a word of Hindi.

“It is my attempt to tell the Bollywood story through its music from the 1950s to the 1990s,” said Barani, an ardent fan of the legendary Hindi singer, the late Kishore Kumar.

“I have always been fascinated with Kishore, who is described as a strong tenor but with a baritone resonance, which I knew nothing about – all I wanted was to sound like him,” he added.

Barani joined The Star in 1989 and later AFP in 1992 before moving to Reuters in Kuala Lumpur in 1995.

He took on a job in Reuters New York in 2006, writing about financial and commodities markets.

He left the news agency in 2016 and became a blogger before joining his present investment company.

“My objective now is to make Bollywood Kahani into a well-known label and who knows, it might turn out to be my calling to be a singer, a passion I hid for more than 40 years,” said Barani, who lives in New York with his wife and son.

He has started vocal lessons to improve himself and plans to come back to Malaysia someday to perform.

“My manager is working on this but there are no definite dates yet,” he added.

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