Award-winning opera singer Natalie Di Luccio’s Indian innings began by sheer chance. Born and brought up in Ontario, Canada, she was dedicated to western music from the age of six, carving a niche in Toronto’s classical crossover music scene.
In 2009, she received a message over MySpace from an Indian guitarist, requesting her to come down to India. She says, “I responded saying, ‘Thanks so much, may be one day’.
“Later, he got in touch again and wanted me to sing for an album. So I recorded and sent my vocals. After a few months, I got a CD and my voice was on Sonu Nigam’s devotional album. It was my chachiji, an Indian, who told me how famous he is in India. Then I started researching more on Indian music and decided to take up the guitarist’s offer. His wife is a singer and he wanted to do a fusion album.”
She went on to develop a passion for Indian music and did covers on popular Bollywood tracks. But it was her rendition of A.R. Rahman’s track, Kahin to hogi woh from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, which brought acclaim from Indian musicians and garnered over a million hits on YouTube. She says, “I was going through a big heartbreak then and this song really connected with me.”
Within the next few days, she was flooded with mails including one from A.R. Rahman’s company, offering her a chance to collaborate with him. “I was beyond grateful for the dream opportunity,” she says. Natalie then became a fixture in Rahman’s world tours. About Rahman, she says: “He is open to new ideas and encourages you to take the liberty to add something unique.” Her most notable songs include Aadha Ishq from Band Baaja Baraat, Fatal Attraction from Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Navrai Majhi from English Vinglish and Ready Steady Po from Chennai Express.
It was a whole new experience for Natalie. “Western classical music is always written down. But the music here is about oral legacy and I love the whole idea of improvisation. This country has so much to offer in terms of music.”
Her association with Rahman led her to sing for Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film Kadal, an Italian track which was included in the film’s BGM. But Natalie found her moment in the sun with the super success of the song Aila Aila from Shankar’s I, composed by Rahman himself. She says, “I was in Chennai for one of his concerts when he called me to the studio to dub Aila Aila. It was funny since we hadn’t actually sat on Tamil pronunciations yet. Of course, we recorded it again at a later stage after I worked with his team on that. I sang the song in three languages Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. It wasn’t easy but I believe we pulled it off.”
She concludes, “Most people in America have this vision of the India that was depicted in Slumdog Millionaire. I want to show how amazing this country is through my music and videos.”