AS he walks on stage towards the microphone, some would instantly presume he is another local cover-song singer.

Awaiting the latest Tamil film ballad to be belted out, he surprises you with something new. A song you would not have heard even if you are an Indian cinema buff, because it is not a song from the shores of India.

Dhilip Varman, singer, lyricist and composer, is born and bred in Penang. Many compare the texture and melody of his vocal range with that of Indian playback singers.

“I can only take that as a compliment,” he says over the phone from Penang. He is talking in Tamil, refusing to speak in English.

“If people say things like that, I must be doing something right,” says Dhilip, whose compositions are widely heard as theme songs for local Tamil telefilms.

Dhilip, who is releasing his second album today, shot to fame when his song Uyirai Thozhaiten (I Lost My Life), a composition by Jay of Stigmatrix, was featured on the local Tamil film, Kaathal Vendum.

And because local Indian artistes hardly dabble in melodious tracks or ballads, Dhillip’s Uyirai Thozhaiten was an instant hit when released on radio.

“I don't know why artistes skip this sort of music here. They are mainly into rap and hip-hop. They fail to realise that people here are into South Indian cinema music and ballads.

“I have always been in love with Tamil music, and I never thought of doing anything else but music," says Dhilip, whose father was a lead guitarist and singer with Expressions on the club circuit.

“I learnt all I needed to learn about music from my dad, Sunder. But I went deep into Carnatic vocals under the tutelage of my vocal teacher, Elango,” he adds.

Dhilip, an ardent fan of renowned musical composers Illayaraja and A.R. Rahman, started his musical journey as a stage singer, performing at small shows.

His first recording opportunity arose when he sang for local group Rogkwave for its Naveenam album. He went on to form his own company, Dhilip Varman Productions, to produce jingles and local soundtracks for Indian telefilms.

His productions have since appeared in local films November 24, Kanngal and Ivanthan Hero. He even bagged the Best Male Vocalist at last year’s MIMI (Malaysian Indian Music Industry) Awards.

Dhilip produced his first album last year, Kanavellam, which featured songs composed and arranged by him.

Former Works Minister Datuk Seri S.Samy Vellu also contributed a poem that was used as lyrics for the song, Kanavugal Varum (Dreams Will Come).

“My album distributors, One Vision Entertainment, hooked me up with Datuk. We made an appointment, as I was interested in getting his permission to use a poem that was featured in Makkal Osai (a local Tamil daily).

“But when I met him, he said the poem was inappropriate, and he instantly wrote a new one for me,” he recalls.

Dhilip’s next album, Meendum Meendum (Again And Again), which he fully composed and arranged, will feature Indian playback singer Karthik.

“We flew to Chennai to record Karthik’s vocals for the song. It was a surreal experience as I got to feel the vibes of recording in a cinema studio, something I had never done in Malaysia.”

Besides Dhilip, the album will also introduce new singers. If you are interested, check out the launch of Meendum Meendum today at 7.30pm at the Kompleks Perdana Siswa Universiti Malaya.


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