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Luksimi Sivaneswaralingam in Indian garb, standing on a stage in front of closed curtains.
Luksimi Sivaneswaralingam. Photo by Chris Thomaidis

The Singer of “Senthoora”

This U of T music grad achieved YouTube fame by giving Indian classical songs a Western twist. Next up: a world tour

Shortly after she graduated from U of T, in 2015, Luksimi Sivaneswaralingam started sharing her voice on her Instagram account – through “Sunday Singstagrams.” The short clips feature covers of her favourite South Indian songs, showcasing her unique voice – which is both soaring and soft, lilting and powerful. At the time, sharing these musical moments was mostly a fun way to highlight the culmination of her years of hard work.

Fast-forward to March 2016, when Sivaneswaralingam attended a concert headlined by D. Imman, an Indian composer and singer who works in the Tamil film industry. After the show, she went backstage to take a selfie with him. As she introduced herself, Imman interrupted her. You look very familiar, he said. I think I know your voice.

He soon realized that he’d seen her one-minute videos on Instagram. Sivaneswaralingam was taken by complete surprise. While she knew that music directors hunted social media for new voices, she never fathomed that any were watching her.

A few months later, Imman contacted Sivaneswaralingam: he had a song for her. She soon flew to India to record “Senthoora” for the Tamil-language film Bogan, a supernatural thriller about soul-swapping and murder. As of August, “Senthoora” had racked up more than 15 million views on YouTube and had hit the top spot on iTunes India. “It still feels like a dream,” says Sivaneswaralingam.

Last May, she began teaching at a school in Markham – and, when she started, students with a South Asian background immediately recognized who she was. They quickly spread the word to other students and teachers. “For a whole school to know who I am on the first day,” her voice trails off. “It was such a happy moment for me.”

When she was just three, her parents started immersing her in South Indian classical music, and Sivaneswaralingam went on to train in Bharatanatyam (a classical Indian dance form traditionally performed by women), veena (an Indian stringed instrument a bit like a lute), piano and, eventually, Western classical vocals. Her house was always filled with music, reverberating with love and joy.

Growing up, she regularly entered, and won, music competitions, travelling to London and Singapore to compete. Naturally shy and quiet, Sivaneswaralingam says her early performances helped her to put away her fear and just enjoy the moment. Today, she’s an engaging, comfortable performer.

When she started her U of T bachelor of music in voice performance, Sivaneswaralingam says she was working to find common ground between Indian and Western styles. But, over the years, she has found a fusion that felt authentic. She hopes to continue to blend the styles, eventually writing and performing her own songs.

In the meantime, Sivaneswaralingam has performed “Senthoora” and other songs across Toronto. Starting in the fall, she will travel internationally – and “Senthoora,” of course, will be in her repertoire. “It’s always great when you hear them singing along with you,” she says. “Sometimes I just stick out the mic and say, ‘Hey it’s your turn, you guys sing it.’” And, of course, her audience knows all the words.

Watch: Music video for “Senthoora”

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