Tamil film songs only: Born during the pandemic, this virtual singing competition is now in its second season

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Each week, participants select a song based on a theme and record a 2-minute-plus sample to share with the programme organisers online.

This might be part of the new normal, but a web programme on YouTube is quietly attracting amateur singers of Tamil film songs from all over the world.

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Called Kuralosai916, the channel hosts a singing competition with participants sending in entries from Malaysia (where the programme organizers are based), India, UAE, USA, Canada, and Sri Lanka, among others countries.

“The programme is in its second Season, and we are doing really well,” says Sumalatha (Suma) Muniandy, the creative head of Kuralosai, adding that “the show has received more than 170,000 hits on YouTube”.

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“We conduct this competition mainly to bring out the hidden singing talents of contestants from all over the world,” Sumalatha says.

Conceptualised during the pandemic

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The programme kicked off on May 2021 in the midst of the pandemic. In the months of June, July and August last year, contestants began sending in videos. From over a hundred contestants, the top 30 were given a chance to perform.

“During the early stages of the pandemic, many shows and live events were cancelled. So we planned to bring out talents online and hence Kuralosai was started,” says Sumalatha.

“Applications like WhatsApp, Telegram and Gmail have been widely used by the contestants,” says Charan Subbaiah, who takes care of the technological side of the show and serves as its IT head. “At the end of each round, two contestants are eliminated,” adds Subbaiah.

Contestants can sing any Tamil movies songs according to the genre given for that week and send a video of at least 2 minutes to the programme runners through WhatsApp or Gmail. The video is uploaded on the Kuralosai web channel. Every week, two contestants are eliminated, and the last 10 contestants will reach the finale.

In preliminary round of Season 2, 112 contestants sent in their entries. Judges shortlisted 40 singers who then entered the competition rounds. The competition rounds will run for 18 weeks. Every Friday at noon (12pm-IST), the result of that particular week are announced.

“I started the programme not to make money, but because I am super passionate about music even though I am not classically trained,” says Sumalatha.

Meet the contestants – and judges

S. Pradeep has appeared on several reality shows. But he likes Kuralosai the most. “The way Suma arranges it is super. She is responsible for the smooth running of the programme,” he says.

Pradeep, 24, is an electrician from Coimbatore, who works at Roots Auto. He says that he had a talent for music “very early in life”. His sixth standard school teacher encouraged him to take part in reality shows. He came to know about Kuralosai via his network of friends.

Pradeep has taken part in shows like Sun Singer and channels like Colours Tamil and Zee Tamil. He was a quarter-finalist on Jaya TV. “I do this for the experience of appearing in a show,” Pradeep says.

Saravanaselvan, 39, lives in Fremont, California, in the US with his wife and son. He is still in contention in Season Two. He uses Smule, a social singing app, via which Sumalatha found him for Season One of Kuralosai.

“I could not appear in Season One, but now I find myself in a good spot in Season Two. My journey with music, which began in my childhood, is no longer ad hoc. I now take piano classes, which helps me with my singing,” Saravanaselvan says.

Saravanaselvan says: “After I began posting videos on Smule, I got a lot of feedback. Then I began listening to the comments and paid attention to minute details… I understood the difference between the way I sing and the way the judges on a programme expect you to sing a song.”

The judges are Keshavaraj Krishnan, a Malaysia-based singer and music teacher; Sai Vignesh, a singer of Vijay TV Super Singer fame; and Priyanka, who is also a singer.

Takeaways from Season 1

Season 1 winner Srivithyavathi, a Kuala Lumpur-based schoolteacher who teaches music and Tamil, says: “I heard about the programme through a friend, who suggested that I compete. I have learnt Carnatic music for two years. I have been singing Thevaram and Thiruvasagam ever since I was a child. I am extremely happy to be a finalist. It was a tough journey. I am proud to have crossed all hurdles,” she said.

Charukesi Arunraj took part in Season One of Kuralosai916. She finished the second runner-up. “I was sort of third place. I was referred to Suma by a friend of mine, who has sung a couple of Telugu playback songs,” said Charukesi, who is from Tiruchi, and who has settled down in Guduvancherry in Chennai. “I do have a background in music. I learnt Carnatic music for 11 years,” she said. “My guru right now is Vidhushi Divya AS. She has been running the Sowparnika Sangeetha Vidhyalayam in Chennai,” said Charukesi.

“The online concept is really nice and unique. It was a learning experience. I have taken part in reality shows on TV as a child. But this was different. They let you sing at your own pace. This is different because I have matured as a singer. I have a long way to go in my journey. But I am now pursuing music full-time. I am learning music from a playback singer,” said Charukesi.

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