Manika Kaur Kandhari
Not many of us develop a unique style of presenting devotional music at a young age; fewer still blend Gurbani with modern rhythms and tunes which appeal to the young and old alike; and far too few devote their singing to various causes they feel passionately about.
Manika Kaur's debut Kirtan album, Bandhana, encompasses all of the above ... and more.
She collaborated with internationally acclaimed bhangra/pop singer Sukhbir to create this CD, essentially to raise funds for the Gurdwara being built in Dubai. And in just over a month of its release, the CD has already helped to raise over one million dirhams for the construction of Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai.
30-year-old Manika was born and brought up in Melbourne, Australia and moved to Dubai after she married in 2007. It would have been easy to slip into a laid-back life in the lap of luxury, but in her words, "I was sure that I didn't want to become just another socialite; I wanted to make a positive contribution to society, and at least try to make a difference."
Blessed with a divine voice and writing poetry since she was little girl, Manika spent a lot of her growing years mimicking her favourite singers, musicians and raagis. Although she had no formal training in music, an Australian producer had already recorded an English song with her before she moved to Dubai.
In Dubai, she recorded some more English music with another producer and went on to win a radio competition (by popular vote) for singing an original composition in December 2008. A chance social encounter with the well known singer Sukhbir shaped her dream of recording a Kirtan CD to raise funds for building the Dubai Gurdwara.
As for Manika herself, she believes that, "Music is a wonderful medium through which one can spread any message. I know that there are many singers around the world who are much more gifted than I am, but God has been really kind to me, and I'm sure I can do more. I have been blessed with a very comfortable life, but I feel that I must do something for those less fortunate than me. And I honestly believe that if each of us can look out for others a little bit more - feed an orphan, donate some clothing to the needy, educate the poor, etc., the world would be a much better place to live in."