It’s all about the sound of music for this Sai Baba devotee

Sai Baba devotee Kamani Moodley

Sathya Sai Devotee Kamani Moodley

When karnatic vocalist Kamani Moodley underwent a thyroid operation, she thought she would never be able to sing again.

But the 45-year-old Durban mother of two sons says her faith in God and constant prayer “helped me get my voice back”.

Moodley recently released two albums, Sai Dharshan, a collection of music devoted to her guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and a Telugu album, Sangeeta Sagaram.

“It was such a miracle. I went to India in November last year to visit my guru after the success of the operation and found myself in a recording studio,” says Moodley.

“My voice just opened up and, by the grace of God, I managed to record two albums in one week. It was something that was totally unplanned.”

Her favourite item in the Durban North home she shares with husband Mahadeva Naidoo, 45, sons Kimeshan, 24, and Nishalan, 22, and mother- in-law Pushpa is a large framed photograph of Sai Baba, which was given to her as a gift.

“It’s at the entrance of my house and is special to me because I am a staunch devotee and closely follow Sai’s teachings and principles. I live my life based on the five basic human values, and when I see his picture as I enter and leave my house, I feel truly blessed.”

Moodley felt devastated when doctors found nodules on her thyroid glands and she had to undergo a three-hour operation in October last year to save her voice.

“I am a passionate singer and it was a big disappointment when I discovered that this had the potential to end my singing career. I did not sing at all after the operation, because I did not expect my voice to return so soon.

“I am grateful that I can continue singing and teaching youngsters to promote our rich and beautiful culture.”

She teaches music every Saturday morning at the Umgeni Road temple.

She also manages a textile business and assists her husband in the afternoons in their fast-food outlet in Durban North.

“My life is quite hectic. It’s early mornings and late evenings for us. But I always make time for my music and family, which are the priorities in my life.”

When she finds time to relax, she heads for the couch in the lounge to watch TV or listen to music.

“I am always on my feet, running around the entire day and making sure that the business is run well, so the couch helps me put my feet up and unwind a bit.”

Her favourite Eastern artist is MS Subalutchmee, who is one of her inspirations.

“My all-time favourite Western singer is Celine Dion. I like her range and she sings from the heart. You can actually feel the emotion.

“Music is therapeutic for me when I get time off from my hectic schedule, and teaching at a temple is just so beautiful and serene.”

She hails from a family of musicians and began singing at the age of eight, when she took part in her first Tamil Eisteddfod.

“My mother, Saras, who was a Tamil teacher at the time, was my inspiration. She constantly motivated and encouraged me to sing.

“I initially sang after listening to various tapes and records. But later I learnt how to write music using the scale.”

The highlight of her career was securing a scholarship from the Natal Tamil Vedic Society in 1996 to study music in Chennai.

“I learnt under Guru Seetha Rajan, who also lectured at one of the colleges in India. I am still working with her and we are trying to send 10 young South African music enthusiasts to India to master the art and teach others when they return.”

Moodley sings in various languages, including Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu.

“I understand the meaning of the words, and this makes it easier for me to sing from the heart. I believe that if I sing from the heart, people will feel the lyrics.”

She recorded her debut CD, Bakthi Paadalgal, four years ago. It comprises traditional songs that are performed at Hindu memorial ceremonies and prayer functions.

“I thought this would be useful, because many families struggle to find groups to render songs for prayers. This way people have the option of playing the CD.”

She is also a passionate cook and enjoys spending time in the kitchen with her husband.

“ Paneer is my favourite dish, and it’s a hot favourite when I prepare it using fresh cream, green peppers and mushrooms. I love experimenting. I also enjoy making dishes with chickpeas.”

A seasoned traveller, she has visited India, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Singapore and Bangkok with her family.

“I love India the most because the lifestyle is so peaceful and relaxed and the people are satisfied with whatever they have. It’s such a simple, hassle- free life.”

She also enjoys relaxing on the beach and eating at her favourite restaurant, Amravati Palki in Musgrave.


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