Like many children of immigrants in Australia, Amritha Shakti has often found herself caught between two cultures.
The 31-year-old soul and R&B musician ― who was born in Chennai, India, and moved to Sydney at age two ― has used her music to explore the intersection of her Indian heritage and Australian identity for many years. But none of her previous performances can compare to her most recent one.
On Saturday, she felt the two aspects of her cultural identity truly connect when she performed India’s national anthem at the Australia vs. India Boxing Day cricket match in Melbourne.
Describing the opportunity to take the stage at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) as “the biggest and deepest privilege”, Shakti said she’s “still processing” the experience, which was made possible when her music was discovered on Instagram by the event’s organisers.
“My friends and family know that India has always been one of the biggest loves of my life, and even though I didn’t grow up there, I was born there and I hold a really deep spiritual connection to the land,” she told HuffPost Australia on Tuesday.
“I’ve always teared up at the Indian anthem, so to be selected to sing it was absolutely the biggest and deepest privilege, and I immediately took it very seriously and switched into ‘focus and preparation’ mode. Performing at the MCG is such a huge opportunity that I don’t even think I dreamt could be possible.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Shakti wasn’t allowed to perform on the actual pitch and wore a face mask until it was time to sing in one of the grandstands. The rules also meant she couldn’t meet her favourite Indian cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammed Siraj, but she said “seeing them mouth the anthem on television afterwards was so cool”.
Once Shakti’s performance aired on TV, she received a wave of support on social media, particularly from South Asians in Australia and from India.
“I’m mindblown at the reaction,” admitted the singer, who focuses on her music at night and works at a Melbourne-based social enterprise during the day.
“To be honest, I wasn’t thinking of anything else other than, ‘Have I practised enough? Can I deliver this to the level I want to be able to deliver at?’ But the moment I wrapped up, the outpouring of love and support from friends and family and across social media has been so moving and so incredible.”
Watch the video below:
While some on social media have expressed how inspired they are by Shakti’s big musical moment, she said, “I don’t see myself as a role model. I just see myself as someone who truly loves India and believes in the ability of South Asians to unite and accomplish beautiful things for the world.”
On Saturday, almost 30,000 people flocked for the first time in nearly 300 days to the MCG for the Boxing Day Test, although attendance was capped at a third of normal levels.
Cricket Australia has decided that the New Year’s Test will go ahead on January 7 at the Sydney Cricket Ground despite coronavirus concerns. Cases continue to rise from the Northern beaches cluster in the New South Wales capital.
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