His uncanny likeness to the voice of Mukesh can continue to astound even the most diehard fans of Indian music.
How does one speak in a foreign language without the slightest trace of an accent? If that is not difficult enough, imagine one singing Bollywood songs without being born in India and yet sounding like great inimitable Indian icon, Mukesh Chand Mathur.
Well, one man has been doing it for more than four decades, and it has taken him to heights of the music world that few Guyanese have trod.
Devindra Pooran, 60, has been dubbed the King of Melody of the Caribbean. He has sung alongside the likes of Kumar Sanu, Kanchan, Manna Dey and Nitin Mukesh and even appeared on the Bollywood Awards show.
His uncanny likeness to the voice of Mukesh continues to astound even the most die-hard fans of Indian music. Some 24 albums and over 200 recordings later, Pooran (or Dave to close ones), is not stopping.
Born in Hague, West Coast Demerara, a farming community with scattered homes, Devindra was the last of nine children who surprised villagers with his ability to sing.
Encouraged by his family and others, at just 14, he joined the Subah-Ka-Tara, a music band from his village. He became the lead singer. There were many gigs allowing Devindra to hone his skills. Wedding houses, cinemas, cricket grounds and even school compounds, the crowds gathered to hear him.
He was just 30, in 1985, and working as a Public Health and Food and Drug Inspector, when he went to Suriname for a concert. It was an opportunity to gauge himself against the big boys like Ashok Khare and Nadeem Khan.
Using some of the best musicians around, Devindra recorded “Treasures of Mukesh”, his first album. It was an instant hit, quickly gaining popularity worldwide. It landed him gigs all over Guyana, the Caribbean, North America and later, India and Holland.
Wedding houses and cars were blasting his music. Guyana could not get enough. Today, the father of three is also known for his special anthem –Guyana is a Paradise.
He has dabbled with soul, even Jim Reeves, but his love for Bollywood songs and Mukesh has won out. He recalls performing at an Indian event with the great Nitin Mukesh sitting in the front row and from the crowds, the requests were pouring in. It was a proud moment.
Living in New York now, the singer explains that the trick to master the art of Hindi is listening and practising.
He is averaging one concert every month not worrying with blatant copyright infringements of his music– he believes that it is all part of giving back to Guyana, his beloved country.
His renditions of songs like Kabhi Kabhi, Tauba Ye Matwali, Manga Tha Pyar Magar and Humne Tujhko Pyar Kiya have become etched in the minds of his thousands of his fans.
Written up many times, one particular author, Ramesh D. Kalicharran, said that Devindra not only teases the melodic civilization of India or place the Caribbean as the ideal of loveliness, but he challenges the higher regions to make gods dream to become humans.
“With his gift and assiduous work, when he sings he does not only resurrect Mukesh from the golden era from the fifties to the eighties, but brings a singular taste and dimension to modern music where such geniuses as Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal now reign.”
In the singer’s voice, he said, one can feel the pain and fear of Indians crossing the kaalaa paani (dark waters) from Calcutta to the then British Guiana, then deeper pain and fear when the British forced Indians to abandon their languages of Bhojpuri and Avadhi.
“Here, Devindra and many others have heroically preserved Indian music through the cinema as a huge struggle to sing in Hindi without an ability to speak in that language. This is not only an unprecedented achievement, but an enigma of how one can sing in a language without being able to speak in that medium.”