In a video uploaded on his YouTube channel, Samuel Singh sits in his brother’s bedroom, softly singing into the microphone. The song is a cover of a hit Bhojpuri number by singer Pawan Singh.
“Lagawelu jab lipistic, Hilela aara ditrict,
Jilla top lalelu… kamariya kare lapa lap, lollipop lagelu.”
When you wear lipstick, the entire district of Arrah is shaken /
The best in the neighbourhood, your hips / When your hips shake, looks like a lollipop.
In Singh’s Nigerian accent, the song feels transformed into something gentler.
The number of views on the video, uploaded on July 2 on his Facebook page, hit the 100,000 mark within a day. “Lollipop Lagelu (Bhojpuri song) cover by an African,” he wrote in the video descriptor.
For these videos, the singer has adopted the last name “Singh”. “I wanted to use ‘Samuel Sing’ but I figured Singh was a better match,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to people to know his real surname just yet.
Singh came to India for medical treatment in 2010 after he was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer in his left wrist, and immediately fell in love with the country and its people. During a time when instances of crimes against Nigerians have been on an upswing, Singh has not lost faith in India’s ability to be welcoming.
“I have never been shown this much love in my life before,” he told Scroll.in. “India felt like everything to me during a difficult period.” Singh has lived with Indians, first in a college hostel and then later in a flat in Gurgaon right from the beginning. “My Indian friends have always guided me and I was like the pet among them. The violence against my countrymen should not be attributed to all Indians, it should be attributed to some wicked people.”
The first Hindi song to catch his attention was from the film Mann, a remake of the Hollywood film An Affair To Remember. The song, Chaha Hai Tujhko, from the film declared Aamir Khan’s character’s undying love for his lady love. But, it was Kal Ho Naa Ho’s theme that really spoke to Singh. During his treatment, the easily-recognisable theme from the 2003 Bollywood film was a comfort.
The recent viral hit on Facebook was not the first time Singh attempted singing Lollipop Lagelu. He was introduced to the song in 2013 and performed it at the college festival of Suresh Gyan Vihar University in Jaipur. The crowd of students went wild.
“Back in my college days, I used to have stage performances during events,” he said. “I had a performance to present on one of such day and my friend, an overseas citizen of India from Chile, told me that I could wow a crowd if I entered the stage with the Lollipop song,” said Singh. “He taught me the chorus and I grabbed it within minutes. The moment I walked on to the stage, everyone gave the loudest cheer I have ever gotten. That gave me the idea that I could actually gain more attention if I did a cover of the same song.”
Singh doesn’t understand any of the Bhojpuri lyrics of the Lollipop song, but realises that its entertainment value is high.
In his YouTube covers, Singh wishes to blend popular Indian music with the musical influences from hip-hop, dancehall and rap. In June, he uploaded the cover of the song Brown Rang by Indian pop singer Yo Yo Honey Singh, which garnered 35,000 views. Singh wants to dedicate his next production to Rajinikanth. “Lungi Dance on African drums is strongly on my mind but let’s wait and see,” said Singh.