A BLING-LOVING teenager who started singing Indian hymns at the age of seven has reached the semi-finals of The Voice UK and vowed to pursue a musical career no matter what happens in the hit BBC reality TV competition.
Vikesh Champeneri, from Harrow, who is being mentored by The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, was voted through to the next round of the show by the public last Saturday (21). Eastern Eye caught up with the busy 19-year-old in between rehearsals this week ahead of his next live performance.
“Rehearsals are going really well; I love the song. It feels amazing; I never thought I’d be stood up there
through public votes with the likes of Lara (Lee), Autumn (Sharif ) and Howard (Rose), who are the strongest singers in the competition.
You don’t for one minute think you’ll do better than them in the public vote, but at the same time it’s humbling as well,” he told EE.
“Winning The Voice would give me a chance to open up to the public and show them who I am through music. People have got me down as a diva, but I’m not a diva at all. I may be famous after but I will not change who I am. When I sing I shine. Even if I don’t make the final, I have people who have supported me and helped me get this far. It won’t stop me; I can only go on from here.”
Champeneri, who sang Pink’s Get The Party Started last Saturday (21), received mixed reviews but was earlier described by coach will.i.am as “better than Marvin Gaye.”
After his performance, where the teenager was dramatically lifted 25 feet above the stage in a gold trapeze hoop, his mentor said: “You are blowing up on Twitter right now.”
“I’ve had mixed reviews about my last performance; some people said I came across as a bit of a joke but I’m not here to joke around, to be labelled as ‘absolutely ludicrous’ is something that’s hurtful to absolutely anyone,” he said.
He is now competing against seven other contestants for the title, who are being coached by artists Rita Ora, Ricky Wilson and Sir Tom Jones in the fourth series of the BBC1 show.
The Swarovski crystal-loving contestant said: “Will.i.am is an amazing coach; he’s crazy but has got so much experience and
takes what he does very seriously. You can’t help but admire the way that he works and the confidence he puts in you. The feedback is second to none.”
Champeneri started singing bhajans from the age of seven, and was inspired by a trip to India where he learnt more about devotional and folk music.
“I said: ‘I want to sing like that’. My dad enrolled me in Gujarati classes and I learnt to play the harmonium. It’s onwards and upwards since then. I will never lose my Indian singing. If I do put out an album it will be very different,” he said. The youngster performs for the Gujarati Arya Association’s (GAA) annual navratri celebrations and in local community centres and temples. “The best part has been the support from the Gujarati Arya Association London and the public.”
Each week, the London boy has been working with will.i.am to develop his performances and singing style. “He has a fascination with my jewellery; I find that quite funny actually, not many people look at my jewellery and think it’s very nice but Will loved it from the get-go.
He’s always admired what I’ve worn on my hands. “I’ve always found the best pieces of jewellery in charity shops. I go to places like Swarovski and its one-time pieces that I love, I’ve got three rings from there,” he told EE.
The celebrity chauffeur booker’s family recently suffered a huge knockback when his mother suffered a stroke and was unable to watch his first live performance in the studio.
“My family were dismissive of The Voice at first but now they’re on board. My parents are elated for me. Singing is the thing I’ve always been good at. I’m following my dream and they couldn’t be happier,” he said.
The north-London lad will be competing against seven other artists for a place in next weekend’s final, where the winner will receive £100,000 and a record deal with American music label Universal Republic.
The semi-finals of the The Voice UK will be televised live on Saturday (28), from 7.15pm on BBC One, where Vikesh will require enough votes from the public to move on to next weekend’s final.