Kandiah Kamalesvaran, better known as Kamahl, is the name which, for over four decades, has identified the music and the unforgettable voice of a man who is one of the most sensational recording stars in Australian history.
When he arrived in Adelaide from Malaysia as a Tamil Hindu schoolboy in the winter of 1953, after a tormented childhood under Japanese occupation, he was a black in an alien white country. A lone teenager speaking poor English, totally unfamiliar with Western music and his only skills were those on the sports fields. Shyly, he learned to sing, from pop to the classics, inspired by other great black artists such as Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson and William Warfield, all of whom he met. He survived by agility and luck, outwitting the Immigration Department and the "White Australian Policy", which wanted him deported. Kamahl was protected mainly with the loyalty of his mentor and friend, Rupert Murdoch and a sympathetic and understanding Immigration Officer, Bill Schneider.
He always swam against the tide, acquiring along the way a reputation for toughness and arrogance which was a shield against the feelings of racial inferiority which have haunted him throughout his life. He cheerfully took career gambles as few others have done, audaciously hiring the London Palladium to star himself, twice playing Carnegie Hall in New York, and arriving as an unknown in Europe in the summer of 1975 and becoming a household name by the autumn of that year with a number one hit, 'The Elephant Song' which remained there for six consecutive weeks making him an overnight sensation.
The story of his life, which took him from a child in the cow paddocks of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to performing for Presidents and Royalties and to count among his friends some of the great and mighty, is one of the most extraordinary adventures in show business.... from being bombed in Malaysia to a sometimes turbulent, but enduring marriage in Australia, to making and losing a fortune, and making it again. His philanthropy along the way is legend, and for it he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and given the Centenary Medal. Following Prime Minister John Howard, Kamahl was made Father of The Year in 1998 and included in Variety's Entertainers of the Century.
On the centenary of the birth of Sir Donald Bradman in August 2008 Kamahl paid tribute to his friend with a catchy novelty song 'I was a mate of Don Bradman' and more recently on 21 January 2009 he paid tribute to another Australian icon and a dear friend, Nancy Bird Walton, by singing for her at the State Funeral.
"I don't think anything gives me greater sense of worth and wellbeing than singing" he enthuses. "I feel good and emotionally charged when I'm singing to an audience that wants to hear what I have to share with them. That you can reach out to people and be accepted in return, is the highest reward possible in performance and life".
Above all, Kamahl is still entertaining ... and still packing them in.
Performing at the Function Centre
Thursday 3rd December. Doors Open 10.30am
Seated Show. Ages 18+
Tickets On Sale Now: $20 + $3t/f
the Function Centre, Caloundra
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