By Arré Bench Nov. 02, 2020
Over the weekend, India was floored by the video of four-year-old Esther Hnamte singing “Vande Mataram”. Hailing from the Northeast and belonging to an ethnic minority, Hnamte’s tiny figure might not be what immediately springs to mind when picturing a vocalist singing a patriotic song, but her version is made all the more powerful for it.
Until last week, a majority of Indians would have never heard of the name Esther Hnamte. Indeed, the little girl from Mizoram, aged four, was an almost completely unknown personality despite already proving herself a musical prodigy at such a young age. But Hnamte’s rendition of “Vande Mataram”, a patriotic song, went viral over the weekend after state Chief Minister Zoramthanga shared her video. Suddenly, the combination of a cute, rosy-cheeked toddler and the stirring, uplifting lyrics of “Vande Mataram” proved to be irresistible to the internet, and very soon, Esther Hnamte was popping up all over social media.
— Zoramthanga (@ZoramthangaCM) October 30, 2020
Hailing from Lunglei in southern Mizoram, Hnamte was known as a child artist who sang mostly gospel songs before her “Vande Mataram” cover got her national attention. Hailing from the Northeast and belonging to an ethnic minority, Hnamte’s tiny figure might not be what immediately springs to mind when picturing a vocalist singing “Vande Mataram”, but her version was made all the more powerful for it. Not only did Hnamte go viral, she also sent out a strong reminder to the rest of India that those from the Northeast have equal claim to the Indian identity. None less than the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi himself, praised Hnamte’s rendition.
Adorable and admirable! Proud of Esther Hnamte for this rendition. https://t.co/wQjiK3NOY0
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 31, 2020
In addition to her state’s CM and her country’s PM, Hnamte has also attracted praise from another important individual. Music director AR Rahman, who composed the version of “Vande Mataram” that Hnamte sang, also took the time to cheer on the pint-sized patriot for her cover version of his famous hit “Maa Tujhe Salaam – Vande Mataram”.
— A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) October 30, 2020
This is not Hnamte’s first music video, just the first one that has catapulted her to fame.
There’s something evocative about a child from an oft-forgotten part of the country wearing their love for the country on their sleeve. Hnamte’s “Vande Mataram” video also triggered memories of another child from the Northeast, this time a boy from Arunachal Pradesh, who went viral around Independence Day as industrialist Anand Mahindra shared a video of him singing the national anthem.
I saw this first a year or more ago. I’ve stored it and I watch it every year to get my josh up before Independence Day. It moves me as much as the best rendition of our anthem by the most accomplished musicians. His innocence & concentration gets me every time. #friday pic.twitter.com/gFnj66cisd
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) August 14, 2020
Adorable kids and fervent patriotism appear to be a popular combination on the internet.