Because I sing in over 10 different languages, I always get asked the question:
“Do you speak in all of them?” The answer is No. I speak in two: English and Serbian,
and I understand what I am singing about in the rest.
I was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, (now Serbia), and spent the first six years of my life in Canada. During my early childhood my parents spoke Serbian to me and I responded in English, which is technically my first spoken language.
By the age of six and a half, my parents moved me back to Belgrade where I spent a decade of my formative years. Growing up in Yugoslavia I was known as the “kid from Canada” with a slight North American accent. I specifically had difficulty pronouncing the very slight differences between Ć and Č and Đ and Dž. The sound between these letters is so slight but so noticeable if you don’t say it properly. I got tired of my own people asking: “Where are you from?” when they heard me speak these letters, hence began my lifelong challenge to perfect pronunciation.
By my teenage years, I’ve mastered the official language of Yugoslavia at the time – Serbo-Croatian, using Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Shortly after I moved back to Canada and became known as “the kid from Yugoslavia” having a slight accent ’cause I’ve been away from using daily English.
Where does this leave me today? I speak English and Serbian with a very slight accent (some people don’t notice at all).
On my albums so far, I’ve recorded music in:
1. English and Serbian
- These are found on my first 2 Melissa Rebronja Albums: EMBRACE YOURSELF and YOU’LL BE MINE.
2. English, Serbian, Arabic, Church Slavonic, Hindi and Persian/Farsi
- These are found on my first EMAR album SACRED SOUL
3. Farsi, Traditional Mandarin, Gypsy/Roma and Serbian.
- These are found on my EMAR digital ep MOON.
So how many languages have I recorded in so far? If you counted carefully, it’s 8:
English, Serbian, Arabic, Church Slavonic, Hindi, Farsi, Mandarin, and Roma.
Also, there are a few more languages I know I can sing because I have done so in
school choirs and just on my own: Russian, French, Italian, Slovenian, Macedonian & Latin.
So, how many languages do I know I CAN sing in so far? If you counted carefully, it’s 14:
English, Serbian, Arabic, Church Slavonic, Hindi, Farsi, Mandarin, Roma, Russian, French, Italian, Slovenian, Macedonian and Latin.
I am one of those people that LOVE languages and I imagine I could probably sing in more,
like Spanish, German, Portuguese & Hebrew. I just never tried it yet.
So, my official answer to “HOW MANY LANGUAGES CAN I SING IN?” is: Over 10.
I think that about covers it.
Why have I recorded in over seven different languages?
In ’99, when I officially began my music career in Vancouver, BC Canada, after live performances
people would come up to me and say: “Wow, that Serbian song “Zasto” that you performed was so beautiful and heartfelt, even if I didn’t understand a word” As an Artist, I felt heard and seen in my pure expression. I was reminded that Music is the Universal language.
A few months later I heard a beautiful Hindi Mantra playing at a friend’s house. I asked: “Who is this?, What language is this?” It was Deva Premal’s “Tumare Darshan” and the language was Hindi. I loved it so much that I immediately contacted Deva and asked for her permission to record my own version. She gave me her blessing and put me in contact with tabla player Monish Vyas who co-wrote the song with Yashwant Deo. I got their permission and recorded my own version. I sang in Hindi and added Serbian and English lyrics. That’s when my artist name EMAR (named after my initials M.R.) was born.
Soon after I released my first EMAR World Music EP with four songs in five languages: English, Serbian, Hindi, Persian and Arabic. These songs later made it on the full album release: Sacred Soul.
Recently someone asked if I can sing WELL in at least one of the languages? Fair question.
I believe I sing well in English, Slavic and Middle Eastern languages better than any other ones because I was raised with these influences.
The most challenging was Mandarin. I discovered a beautiful Mandarin song “The Moon Represents my Heart” after I heard a close friend heart-fully sing it. I wrote down the pronunciation with the help of that friend and flew from Toronto to Vancouver to record with one of my awesome producers Sean Eyre.
Once done, I flew back to Toronto and played it to a Mandarin speaking friend. She listened and said, “It’s 99% perfect, there’s only one word that you pronounced wrong, the word “moon,” which is in the title of the song. Oh man. That was disappointing to hear, but I was determined to perfect it. So I had her coach me how to say it/sing it properly and went in to a local studio to re-do that one word. Problem fixed!
Speaking of coaching, when I recorded the beautiful Farsi duet “Bemirid, Bemirid” with Canadian, Iranian singer Binaam. I was grateful to have him there coaching me. Apparently, when he played the final recording to his Mom, she was surprised I wasn’t Farsi. That felt good to hear.
Most of all, what has driven me to sing and record in this many languages is the desire to celebrate all the beautiful religions and cultures as one. Through music our language becomes one – the language of our heart.