Maithili Thakur was born in the small state of Bihar in extreme northern India. In fact, the language in her region is called Mathili, which also happens to be a name for Sri Sita. Maithili, along with her two brothers, Rishav and Ayachi were trained by their father in Indian classic music, harmonium and table. The brothers provide backing instruments in nearly all of Mathili’s videos.
Years of struggle
“I was born in 2000, in the Madhubani district of Bihar, India. I grew up in a village in a remote area – there was no electricity and most people were farmers, herding cows. I didn’t go to school as there was no school in the area. My father lived away much of the time, in Delhi, establishing himself as a music teacher. He taught his students in their homes.”
Thanks to her father’s drive she entered reality TV shows and won much respect at a young age. She featured in Little Champs (Zee TV) in 2011, Indian Idol Junior (2015) and Rising Star in 2017. Her vocal range proved to be outstanding and the little family started getting very popular.
“I lived with my mother, two younger brothers, Rishav and Ayachi, and my grandparents on my father’s side, who were a huge influence on me. They used to sing spiritual songs and every week singers from different villages would come to our house. When I was three or four years old, I joined in with them singing; it was a spiritual jam,” she explained.
A few years ago, Maithili Thakur’s classmates in school would often disparagingly call her a “Bihari” – a byword for a rural, poor person. Her father, Ramesh, used to make ends meet by giving music tuition to children. He taught music to his three kids, too. “I made Rs 4,000 (ZAR 800)a month from tuitions. When Maithili turned 10, she started singing at jagrans and other music programmes. “
When Maithili got to the finals of Rising Star on national television, she did not win. But Ramesh noticed that some contestants had created their own YouTube channels to build hype. “I saw that even amateur singers were raking in lakhs of rupees (hundreds of thousands of Rands) by uploading videos on social media platforms.” He started recording Maithili and his sons and upload them.
The videos now get between 70,000 and 7 million views across Facebook and YouTube. Their income from shows has become their primary source of income.“We now get queries for shows every five minutes,” says Ramesh. Requests come in regularly and he ensures the booking includes the family , travel and accommodation. “ The Thakurs have move into a larger apartment and seem set to launch Maithili’s career even further.
Sushant Singh and her decision to focus on folk music
Maithili and her family were quite shaken by the apparent suicide of Bollywood star Sushant Singh in 2020. While the prognosis is not yet clear, it is apparent there was significant bullying and a dark side of the industry became apparent. They have made a decision not to cover Bollywood songs on her YouTube channel. For an up and coming singer, actress or playback star in India is unthinkable, and very brave and principled.
She has produce a wealth of bhajans but also Sikh kirtans and sufi songs. She is well loved by the Punjabi community for her renditions.
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