Hoshiarpur: She is from Denmark and lives in the US, but it does not take much of an effort to get Anita Lerche to sing - 'bhajans' in Hindi, 'shabads' (hymns) in Punjabi, even popular Bollywood numbers and other international compositions - back-to-back - any time, anywhere. She says she might have been a "Punjabi kudi" (girl) in her previous life.
At ease performing in small towns and religious events in Punjab and elsewhere in India or recording in top studios in the US, she quipped "I might have been a Punjabi kudi in a different life."
Anita, who has released two albums of Punjabi songs - "Heer from Denmark" and "Sadke Punjab Ton" - said her first encounter with Punjabi music and songs in 2005 brought out her inner voice of "this is where I belong".
Born and raised in a small town, Herlev, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Anita had come to India in 2005 with a group of Danish friends. While the group returned, she stayed back and was helped in her pursuit of Punjabi music by the Hoshiarpur-based family of businessman Anurag Sood.
"It was during a nine-hour journey from Kullu (in Himachal Pradesh) that I first heard Punjabi music and songs. I realised that this was the music that I was looking for. It touched my heart," Anita, who has sung in 16 different languages, told reporters here in an interview.
When she sang her first Punjabi song, she had already sung in 13 languages from different parts of the world.
"Before that, I did not even know about the word Punjabi. I had sung in 13 languages till then, but I never felt the same love that I felt for Punjabi music and songs," she said.
Anita says she will always remain indebted to her guru in India, Rattan Singh Rajput (who passed away last year), for teaching her the pronunciation and meaning of Punjabi words.
"I did not want to sing Punjabi songs without knowing their meaning, pronunciation and feeling them. He (Rajput) was a very good teacher who helped me learn a lot," she said.
"Punjab has become my second home (after Denmark). In the last nine-and-a-half years, I have lived in Punjab for almost five-six months every year," said Anita.
When she performs in Punjab and sings hymns, Anita makes it a point to cover her head with a 'chunni' (scarf). Being a foreigner, she becomes the star attraction at religious events where she sings bhajans. "I have been dressed in a red saree and put on a rath (chariot) at Ram Naumi shobha yatra processions," she said.
Be it "Saara jag teri santan, sabko sanmati de bhahgwan", "Tumhi ho mata pita tumhi ho" or the difficult "Heer" (by Waris Shah), Anita is at ease singing anything.
Based in Indianapolis with her husband Soren Hjorth, Anita recently gave a live performance on her latest peppy number "India " (which talks about the greatness of India), with dancers from the US gracefully performing a fusion of ballet and Indian dance forms.
Anita, who had a Punjabi-style wedding with her husband here last month, rendered another latest number, "Chandani" in her Indian wedding dress with her husband recording the video. Posted on social networking sites, the video has recorded nearly 900,000 hits.