Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
Nadee has her reservations about the modern world, but she does enjoy YouTube.
Before she started her own channel, Nadee–who’s from a Sri Lankan village called Dankotuwa–watched videos from Li Ziqi, a Chinese food vlogger whose videos chronicle the process of hand-harvesting food to cook traditional meals. Nadee “fell in love with her presentation style and rhythmic lifestyle,” she tells Tubefilter, and dreamed she might be able to make similar videos about Sri Lankan food and culture. But, like many people, Nadee had no idea where to start with making her own content–and was worried that even if she did, no one would watch it.
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That changed when Rasavimana came along.
Rasavimana is Sri Lanka’s first culinary magazine, and a couple years ago, its editorial team decided to go traveling around to Sri Lankan villages, looking for people to profile. They visited Dankotuwa, met Nadee, and “within no time agreed to start a video channel to show our most delicious and nutritional traditional cuisines to the entire world,” she says.
Nadee and the Rasavimana team began uploading videos to her channel Traditional Me in March 2020. Since then, they have produced more than 50 videos featuring Nadee, her family, and the traditional life she loves so much.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: Congratulations on hitting one million subscribers! For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself? Who are you and where are you from?
Nadee: I am Nadee and I live in one of the most picturesque, peaceful, and beautiful countryside villages called Dankotuwa in Sri Lanka. I live with my grandmother and my younger brother in our house.
I am a very simple and peace-loving person who enjoys such greater happiness in sharing my loved ones lives’ ups and downs. I also like to explore and experience the goodness and the importance of the modern world and yet respect and prefer to live in the simplicity of our past heritage as well. Maybe this is the reason that all my recipes are a mixture of both modern and traditional cuisines of Sri Lanka.
Tubefilter: How did you end up on YouTube? What inspired you to start a channel and start making videos?
Nadee: The most inspirational videos that I first saw on YouTube were from the world famous Li Ziqi’s channel. I truly fell in love with her presentation style and rhythmic lifestyle. Every time I was watching her videos, I got lost in my imagination of starting my own YouTube channel and presenting the traditional cuisines that represent Sri Lankan culture and heritage to the world. Yet I had a hidden doubt about whether I would be able to come even close to that beautiful splendour in all the concepts in her videos.
I was indeed very much blessed and lucky enough to get this rare opportunity to meet the production team of one of the best-selling culinary magazines in Sri Lanka, Rasavimana. I met this very skilled and experienced team during a special program at the time when they visited my beautiful village. They were travelling across the country from village to village in search of hidden talents such as mine. I got so fortunate to share my skills and experience in traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, which they highly appreciated and within no time agreed to start a video channel to show our most delicious and nutritional traditional cuisines to the entire world. So, this is how my beautiful story of “Traditional Me” began, with this amazing team of Rasavimana magazine, who work tirelessly with their ultimate commitment to unfold our lives in front of your lives.
Tubefilter: A lot of your videos revolve around your passion: food. What made you fall in love with cooking? Why do you love to cook for your family?
Nadee: As a tradition in Sri Lanka as well as in every country in Southeast Asia, women play the leading role in the kitchen and preparation of their family meals. So, since their childhood, every girl has been trained, groomed, and guided in every aspect of the kitchen and family meals by either the mother or the grandmother. My loving grandmother guided and trained me in cooking as I grew up under her protection since I was a little girl.
Also, I should mention Aunty Dhammi, the wife of our elder uncle, who had been working overseas. She always encouraged me to learn varieties of new and non-Sri Lankan dishes too. So, I learnt a lot about Sri Lankan cuisine and international cuisines from my grandmother and Aunty Dhammi.
Cooking delicious food with one’s hands and presenting it to another has been the most divine and passionate task that one could do with utmost love and care. So, I also show my deep love and affection to my grandmother, my brother, and all the relatives who love and care for us by cooking my most delicious dishes to them. Because I believe that the taste of any dish always depends on the amount of love and care that one adds to it. I feel the most important aspect of home cooking is that we tend to cook everything with love, delicate taste and utmost care and hygiene. But on the other hand, everyone loves to enjoy my cooking, so it is my pure pleasure in cooking the most delicious food and making everyone happy.
Tubefilter: Another of your passions is—as your channel name says–living a “traditional” life instead of one with more modern technology. Why are you passionate about your lifestyle? What do you think people can learn from living “simply”?
Nadee: I do respect the past very much and even respect the new modern world too, because no one can avoid or turn their back on the modern technological world for sure. But I very much believe in my deep heart that extremely strong and powerful yet very simple and peaceful lifestyles that our forefathers lived in the past era with vitality and vigour where their lives must have been very pleasant and very much less stressful too. I feel the importance of that beauty and simplicity of life, even when I often look at my grandmother’s life as well.
The modern world is very complicated and at the same time it’s extremely busy too. When I analyse every aspect of it, I think my choice is perfectly correct. I don’t hate the modern world, but I truly love the past. Also, I have to admit one thing, I know, if it isn’t for modern technology, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about my traditional life journey with you today!
Tubefilter: Your videos tend to be quite long and in-depth. How much time goes into making them, from filming to uploading? Do you do all the filming and editing yourself?
Nadee: Both I and the Rasavimana team want to give the most knowledgeable, the best and most beautiful series of videos to you all. Usually, it takes about 10-12 days to produce a video, or on some occasions, it takes almost 2 weeks’ period as well.
Initially, we sit together and plan the shooting. Then we take into consideration points like the dishes that I am going to make, the varieties of our traditional cuisines that are more suitable for the modern world, and viewers’ expectations etc. Our viewer audience is very vast and they are from all over the world and their expectations are relatively different as well. So, we must take all these into careful consideration before we produce a video.
Then comes the next task of getting the appropriate and suitable costumes ready and getting the exact utensils in order. Sometimes even the weather gives us various hardships on a pre-planned shooting day. Shooting a video during the daylight is very crucial. On some days the sun sets early, around 4 to 5 p.m. There are days that we had to stop the shooting immediately. There are days that we had to shoot the second part of a morning shoot the following morning because by 10 a.m. the afternoon starts to set in. So, we always face numerous challenges like these when producing a video. I can remember some occasions when it took 16 days for us to create a video.
It takes about a week or so for the Rasavimana team to edit a video. Due to all these factors, our ardent fans and viewers will get the chance to watch our video around once in three to four weeks only.
Tubefilter: How often do you film? Do you have a set filming schedule, or do you film when you feel like it?
Nadee: Just as I explained earlier, producing a video is an extremely difficult task. Hence shooting, producing, and uploading it on YouTube for your valuable viewing and enjoyment will take about two to three weeks in general. Thereafter we take a brief break, of course! Otherwise, we won’t be able to continuously present your all-time favourite videos at all.
Then once we are finished with our brief break we get together again as a team to discuss our next video production. On some occasions, we start to discuss the finishing of a video shoot that we started long ago. You will be surprised, as on some occasions it can be about finishing a video that we have initiated a year ago. But as my constant promise to you, somehow, our prime focused target is to produce at least one video per month for the fullest enjoyment of our ardent fans and viewers.
Tubefilter: How do you choose what to film? What makes something an interesting subject for a video?
Nadee: Deciding on a concept for a video is a very complex and very sensitive issue. We consider our viewer audience as a beautiful garden filled with a variety of fragrant flowers. We are so proud to tell you that we have a very diversified viewer base from every corner of the world, and their expectations and choices vary. Some may enjoy looking at the food. Some prefer nature-focused sequences, and some enjoy our dialogues, another one would pay more attention to the concept of the entire storyboard. Some love to try out our new recipes and enjoy that food and indulge in our traditional food culture and some are there who enjoy watching the whole video as if they are enjoying one of their favourite movies.
So, I am sure now you realise how complex it is to decide on our presentation dishes for every video. There were some occasions in these videos where I made cuisines that I never knew about or cuisine that I never even thought about or planned. The truth is that as of now I still haven’t gotten an opportunity to cook and present most of the other dishes that I have in my mind.
Saying that, it is my sincere duty to mention a few words about our video production team Rasavimana. The entire team continuously dedicate and sacrifice themselves for the best outcome of every video. There were instances where once the entire shooting was finished and yet they got upset by the slight sound decrease of cutting an onion and they recorded the actual sound of cutting the onion again and again because the sound had not been recorded with clarity.
Shooting at night always associate with many challenges. We must allocate a lot of time to control the lighting. We have spent three to four nights shooting one night scene with constant changes of the light panels. They are very precise even for a tiny delicate issue. Surely, I cannot forget about the background music too. I find it a rare blessing and a proud moment in my life for having to release a video with Sinhalese music playing in the background.
We always give high priority to all the comments and suggestions and critics that are been sent to us from our valuable viewer base. We analyse each of these comments very seriously and then we plan and decide on our future path always.
Tubefilter: Something that intrigues me about your videos is the amount of food you harvest yourself to cook. There are a lot of people who don’t have the experience of harvesting their own food for cooking. Why is that such an important part of your life and videos?
Nadee: Very timely and important question indeed. As I mentioned earlier, one of the most important and meaningful steps of my simple traditional life is I strongly believe in growing our own food and using them for our consumption. This homegrown food concept was followed and practised by our forefathers as well. They let their pride known to everyone by growing everything in their own fields without buying anything from a market. Our ancient forefathers worshiped their food by keeping their hands on the plate of rice and the pot of rice with a worshipping gesture to pay their deep respect. Those practices clearly indicated their utmost pride and respect for the harvest that they grew with their own hands, sweat, strength and hard work which made their living truly worthwhile.
There is a very ancient Sinhala saying among our villagers: “Atha helewwoth, kata helawei,” which means that if one’s hands starts working, then his mouth also will start to eat.
I should say, it is a very satisfying and unexplainable feeling when I see the harvest of the budding crops that are cultivated by my own hands, sweat, dedication and hard work. Some of these homegrown cultivations are not only done by us but even my elder aunty and her family are also traditional cultivators. My village Dankotuwa is an agricultural village filled with bountiful harvests all year long. It is so heartwarming and welcoming when everyone in my village helps me with my work, and it is a very common sight to see people helping each other during any agricultural or harvesting-related task in my country.
Tubefilter: What do you hope your viewers take away from your videos?
Nadee: I have closely noticed that we have a diversified fanbase, and they are joining us from around the world. Each of them represents their rich cultural and social backgrounds. So, each of them joins us every month with the expectation of relaxation, happiness, peace of mind, unforgettable experiences, and value for their time. If one asks me a question about what our viewers are gaining by watching our videos, I will very humbly say that after we started our videos, many videos of the same calibre began to come into the limelight from our neighbouring county India and so many Asian Pacific countries as well. What else one could ask for more than this great and humble achievement?
These are the regular comments that our viewers always express after watching our videos, like they were taken back to their past or that they became melancholy after watching or they were nostalgic, remembered their home country and that they travelled back to their childhood etc. I am not sure what is the common inherent that they see in our videos, but I know for a fact that all of them are waiting for our videos because we have managed to add some significance and colour to their lives through every episode.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of being on YouTube?
Nadee: I had this deep passion and a dream to share Sri Lankan historically rich culture, our centuries-old values and our authentic art of traditional culinary practices with the entire globe. That ambition very much became intensified after watching Liziqi’s YouTube channel. I must express my sincere gratitude to YouTube because today my dream and that passion have become a reality because of YouTube. Truly, I don’t have any words to express my sheer joy and contentment for this unforgettable journey with YouTube and my victory.
Tubefilter: Do you have any upcoming plans? Any projects you’re working on?
Nadee: As a person I prefer a beautiful and simple life. So, I don’t like a very stressful life weighing down myself deeply with lots of work the entire day. Too much work can complicate that light and simple lifestyle. Most importantly I never allow anything to distract my concentration and focus on each video. But I have a burning desire to publish a cook book on Sri Lanka’s mouth-watering traditional food art and let my fans across the world to have it.Yes, these days I am focusing on that exciting new venture!