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Birth nameMary Sandeman
Born (1947-11-20) 20 November 1947 (age 76)
Edinburgh, Scotland
GenresPop, folk
Years active1979–1994, 2006
LabelsHansa International

Mary Sandeman (born 20 November 1947),[1] better known by her stage name Aneka /əˈnkə/, is a retired Scottish traditional singer.

In 1981, she reached number one in the UK Singles Chart with her song "Japanese Boy". She was well known for the Oriental image she took on for the song. After her brief foray into pop, she reverted to her real name and reestablished herself as an accomplished performer of Scottish traditional music.[2]


Mary Sandeman recorded the song "Japanese Boy" in 1981.[2] Impressed with the results, her record company Hansa decided to release it as a single with full promotion. Having discovered the name Aneka in a telephone directory, Aneka devised a suitable image for her performances of the song.[2] Released in summer 1981, "Japanese Boy" climbed the charts impressively and reached no. 1 for one week in August.[3]

Buoyed by this success, the record company commissioned an album and looked to find a follow-up single. The song "Little Lady" was chosen, but caused some concern as to what image to use, as it was felt that a Japanese look would be inappropriate for the song as well as giving the artist a limited life-span. In the event Aneka adopted an 18th-century "lady" image, but retained the same high-pitched voice as used for her hit. The song failed to chart highly in the U.K., reaching only no. 50 – securing her the label of one-hit wonder.[4]

Aneka first pop album, entitled Aneka, was released at the same time (although she had in 1979 released an album under her own name)[5] and featured a mix of upbeat tracks in the vein of "Japanese Boy" and a selection of slow-paced numbers, sung in her true singing voice. The album however failed to chart.[2]

A third single was released in early 1982. This was "Ooh Shooby Doo Doo Lang", which told a light-hearted tale of a singer bemoaning the fact that she has been relegated to backing vocals; the lyrics go on to mention Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder and both "Japanese Boy" and "Little Lady". The song missed the UK chart; however in Europe it gave her a third hit and was followed there by the release of another album track, "I Was Free".[6]

Two further singles were released over the next two years, "Heart to Beat" in 1983 and "Rose, Rose, I Love You" in 1984, but neither of them found success.[7] Aneka then dropped the Aneka title and continued with the folk-singing career she had begun before her fame.[2]

Aneka featured in a 2006 Channel 4 documentary titled 'Bring Back The One Hit Wonders'. Justin Lee Collins attempted to organise a one-off performance of as many one hit wonders as possible but despite getting in touch with Aneka, she declined to take part as she did not want to travel to London from her home in Scotland, and had no desire to perform the hit that made her place in pop history. She stated though that "Japanese Boy" sold five million copies around the world.[citation needed]

She has since confirmed her retirement from music, and was last known to be working as a part-time tour guide for the Scottish city of Stirling.[1]

Mary Sandeman[edit]

Under her real name, Aneka released two albums; one in 1979 titled Introducing Mary Sandeman and another in 1991, Reflections on Scotland. These albums featured many traditional folk songs sung both in English and Scots language.[8] Aneka had been a Gold Medal winner at The Mòd.[9] After her commercial success ended, Aneka dropped the Aneka name and returned to her Scottish folk roots and continued to perform under her real name.

In 1981, South Uist poet Dòmhnall Iain Dhonnchaidh agreed, as part of a bridge-building exercise organized by Gaelic language radio, to compose both literary translations and original lyrics set to arias from Mozart and Verdi operas. Mary Sandeman ultimately made "Nìghneagan Òga", his translation of Voi Che Sapete from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, a regular part of her repertoire. Sandeman not only recorded the aria twice, but even sang the Gaelic words before an audience of more than 5,000 at the Royal Albert Hall.[10]

A mezzo-soprano,[citation needed] she has appeared with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra in concert and on record.[11] In 1994 she made a documentary entitled Aite Mo Ghaoil: Mary Sandeman and Islay.[12] She has also appeared on STV music shows such as Thingummyjig and Hogmanay celebrations.

Aneka is divorced from her husband, Angus, who was a doctor. They had two sons, Duncan and Iain. Her brother, David, was killed in a flying accident in 1975.[1]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
  • Released: 8 June 1981
  • Label: Hansa
12 19


Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Album
1981 "Japanese Boy" 1 4 1 42 1 1 3 7 4 1 1 Aneka
"Little Lady" 50 7 14 6 10 18 14
1982 "Ooh Shooby Doo Doo Lang" 8 18 41
1983 "Heart to Beat" Non-album singles
1984 "Rose, Rose, I Love You"


  1. ^ a b c "Global popstar turned tour guide Gran, Aneka relives her days of stardom". Daily Record. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2014. Today, Mary, 64, is a grandmother...
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 27. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  3. ^ "No. 1 UK Hit Singles of 1981". Archived from the original on 20 May 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  4. ^ "five miles out | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Mary Sandeman". Discogs. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Onet – Jesteś na bieżąco". Archived from the original on 17 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Albums by Aneka". Rate Your Music. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Mary Sandeman". Discogs. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Mary wants a Gaelic hit number". The Glasgow Herald. 30 December 1981. p. 5. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  10. ^ Chì Mi / I See: Bàrdachd Dhòmhnaill Iain Dhonnchaidh / The Poetry of Donald John MacDonald, edited by Bill Innes. Acair, Stornoway, 2021. Pages xxvii-xxviii.
  11. ^ "The Northern Lights by The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra music". Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  12. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | MARY SANDEMAN AND ISLAY (1994)". 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1961" (in Finnish). Sisältää Hitin – Suomen listalevyt (Timo Pennanen). Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Swedish Albums". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
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  17. ^ "Belgian Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  18. ^ "Canadian Singles". RPM Magazine. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Irish Singles". Archived from the original on 26 January 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  20. ^ "German Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Netherlands Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  22. ^ "Norwegian Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  23. ^ "Swedish Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Swiss Singles". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  25. ^ "UK Certification". British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Canadian Certification". Music Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  27. ^ "German Certification". Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2016.