Natalie Soysa : Photography, Musings & Published Work

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1 2 3 BPM – Let’s BEEP Again!

Photoshoot for the second edition of 123BPM, this time in Mirissa. DSC_6764 DSC_6794 DSC_6827 DSC_6899 DSC_6906 DSC_6935 DSC_6965 DSC_6992 DSC_7029 DSC_7115

Collaboration is the Cure

Suresh De Silva in collaboration with classical baritone, Sanjeev Niles. Cadence_of_Your_Tears

On a small island encumbered with politics, one would hope that it could at least escape the world of creativity that ideally shouldn’t tolerate any form of it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The few instances of fusion and collaboration however, hint at the possibility for artists to cross these imaginary divides, learn from each other and create work that stands apart from the rest. To put it as plainly as possible: if we work together, our differences will only fuel greater things to come.

It’s been a while since I was inclined to write about new music. My writing since of late has been of a socio-political nature, from remembering the 1983 Black July riots to the paltry state of so-called development under the immediately outgoing regime.

I heard a piece of original music last evening however, that immediately spurred me on to want to write about music once again. First, a little background, since I am writing about an unlikely collaboration between two very different musicians:

Suresh De Silva is no stranger to original music. As a rock and metal musician, front-man and vocalist he has been writing music for nearly 15 years with his band Stigmata. His voice has grown tremendously over the last decade and I am proud to note that we have vocalist of his caliber on our soil. His fans are primarily (but not entirely) meatheads who are drawn to his growls and screeches, but his effortless vibratos and falsettos are what tend to make me catch my breath. There’s a quality to his voice that I am now finding hard to liken to any other and I suppose that’s the true mark of an original vocalist – being able to create a feel and texture that are truly one of a kind.

Suresh had been hinting on social media that he was collaborating with a classical vocalist and I for one was waiting eagerly to know more.

I think Suresh’s foray into Broadway has done him a world of good. For those of you who missed it, this mad metal voice donned the robes of Judas Iscariot in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar by the Workshop Players in 2013, expanding his vocal repertoire to newer heights.

A few weeks ago, Suresh announced that the musician he was collaborating with was Sanjeev Niles, a classical baritone. While I am all too familiar with Suresh’s voice, Sanjeev’s was a welcome and almost nostalgic surprise, taking me back to my own choirgirl days. Sanjeev tells me he has been performing with choirs and as a soloist for over a decade now, including with the Colombo Philharmonic and the Merry An Singers. He owes a lot of his training to Mary Anne David who I am sure will very proud of his latest work. While he is a classical musician, he is also a fan of some of the greatest rock outfits of all time including Iron Maiden, Nevermore, Blind Guardian and Metallica.

Suresh & Sanjeev have known each other for many years, but have just begun to realize the benefits of working together. Suresh De Silva, metal vocalist and Sanjeev Niles, classical baritone; the thought itself is intriguing enough, is it not?

After tireless weeks in the studio with Ravin David Ratnam of Paragon Productions, the duo were ready to let a few of us have a listen to the first track of their upcoming album.

Their voices are as different as chalk and cheese but for some indescribable reason, seem to work very well together. Cadence of Your Tears (Freedom’s Chains), co-written and performed by the two is beautiful new direction of original Sri Lankan music and I am keen to hear more, which I am told will include Sri Lankan instrumentation as well.

Sri Lankan instruments are rare and barely recognized by most young music lovers in the country who are drawn to monotonous western pop. Hats off to all musicians in the country who opt to include music of this nature in their original compositions such as Dr. Sumudi Suraweea and his Baliphonics project that re-presents the Bali ritual in a contemporary context, and Stigamata for Andura, their rendition of the Gajaga Wannama and the inclusion of Sri Lankan percussion in their 3rd album, Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom. Our youth are forgetting the rituals and music that the nation was founded on long before colonization and I for one am an advocate of returning to those roots and providing modern interpretations to our musical heritage.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand:

Kudos to Ravin for a great production and to the collaborators for making me want to know more, hear more and get more of this very unique sound. Applause also to young visual artist Madhri Samaranayake, for creating the artwork that accompanied the single. Creative projects that bring together multidisciplinary aspects of art will always have a place close to my heart and while this is primarily a musical production, bringing in visual dynamics to it, make it all the more powerful.

While classical and heavy metal music have combined around the world, I was yet see this kind of ‘coming together’ in Sri Lanka. Having been a fan of the likes of Devin Townsend whose work transcends musical genres and of course symphonic power metal outfit, Nightwish with their original operatic vocalist Tarja Turunen among others, I’ve long awaited this kind of cross-genre sound being created here.

While outfits like Thriloka infuse rock with jazz, no one has ventured into a fusion of the operatic sphere with metal thus far – or at least until last evening, that is. A track is released and will be available for public listening within a week. Add to that, an entire album is in production. That long breath I was holding can now be exhaled with absolute joy.

Suresh & Sanjeev, for doing this you not only have my applause, you also have my gratitude. You are among a few rare testaments to what creativity and art are all about. Collaboration truly is the cure.

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Photography by: Aabhisek Mikael Gunaratnam

How is this Development?

Originally published on Groundviews on 6th January 2014.

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A few months ago, I travelled to Jaffna.

I saw a very different, ‘developed’ Jaffna than the one I had visited just a few years previously in 2011; a mall, 3D cinema, new buildings and many other new developments in the process of construction.

The people of Jaffna however, seem to be unchanged.

They dress the same, they talk the same. There are no denim clad females; instead they still opt to wear sari & salwar khameez. Who I saw, met and spoke with in depth everywhere I went, were people unchanged by the ways of so called development and post-war abundance.

I met people to whom the internet is just beginning to feel familiar to. I met people who believe that only bad girls wear jeans. I met people who told me that besides the city wide splendor, the rest of the peninsula, the Vanni and many other areas are still suffering from malnutrition, disease and a lack of education. Go see for yourself, they told me.

How is this development?

The people of the peninsula are possibly slightly less afraid, but still equally suspicious of the many despotic, controlling factions that seem to have taken little account of what the people and the arid lands across Jaffna actually needed or wanted at any point, be it the LTTE, the Sri Lanka army or the current political monarchy.

To the outside world, post-war Jaffna is becoming a booming hub of activity. A large portrait of Mahinda Rajapakse stands over the destroyed remains of the Kachcheri, authoritatively insisting that this destruction will never happen again. Oh, and the new Ninja Turtles movie was playing on a brand new 3D cinema complex.

Somehow the actual construction and rapid development plans happening in the peninsula seem to have little positive effect on the people there. They seem terrified, if anything. They have learned the fine art of being quiet, subservient souls so they go along with that which is new or strange, but do not revel in it – do not enjoy it. They are, in fact miserable.

How is this development?

I would like to think the government myopic but I think it’s more a case of megalomania than anything else. Who cares what Jaffna needs, what Sri Lanka needs is to show the world we are booming. So let’s build big buildings and monuments and war memorials. After all that’s what the rest of the developed world has done, have they not? From Trafalgar Square to the Arc de Triomphe to the giant monument now erected at Elephant Pass, bringing in thousands of visiting tourists from all over the country who stop by to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers of only one side of this battle.

We are not a developing nation. How can we claim to be one when we do nothing but erect structures, especially in peninsula that has known nothing but a three decade long war, little or outside communication and no electricity for a decade?

How is this development?

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The pictures that accompany this piece are what spurred me onto to write it in the first place. Drive a few kilometers out of the town, heading towards Casurina Beach and you will settle on the nearly 10 km radius garbage dump. A gargantuan one, with layers of dust and rubble and dirt, with moving figures of humans, tractors and animals, I would liken to the setting of a fantasy epic if not for the stench that rises from it. Wild life, livestock, birds and other stray animals feed on this garbage and drink the water leaking out of the bags and piles collected over years. Squatters in the area dig through the mountains of garbage, looking for forgotten items they could use or nearly edible food to fill their stomachs.

How the hell is this development?

The concept of development goes beyond construction. It takes into account many other factors from irrigation systems to efficient waste management and sustainable living. At the most banal level of defining development – if we aren’t living clean, we are just a partially good looking island, otherwise drowning in our own shit. Do the powers that be even understand the concept of longevity when it comes to designing a national development formula? It’s all a little more simple really; they want to look good now.

An unprecedented presidential election happens this week in Sri Lanka, but it’s also one that starts to finally give this island the idea that the power lies with her people, where it should have been all along.

Maybe for the first time ever, we need to set precedent, get off our opinionated derrieres and exercise our fundamental right and requirement to vote.

Don’t vote for a candidate.

Vote for the possibility that we can actually step out from this very stench that we have been placed within for generations, from riots to bombs to wars and a national facelift under the guise of post-war development.

I will not vote for a man that has done little to really develop a nation beyond highways, harbors and pretty little street lights.

I will not vote for garbage.

My interview on YES FM (Nov 2014)

Here’s YES FM’s #Soundcloud podcast of my interview last Saturday morning on the Big Breakfast with Brian.

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1 2 3 BPM – Let the beats roll!

A very fun shoot I did recently, courtesy of the AgenZ with some supercool DJs who will be on the decks at 1 2 3 BPM on Saturday 8th November.

Featuring:

TypeB

Divatronic

Muku

Atom & Evil

TimTim

Yazz

Carl Muller

Alexxo123 Composite DSC_0600 DSC_0705 DSC_0656 Muku Disk A Boom Box Tim Boom Box Yazz Boa Alexxo Guns DSC_0598 GROUP1 For more information and bookings, contact Avrille at the AgenZ Email: theagenz@yahoo.com Tel: +94 72 224 1174 602667_233147926819632_1084236976_n To view more of my work, please visit my page by clicking on the image below: 10609494_596990300411205_8951398393571434997_n

Monsoon City

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Colombo (October 2014)

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Galle (October 2014)

View full set here.

The World is a Vampire

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Mahaweli River
Kandy, Sri Lanka (July 2012)

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