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.
Photography by: Aabhisek Mikael Gunaratnam