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Nalin promotes local music worldwide

Nalin Jayawardena is an Australian based-vocalist who is a Building Services Manager looking after one of the Western Australia 's tallest buildings. Since he was a school boy at Prince of Wales College, and Gampaha Bandaranaike College, music has been his hobby which he is continuing from Perth, Western Australia.

Nalin in collaboration with many artistes around the world has produced nine CDs using his own funds. Most of his work is available over the Net and can be downloaded free of charge.

Nalin Jayawardena

Extracts from an exclusive interview with Nalin:

Question: You have been away in Sri Lanka for 20 years and now work as a Building Services Portfolio Manager in Perth, Western Australia. But your heart and soul are still with Sri Lanka and Sinhala music. Why?

Answer: Music has been my hobby since I was very small. I was in the school choir at Prince of Wales College. Many family members from my mother's side have been a great influence as some of them had been involved in Sri Lankan music scene for a long, long time. Even though many of them have not made a name for themselves, they certainly were a dedicated and a talented group of musicians with exceptional skills in many areas of music. They were talented in the western as well as other musical traditions of Sri Lanka. If I were to name a few of them, I can recall a former Colombo Symphony Orchestra conductor Dr. Lalanath De Silva, a Super Stars band members George and Morris de Silva, and my own brother Rohan Jayawardena. Rohan was a member of Maestro Premasiri Kemadasa's orchestra and at a later stage was also the lead player for the famous band called Dynamites.

In addition to all of the above, I have been a collector of Sri Lankan music since childhood. I am very proud to own a large collection of Sinhala music that I have kept in preservation. I am in the process of digitalising and preserving these in the hope of making it available to the next generation.

Q: You and US based Dr. Vicumpriya Perera have collaborated to set up the first Sinhala free music website. How successful that project and the experiment?

A: Yes, we do have an active collaborative partnership, and there is also a third partner Jaanaka Wimaladharma located in Singapore. Three of us maintain this site, netcd.lakderana.com. This site has been successful and the visitor access status indicate a very large number of fans using it to download songs free of charge. We see Sinhala music fans visiting our site from various corners of the globe. It is obvious that these fans are keen to listen to and experience non-main stream type music. Our main purpose of maintaining this site is, exactly, to give exposure to new talents as well as to new albums from known and/or unknown artists in the international arena who are willing to collaborate with us so they gain access to the world without depending too much on monopolised Sri Lankan media and institutions.

We also maintain two other sites, the site sinhalajukebox.org that was created by Dr. Vicumpriya Perera and LankaHeritage.com site which is dedicated to other aspects of Sinhala arts. These sites are actually more popular than the site netcd.lakderana.com that I mentioned earlier. Q: When the tsunami struck Sri Lanka you in collaboration with Nimal Mendis, your brother Rohan Jayawardena and Dr. Vicumpriya Perera in The USA produced three songs which raised money for Sri Lanka.

I learnt that one of the songs, titled 'Sea Speaks to you' was mentioned in the British parliament.

Would you please elaborate the background of this project explaining the benefits and where and how our readers could listen to these songs?

A: When tsunami struck Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004, we were devastated by the damage it caused in Sri Lanka and to our people there and not to mention all the affected countries in the Indian Ocean. At that time, I was in contact with Nimal who was residing in France. We have been regularly discussing Sri Lankan issues and other matters. Nimal rang me and said: "Nalin, I am deeply hurt and saddened about the damage caused by tsunami and wrote a song. We need to get it out to the public and try to raise some funds for the people of Sri Lanka." I agreed promptly and supported his idea. Nimal normally writes his songs in English and as we all knew each other Dr Vicum did the translation to Sinhala and we three covered the song.

Nimal did the English version, Rohan did a cover for the Australian version, and Waradatha Aravinda and myself did the Sinhala version in Sri Lanka and Australia. The songs became immediate hits among the expatriate Sri Lankans as the Internet and Internet-based radio stations helped publicising the songs.

At the same time there was another very crude and discriminating song produced by an artist in The USA insulting the nationalities who were affected by this tragedy. The British parliament in one of their sessions; I think protested against that particular song and highlighted Nimal's song as a great example stating what should be done in situations like these giving credit to the work Nimal did.

We produced a DVD with two songs mentioned earlier that Rohan and I did, along with a third song that I wrote at the same time titled 'Ruduru Ralu Mahamudha' [Fisherman's Cry]. My brother Rohan composed the music for the third song. This song did upset some past rulers who ruled the country then. I wrote the song as an artist and when questioned by an international journalist who quoted some lines from the song by reading the English subtitles from the video, I did reply by referring to past rulers including our colonial masters as well!

The funds raised by the sales were passed on to the Western Australian Education Department which donated the funds to several schools including Perth Wesley College. The Wesley College also raised funds for tsunami affected people in Sri Lanka and they helped to build and maintain some schools damaged by tsunami in Sri Lanka.

These songs are available for free downloads through the sites http://netcd.lakderana.com and http://www.sinhalajukebox.org/feature/Tsunami.php.

Q: Your songs primarily can be seen as popular music. Do you have plans to get into other areas such as classical music and songs?

A: Yes, of course, I do! I don't want to just be labelled as a certain type of artist and be cornered into one particular genre. This had been an issue with some of the talented Sri Lankan artists. I have now released nine CDs and if you listen to the songs included there, they vary from Rap to semi-classical songs such as 'Manmath Karawana Vina Rawe', originally sung by H. R. Jothipala, that I have included in my most recently CD as a tribute to its writer Daya Anada Ranasingha [UK]. This CD will be released in Sri Lanka for free distribution by the end of July, as I have no plans whatsoever to make any money from the talents and hard work of Jothi and all the contributors and producers of these songs. I am now working on a different type of a CD by joining hands with a talented young band called, The Chimes of the 70s. The songs in this CD are composed by the leader of the band, an 18-year-old youth named; Rukshan Karunanayake from Gampaha. This band is reproducing new songs and music along the line that we heard in the 70s. Several expat lyrics writers including Bhadraji Jayathilaka [USA], Dr Vicumpriya Perera [USA], Sriya Kumarasinghe [NZ], and Latha Perera [UK] have written lyrics for the songs in the CD. This will cheer up fans who loved the band type music of the 70s. I am also working on semi-classical light type songs based on Perth-based Sunil Govinnage's poems.

Q: Listening to some of your recent songs based on the lyrics of our Perth poet Sunil Govinnage, I get the impression that you and he are trying to immortalise the Swan River and Mute Sea (Golu Muhuda) into our music and literature? Is Perth such an inspirational place for poets and vocalists? Is this a correct assumption?

A: Yes, we have plans and Perth is actually a beautiful modern 'Gama' [Village] comparing to the congested new towns. I have done closer to 10 songs from Sunil's lyrics at this stage and some of the background to these songs is Perth.

Q: Is it important to collaborate with good poets and lyricists to promote our new music among Sri Lankan Diasporas across the globe?

A: Yes, of course! This is very important. As we have seen, with the introduction of the Internet and the digital technology, the old monopoly in the hands of several dominating personalities had come to an end. Now, a booming new talent is seen everywhere and not limited to Sri Lanka. It has given an opportunity to experts, as well, who had no way of showcasing their talents due to the distance from the motherland and monopoly of the dominating media and recording industry.

Q: You have produced a CD entitled Jothi Anusmarana Uphara to commemorate the work of H. R. Jothipala from Perth, Australia. Jothipala has not been considered as a classiest or one who belongs to the major musical traditions in Sri Lanka . What made you to spend your own money and time on this project and distribute CDs free without any income?

A: That is exactly what I wanted to do. Without any doubt Jothipala is a very talented vocalist. When Jothi was alive he was treated as a second class artist. But see how much his work has been recognised by the new generation. He is still being rated as the most popular singer Sri Lanka ever produced. Didn't he cover all aspects of singing styles and types? How many Sri Lankan singers have done such things? In my opinion, he is the real super star in the Sri Lankan music scene.

I have produced three CDs of his songs. All were financially sponsored by me and thousands of these CDs have been distributed free of charge. What I want to do is to bring out the best of his hidden songs, so the new generation will enjoy his work. I am glad that I am doing this for the benefit of the public and in honour of this great artist that Sri Lanka ever had.

Q: Who are the people who inspired and induced you into music and songs?

A: There are many. To name a few, Jim Reeves, Jothipala, Khemadasa, and my brother Rohan Jayawardena. Also, Nimal Mendis, Dr Vicumpriya Perera and Sunil Govinnage have also been helpful.

Q: What is your opinion about the use of technology in music industry? Is it an inhibiting factor or a promoting factor for new and hidden talents?

A: Nowadays, you do not have to be a Visharada, or go to a very expensive studio to do a creation.

If you have the talents and skills, there are a variety of ways that you can enhance your ability and get some free publicity and if your work is good the world will recognise you some day.

What is/was happening in Sri Lanka is that the arenas are controlled and handled by several people and business men who only opened the door to individuals whom they liked and/or chosen to be promoted. This is no longer the case.

You do a drawing, you do a song, you do a tune, or you do a poem/ you can get that out to the public by just pressing a button on a computer. Not just the exposure, there are instances where millionaires have been made by these new technologies. I have to tell you, with this booming young talent in Sri Lanka, it will only take a very short time before a Sri Lankan artist will hit the top of the charts in the world soon.

Then the whingers and pundits who are criticising this new trend and talents will have to lick their wounds.

I have a feeling one day they will have to go after these new talents to obtain lost fame for themselves.

Q: If our readers are interested in your songs where and how can they listen to them?

A: My commercial productions are available through the world famous sites such as amazon.com and some other international websites such as CDbay etc. All other songs are available for free down loading through the website http://netcd.lakderana.com. Jayananda stores in Pettah and Jayananda music world in Nugegoda may have some CDs to be purchased and also some as free copies.

 

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