The brothers keeping / metal music alive | Sunday Observer

The brothers keeping / metal music alive

A very thoughtful Pubudu Suriyapperuma
A very thoughtful Pubudu Suriyapperuma

The Suriya Brothers are preserving Sri Lanka’s rock and metal music, organising major music concerts, funding struggling local artistes- and mostly importantly taking them to Wacken. Its founder and director Pubudu Suriyapperuma, and one of the Suriya brothers, sat down with me as he envisioned a time where music makes sense and talented entertainers reigned.

“My dream is to one day see our metal and rock bands topping the billboard chart,” Pubudu says as he sat with me at the Weras Ganga Park in Bellanwila.

It is late in the day, but it was my one chance to meet the man behind a major gig that was to happen later that week. He was excited about the upcoming event, so were five brilliant bands and metal heads across the island. I will get to that soon.

Sri Lanka’s rock and metal scene has a rich history. However, for the most time concerts happened in intimate venues, entertained a limited crowd. Now, Pubudu says, the paradigms are shifting. The fan base for the genres is growing as venues in Colombo soar with people coming all the way from areas such as Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Ratnapura.

But there is still much to do and a long way to go.

According to Pubudu popular music still dominates the Sri Lankan music industry, with only around 20 per cent is real hardcore rock and metal fans.

“We have to change the ugly perspective that plagues this form of art. Rock and metal is not about screaming and loud music, it is about authentic music, real entertainment with meaning attached,” Pubudu who was a member of a band several years ago tells me.

It is not easy for artistes of these genres to survive and grow in Sri Lanka. “They go through crazy hardships.

They struggle a lot. It is really great to see bands like Paranoid Earthling or Stigmata still doing what they do. It is a real miracle,” he adds. The Suriya Brothers - an expansion of a family business - is Pubudu’s brainchild, which he runs with his brother Asanga who handles operations and marketing, and a diligent attempt to sustain the music industry. Though the business is new its work is welcomed by many metal and rock artistes. When I met Mirshad Buckman of Paranoid Earthling for an article we featured in this magazine several weeks ago he commended the Brothers for helping bands such as his to grow.

Since its birth the Suriya Brothers has revived Rock Saturday - a gig that dates back to the 80s and halted in mid 2000s. Pubudu and his brother restored it and thus far three shows were held in April, May and September. Rock Saturday is special because it offers a platform for debuting artistes to get exposure. Also through their ‘Cherish Live Envision’ foundation the Brothers hope to provide funds to struggling bands and nurture them to take this music industry forward.

“Current music is a real nightmare,” Pubudu laments. “There is no substance in it. But I see good things in the horizon.”

He could be referring to the Wacken Open Air- an international event all metal bands in the globe look forward to since its inception in Wacken in Germany nearly three decades ago. It is the Tomorrowland of the metal scene. The event sees 29 metal bands from across the world performing in the greatest metal stage imaginable next year. Wacken Metal Battle in Sri Lanka saw five major bands- Paranoid Earthling, Mass Damnation, Neurocracy, Stigmata and Abyss who were shortlists out of 30 applicant- battling each other for a spot at the Bangalore Open Air, where the competition will continue among shortlisted bands from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The winner at the Bangalore Open Air will go on to represent the sub-continent at Wacken Open Air.

“We are really excited for this,” he simply chimes. He rightfully should be because the Suriya Brothers hold the license for this major event. “With Sri Lanka already getting exposed to Wacken I think we have reached the pinnacle in the metal scene,” Pubudu declares. The Suriya Brothers hold the official license for Wacken Metal Battle in Sri Lanka.

He also gives a shout-out to fellow-saviours of rock and metal. Naushan Akbas of Sulphur Sounds, Chathuranga Fonseka of Raavan Kommand, Shafeek Shuail of Strider7 Productions, Yazmin Yousuf of, and late Keshan Wijesekara who organized Maelstrom. Sharing his passion to expose the genres to the crowds as what it really should be - true and authentic music - Pubudu says he will continue to support the bands. “I couldn’t go really far as a band member. It is really a struggle to survive in this. Kudos to the bands that do,” he says.