Cool, yet fiery | Sunday Observer

Cool, yet fiery

Anno Domini
Anno Domini

A first glance at Mangala Weerasekera as he stands along with the other members of Anno Domini while in performance the thought, strikes you that he is a cool-kind-of-guy and nothing will unsettle him. What with his lean frame and long straight hair.

But when he starts playing the guitar joining in with the tune or soloing on the tune all your thoughts are proved negative. There’s an underlying fire in his style of playing that to a large extent negates your ‘cool thoughts’. As I watched him play at the 80 Club the other day the thought struck me like a freight train that he obviously has had a major formal training in music and I was keen to find out the secret behind his mesmerizing style that is distinctive in character.

Listening to you playing, correct me if I’m wrong, it reveals that you’ve had an involved and formal training in playing the guitar. Do you think you could tell us the secret of your success?

“Actually after my A levels, I studied at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, my brother Ruwan who was a violinist and in Russia pulled me over to Russia to study music at the Donet College, Kiev and to acquire a degree in music. I had to study the Russian language, as you know, and this took me six months and I completed my degree in three years time”.

So what was the syllabus like, was it similar to the other countries say in Britain or the Continent?

“Yes. We had to study the theory of music, music literature, orchestrations, compositions, improvisations etc. It was interesting. Studying it in the Russian language and the practical part taught me a lot of ways of making the playing interesting.

After I completed my degree I went to Germany and Switzerland played in clubs over there. This was more commercial music, like pop, rock, soul, garage – you know today’s rage in music. I met Riza Deen and he helped me to play with groups. I came back to Sri Lanka in the 1990s joined Rajitha Rupasinghe’s band Misty and played with them for something like seven years. You know how it is like with musicians in Sri Lanka, I moved over and played with Ayesha & The Dream Team, then had an interesting spell with Manilal & Upekha, later joined Benjy Ranabahu and Aquarius and was invited by percussionist Rasma Lye to play with his band Phase 3. So I’ve had my fair share of experience and now as you know I’m with Shehan Perera and his band Anno Domini.”

What type of music do you enjoy playing?

“Playing in a band to earn a living you have to play the commercial music like – pop, rock, soul, blues, garage – but I enjoy playing fusion and jazz. I did a fusion concert with Mahesh Denipitiya for Rupavahini and of course playing jazz of which I learnt a lot in Russia. The leading musicians there are tenor saxophonist Oleg Yasusky, pianist Serio Saramimuk and drummer Vithalik Savionko.

Now at Moratuwa do you teach guitar to young students who need to be guided in the correct path especially where chord progression over techniques are concerned?

“Yes, I have a lot of students in Moratuwa and some come from Colombo as well. I’m happy to see girls taking to playing guitar for commercial purposes, besides the boys. I hope that would mean our music industry will have more qualified guitarists to choose from.”

Did you have the opportunity to record your music in Russia?

“Yes my brother Ruwan and I. We did record a CD”.

Maybe you have a secret vision for your future. Do you think it could be shared with us?

“Actually my vision is to acquire my PhD in music and I hope I’m able to”.

We hope so too and good luck to you Mangala!

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