Part I

03/08/2008 00:00



In the late 1990’s there were no singer which really appealed to the youth of Sri Lanka. Well, there were singing groups such as the Marians that were more in to rock than the traditional Sri Lanka singers, and singers such as Clarence Wijewardane, Rookantha Gooneethilake, Ahula and Kasun Kalhara whose lyrics and accent pierced in to the minds of the youth but apart from these there were no musicians that could really thrive in the first decade or two of the 21st century. Another vital fact that was required to appeal for the youth was the absence of the touch of English.

            Then in around 1998, two boys who were a bit more in to the western culture than the existing singer of singer of Sri Lanka started to perform. Their first songs were ‘Wasanthaye’, ‘Siri Sagha Bodhi’ and ‘Life in the New Millennium’. They had included English rap in these songs to a huge extent. These immediately became vastly famous as a certain number of people watched and listened to these songs as they were of something new. Even though there were no public criticizing of the two boys some people did not see anything good for the Sri Lanka music industry, or more precisely, for the Sri Lankan culture, in the songs of the two boys’. The names of this duo, these two who could have been certainly proclaimed as the originator of the youth music of today are ‘Bathiya and ‘Santhuish’. The music style of these two were a mixture of pop, rock and rap.

            The next emergence of a good artist that appealed to a good part of the youth of Sri Lanka was ‘Iraj’, who along with his best pal Ranidhu created unique music that was not produced before by any Sri Lankan. Just after finishing their advanced level studies and getting out of their school, Royal College, Iraj and Ranidhu first created tracks with the pop style with a bit of rap and then moved swiftly on to the hip-hop style with lots of rap. This happened around the years 2002 and 2003. By this time the music taste of Sri Lanka’s current generation had shifted from a pop to hip-hop, and the main reason for this was Iraj and his friends. But not every person had a liking for the fast-moving style and only a part of the crowd followed Iraj’s tracks although the tracks which Ranidhu featured were received more widely. Some of the first tracks created by Iraj, Ranidhu and some of their partners were ‘Ahankara Nagare’ and ‘Ninda Noyana’ Sendewe.

            Sri Lanka then witnessed the emergence  of a musical group which was known widely by the individual members of the group but by the name of the group. The group was ‘Centigradz’. Centigradz consisted of five friends headed by the main music composer, Thusith. The style followed by this group was pop. Most of their tracks were slow moving and some of the tracks had a bit of rap. They did not become instantly popular but as time went on they became one of the most popular musical groups of Sri Lanka. Their first songs  include ‘Nage’.

            In the same time period, that is around 2003, a duo of brothers, Romesh and Lakshan, and a musical group known as Sixth Lane were also formed. Romesh and Lakshan went on to be one of the foremost singers while Sixth Lane could not hold on to the popularity it created in the capital when it first emerged. Romesh and Lakshan’s first hit song is ‘Sandhakomalee’.

            By the mid part of the year 2004 and onwards many feats were  achieved by the Sri Lankan youth artists and a new set of artists were also formed.

            All Sri Lankans, wherever they are living, know about this : the first ever reality television show of Sri Lanka. This was produced by Capital Maharaja company through its sub institute, Sirasa TV. This was in July 2004.. At this moment Rupavahini, the TV channel which was supposed to be created by the Sri Lanka Government’s sponsorship was the leading TV Channel of Sri Lanka. But all this changed when Sirasa TV, which was been broadcasted since around 1998, started telecasting the reality show, this was a singing competition under the name ‘Sirasa Superstar’. This was not just a normal singing competition, around 30 000 contestants participated in this event (more than 50 000 contestants participated in the second season) even though the majority of the Sri Lankan population got to know about this was only after it was shown on television. The contestants were not professional singers. This show was the Sri Lanka version of the globally known ‘American Idol’. There were three initial rounds where contestants that were not up to the standard of each round got eliminated. Each round was held in a different location such as a cricket stadium or a large resort. At the end of the rounds the last hundred contestants were chosen. By this time nearly two-thirds of the Sri Lankans who has access to television were glued on to Sirasa TV on Saturday and Sunday nights. The show was telecasted on some Friday nights due to the appeals of the viewers. Then the final hundred contestants were reduced to 48, 24 and then to the final dozen? Upto the last 48, there qere three judges who selected the people for the next round. The three judges were somewhat popular singers, namely Rookantha Goonethilake, Niroshini Virajini and another singer whose name I do not know yet. Then the people had the opportunity of voting for their favourite singer by sms after the final 48 were chosen. But the three judges were there, seated next to each other beside a table, commenting on the performance of the contestants. When the final dozen were chosen the competition, usually, became intense and controversial. A proof that men are superior than females is shown as all the dozen contestants were males. In earlier rounds contestants were eliminated in batches. But in this stage of the competition the contestants got eliminated one by one, that is weekly a contestant was eliminated. On Saturday all the contestants performed with music supplied by bands and the people had time until Sunday morning to cast their votes. Then later that Sunday the results of the votes were proclaimed in a rather slow manner which succeeded to evoke curiosity  in most of the viewers. This manner was done superbly by a former actor ‘Kamal Addarachchi’. As the weeks went on the number of contestants remaining in the competition reduced.  Anuradha Theekshana, who did not make it to the top half of the dozen, sang his own song titled ‘Sadha Renu Galana’ which became popular.  Another contestant with a good voice, somewhat similar to Bathiya’s, also became popular. His name is Waruna Madushanka. He too got eliminated at the halfway stage. The top five contestants were (according to alphabetical order) Ajith Bnadara, Amila Perera, Dharshana, Malith Perera and Shihan Mihiranga.

            Shihan Mihiranga was the person who created a sensation in Sri Lanka that was not witness before. Even though his talent was not better than most of the other contestants that progressed further (he himself has said this, privately), his isnging was absolutely super. His attractive voice along with his accent was also helped by his good looks as he stirred to become the most popular singer in Sri Lanka and perhaps the most ppular person too. Some of the songs he sang were ‘As Deka Piyana’ (which created the biggest sensation), ‘Gamin Liumak’, ‘Dawasak Da’, ‘Kal Ho Na Ho (Sinhala version)’ and ‘Keena Dam Mitak’. Most of the songs he sang were his favourite signer’s songs, Rookantha Goonethilake, who was in the judge board. Shihan, however, did not make it even to the top four in the competition.

            Next to be eliminated was Dharshana. He was just sixteen years of age when the competition was going on. He attended Royal College and will do his advanced level exam now (August, 2008). He had learnt music at school and was exceptionally skilled at it. Next to be eliminated was another popular contestant, Amila Perera. He possessed a good deep voice and this was the special feature of his singing. Now there are only two contestants remaining – Ajith Bandara and Malith Perera. Almost nobody thought that Ajith would survive all these rounds but yet he had made it to the final. The grand final of the ‘Sirasa Superstar’ was held in the main multi-sport complex of Sri Lanka – Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo. This even was expected to be the most viewed TV event of Sri Lanka, even surpassing the 1996 Cricket World Cup Final where Sri Lanka won it. The two finalists sang two songs each and the people got to vote by sms and through their land phones. In the final the other contestants who were in the top 24 got the opportunity