No Covers Allowed – Sri Lanka Embracing its Original Musical Talent
In a country that is blessed with abundant talent, yet a strangely lingering colonial hangover, it is sad that we are unable to appreciate and value our own music and creativity. Original Sri Lankan music and groups have little prominence compared to the many doing covers and embracing music from the West. Especially music in English.
However beating against this established norm, No Covers Allowed edition I was truly a breath of fresh air. Held on the 28th of July 2019 at The Steurt by Citrus in Fort, organised by pulse.lk, this event heralded a step in the right direction where no covers of any existing songs by other artistes were allowed. It was an evening of original music and I was privileged to be present and enjoy the offerings that night.
The evening started off at 7.30pm (though it said 7pm) and was a Sunday night so though the next day was a working, there was an enthusiastic audience of mostly youth in their 20s present (yours truly felt a tad old till a few friends and known faces turned up). This was simply because most of the performing artistes were of that vintage.
Harinie opened the night with a soulful song she said was dedicated to those that suffered in the Easter Sunday attacks. She also played host in a way and welcomed The Odyssey on stage. The Odyssey is a five piece band including a female vocalist and they played some nice tunes with a good balance between the guitars, drums and vocals. The female vocalist pushed beyond the envelope and I am sure she can push a bit more to really bring out her vocals. They had a somewhat Evanescence quality but within their own sphere.
Next up was Fallen Kids who seemed to be a bunch of fallen kids coz the lead singer’s guitar string broke and he was upset as he could not find another guitar at the time. However they came back and performed a few songs that were sort of reminiscent of a Green Day style of punk rock but not too intricate either. It was pleasant but it kept harking me back to the 90s style of punk rock we grew up with.
An interesting band was DotDotay (unusual name and dotay is usually a term used to denote a boon dock or a rather far off hole in the corner location) and so DotDotay had a rather interesting lead singer who had a style of Sinhala funk scatting in a sense and sort of rap which went off quite well. But it was typical Uptown Funk kind of music though I must say the guitarist was very good and so was the rest of the band. The main thing was DotDotay’s lyrics which were highly political and laden with symbolic meaning and funny at the same time. The inversion of ‘Gamaralata Kotuwak Thibuna’ (‘Old Macdonald had a Farm’, Sinhala version) was quite funny and analogous of the politics of our country. They really got the audience going with their performance.
DNM Crew was an interesting rock – rap outfit from Sri Lanka and they specialized in a sort of rock music with rap incorporated. The songs were almost a Linkin Park style rock incorporated with rapping by the two main singers. The guitars gave a full sound but overall not too complex.
The final band for the night was Sacrament which is a heavy metal group and sadly, when they were getting onstage, there were a few commenting on “oh no it’s metal” and ‘they’re gonna start screaming now’ type of comments. Personally I feel a lot of people misunderstand heavy metal music as I myself was introduced to it and how to appreciate only in the last 6 years or so. Anyhow Sacrament was a good, tight sound with growls and good guitar work. There was also an appreciate head banging brigade in front who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performance.
The last act for the night, DJ Shiran-Ta, I somehow missed as I didn’t realize he was playing, plus I needed to head back as it was getting late.
Anyhow, it was a very good evening with a lot of diverse and good music coming through. I hope this trend continues as it is very important to give a platform and a place for original Sri Lankan music and Pulse.lk should be commended for taking this initiative into the mainstream. I felt most of the performances though somehow lacked a full on original sound as a lot seemed to be copying a Western style and then bringing in their own. However it is a first step and a great step to start doing your own thing and I hope the bands will continue and craft their own version of music which will hopefully be appreciated with time, within our own country and in the world.