With Taylor Swift constantly crooning through our radios, it seems strange to say there aren’t enough women making music. But it’s true; the gender inequality in music production right here in the 21st century is cause for a little bit of alarm. And even when women do produce great music their gender seems to precede their talent. A male musician is simply a great musician but when a woman achieves the same heights, we always know her to be a great female artiste.

In Sri Lanka we used to have our own particular deterrent for women entering the music industry; society. Women were encouraged to learn music and many take piano lessons – but to what end?

Today, things are different and a renaissance of musical creativity has emerged on our little island. And while there still aren’t enough of them, Sri Lanka’s smattering of women writing & releasing original music are truly worthy of celebration. Let’s have a quick peek into four distinctly different ladies in today’s music industry, to understand why music is their chosen voice and where they’re heading as musicians, not merely as women.

Shared below are extracts from the interviews with each of the artistes:

ELSZ (Natasha Nathanielsz)

Natasha by Luka Alagiyawanna

Years Active:
2006 – present
Genre:
Experimental RnB /Dark Pop
Associated Acts:
Maarion Elsz, Musicmatters Collective
Releases:
Poison – Album ‘Blue Scar’ (2016)/ Chasing Rainbows EP (2013)
Musical Background:
Bachelor of Music (Uni. of Western Sydney) and self-taught in piano, harp and music production.

Why is music your chosen art?
For me, music is the most interchangeable art form, often accompanied by the visual (video) and movement (dance). Music has been the most consistent thing in my life, it is my safe place, the place where I pray, heal, dance, love, and process.

What inspires you?
The muse arrives in various guises; sometimes it’s a sound I hear on the street, sometimes a film I watch, a song that I’ve listened to or a new synth or sample that sets the fire. Then at other moments it is my emotional landscape that weaves together a spark of inspiration and sometimes I feel compelled to write as a form of activism.

What do you identify as your biggest barrier or challenge as a musician?
Having a routine, staying healthy (because of all the late nights, emotional excavations,and when touring or recording it’s often difficult to eat healthy or sometimes even eat at all, being active), Keeping moral up and the ego down.

What advice do you have for budding Sri Lankan musicians & producers?
Listen… Listen to everything and anything.

What’s next for you?
I’m back in Sydney after an epic 6 months in New York, a month in Sri Lanka and 3 weeks in Paris shooting my ‘Poison’ music video. I have just started working on finishing the next 4 songs for the first part of my Blue Scar double album which I should hopefully release in August this year. I’ve also got some tunes on the way with Sydney Producer Ribongia,Perth Producer Tina, and French producer Ambient Polarity. I’m looking forward to the next few months of actualising ‘Blue Scar’ which has been two years in the making.

 

PERERA ELSEWHERE (Sasha Perera)

Sasha Perera (2)

Years Active:
2002 – present
Genre:
Bass, IDM, Doom Folk,Electronica.
Associated Acts:
Perera Elsewhere, Mother Perera, Jahcoozi
Label(s):
FoF Music, Kitty Yo, Bpitch Control, Asound,Ninja Tune
Releases:
Everlast (2013) / Bizzar EP(2013) / Multiple releases with Jahcoozi (2003 – 2011)

Why is music your chosen art?
For me music is the most accessible form of art. Without any former knowledge, the majority of people can at least relate to music. That is far less with fine art, for example.Music for me is one of the least elitist forms of art in a way. You can be pretty independent because you can make a hell of a lot with cheap gear and cracked software etc. This means most people can experiment if they really want to.

What inspires you?
Things around me, emotions, movies; inspiration can be incorporated into anything I want.In a way anger maybe motivates me the most! Anger at how evil and morally corrupt the world can be.

What do you identfy as your biggest barrier or challenge as a musician?
Balancing; making money and making the best possible creative decisions.

What advice do you have for budding Sri Lankan musicians & producers?
Keep learning by doing. Try and create your own signature sound. Give back to each other and to the community. And try to involve others who maybe fnd it harder to be involved if you are in a position to do so.

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing off my second solo album as Perera Elsewhere; it’s been so intense to make so much music alone. I will release it through FoF music in Los Angeles. I released my first solo album there too and I actually love working with them. I’m also collaborating with different friends in Berlin and producing a variety of different stuff to Perera Elsewhere because it’s fun to work with other people and the possibilities are endless!

 

SHEHARA JAYATILAKE

Shehara by Natalie Soysa (2)

Years Active:
2011 – present
Associated Acts:
Tennyson Napoleon, Chathuranga Pitigala,Riyal Rifai, Amesh Perera,Amjad Buhary, Asith Pussewela
Genre:
Rock/ Metal
Releases:
Broken Wings, Loved for Eternity (2011) / Fidelity (2013),Fountain of Memory (2014,exclusively in Bangladesh)
Enemy, featuring Hibshi & Markia (2015)                                                                                                 
MusicalBackground:
Self-taught vocals, guitar and keyboards

Why is music your chosen art?
It’s my way of expressing all the things running through my heart and mind. I fnd solace
in venting and sharing my experiences through rhyme, melody and creativity rather than
complaining, moping and arguing. It’s like I have a super power. I have the ability to heal,
grow and hope again just by writing songs.

What inspires you?
My Family. The unorthodox. The creative. The beauty that comes from the broken. The pure at heart and everything that really screams “Never give up!” 

What do you identify as your biggest barrier or challenge as a musician?
Having to decisively confirm every action and plan, fund every requirement and handle all background work alone. I personally plan & expedite everything from the artwork,promotions, releases, pitches and scheduling.

What advice do you have for budding Sri Lankan musicians & producers?
If you’ve got this big picture in your mind and a skill that you love, something you can share with the world, share it. Work on it. Practice and always improve what you’ve got.Most importantly, don’t ever stop and be content. Always push to do better and be better.

What’s next for you?
The release of a few special singles which will be available online and then my Album“Fountain of Memory” this year which I’m currently recording with Tennyson Napoleon and Azlan Sharifdeen. It’s about a journey wrapped in mystery, myth and magic.

 

HANIA MARIAM (Hania Luthufi)

Hania by Deshan Tennakoon

Years Active:
2006 to present
Associated Acts:
Sankhara, Te Front Gate,Te Music Matters Collective, Ko Shin Moon.
Genre:
Hindustani Classical Music, Jazz,Folk
Releases:
Riddim Funktion:Keep the fyah burnin (2014). The Front Gate- Debut EP (2015)
Musical Background:
Started with choral training in school and went on to be guided by and performed with the Elders in the Colombo Jazz Music Circle. Moved to Santiniketan in India to pursue Indian Classical Music
 .

What is music your chosen art?
I can’t really remember the moment I wilfully made that choice. It is the underlying and overlying force that guides me throughout; it is the centre and I am engulfed and enveloped in it.

What inspires you?
Other than music? Living in nature, long distance running and integral yoga.

What do you identify as your biggest barrier or challenge as a musician?
To remain truly authentic. We live in a time where one looks around to see what other musicians are into, what really works, what’s the trend, etc etc., instead of truly going deep within and listening to the music that’s coming through. There is always this pressure to please the organiser, play what is wanted for the event, the kind of audience. It’s difficult to find the space or silence to listen and develop what is already in us, to let it grow.

What advice do you have for budding Sri Lankan musicians & producers?
Remain yourself. Don’t make songs about the ghetto if you don’t truly know how it feels to live in one. Always ask yourself, Is this really it? Is this really the sound coming out of my being? keep on digging deeper and you will find your own source. Vocalists-don’t copy the sound or tonality of another’s voice. Your natural voice is even more beautiful. Focus on your own voice, open it, let it come out warm, round and clear.

What’s next for you?
I’ve finally found my Guru, the person whose music and vocal style I want to learn. After four years of searching all over India, I feel very fortunate to have found an incredible source of music. I now live very close to him and his family and I’m hoping to be here for the next years, learning the rich vocal style of his lineage. I feel like everything has just begun.