Mellifluous fusion-by Ruwini JAYAWARDANA
In the far end of December 2009, a young woman stepped onto a stage and dazzled music lovers in the country with her vocal mastery and blossoming music sensibility. That’s how the world got to know Anushka Madubashini, who emerged as a forerunner for the title of Derana Dream Star during its second chapter. Known as a launch pad for youthful talent in the country, ‘Derana Dream Star’ is the result of an effort to discover and sharpen the innate vocal talents and performances of the young generation. The outcome of a nationwide hunt for young singing talent, the end result of getting noted for her skills is her stint at Dell Studio as part of renowned musician Mahesh Denipitiya’s orchestra.
|With Mahesh Denipitiya and his orchestra
Today Anushka is fast learning the tricks of time management. If there is one thing that this ambitious young singer has been struggling hard to find is time to realise her musical dreams. Not surprising, for along with her studies, she is a lecturer of Ethno Musicology at the University of Visual and Performing Arts who divides her time in pursuing further studies on the subject and performing at events. Along with all this she is also mastering how to play the tabla and violin.
Music was present in her roots because she says that all those from her father’s side could sing. However she is the only one in the family who managed to excel in the subject academically. She began training at the Malini Bulathsinhala Academy when she was seven years old and also followed the subject at school.
She graduated with a first class in BPA (Bachelor of Performing Arts) Ethno Musicology Special in 2015. She achieved this feat by scoring the highest marks on the subject by getting 3.8 GPA. Her first career was as a music teacher at Leeds International College, Galle. She was also a freelance vocalist during this span. Later she got the opportunity to take on the role of a visiting lecturer at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo.
Recalling her moments in taking part in the reality programme which introduced her to the world and helped her advance in the subject that she has selected as her future career Anushka says that she managed to get through to the final six in the competition. She was also featured on ‘Derana Star Challenge’ before working as a backup vocalist in Mahesh Denipitiya’s orchestra.
|With the other vocalists in the orchestra
“I represent Sri Lankan traditional music. We mostly dealt with fusion music in which I was able to play a key role from the traditional performance sector. There were four of us in the show who were all handpicked from ‘Derana Dream Star’.
“This was a turning point in my life since I was able to learn a lot from Denipitiya. He introduced various music styles and cultures to us and taught us how to blend them into our own musical roots,” she explained.
She notes that a budding vocalist needs to be update about the music styles which exist in the industry.
“There are a variety of musical styles that we teach here at the university such as South Indian, North Indian, Western, and Ethno musicology. Each sector demands a different sort of discipline from a vocalist. They need to train their voices according to the rules demanded from the area of their choice. Pitching is the main factor we focus on in a vocalist. Next comes tempo and expressions,” Anushka elaborated adding that these are the areas that a student needs to focus on to excel as a vocalist.
|With Mahesh Denipitiya and some friends
She adds that any vocalist needs knowledge on other areas of music to enhance their capacity.
“You get more opportunity to establish yourself as a singer if you are updated on other fields of music. Fusion music is the current trend. Sri Lankan traditional music does not include a vast number of instruments or notations. However it is not a music traditional that can be taken on simply as it demands a lot from a student to master it. You need to engage in fusion music in a tactful manner so that you do not distort the origins of these music traditions,” she said.
|Getting the first class degree in Ethno Musicology
“For example you can master a dance sector like Kathak yet fuse it with dance steps that are similar to those performed by Michael Jackson and create your own original item,” she explained.
“Many young vocalists enter the scene by gaining instant popularity these days yet many of them do not last long in the field because they do not enhance their knowledge about music so that they can create their own unique music styles. You need proper education on any subject you choose as your future career path to achieve long term success,” she opined, stressing on the value of academic knowledge.
Focusing on her area of Ethno Musicology the past pupil of Sudharma College and Sangamittta College, Galle, says that many are not aware that a subject like Ethno Musicology exists. It has a lot of global value because it explores areas such as the origin, thinking pattern, speech and cultures of these music traditions.
“Therefore it is taught in most of the universities across the world. Our department at the University of Visual and Performing Arts is the only venue in Sri Lanka which deals with this subject in depth,” she mused adding that one of her goals is to spread awareness about ethno musicology.
She notes that a wide career path is open for those who excel in the area. Unfortunately there are less career opportunities available in Sri Lanka.
“But if you possess the drive and passion to give it all you have got. Then you will be able to make your mark in the global music arena,” she said.
Her icons in the music scene are veteran vocalists Nanda Malini and the late Malani Bulathsinhala. Her ambition is enhance her knowledge further in the ethno musicology field by studying the subject at a university in USA or germany.
Anushka’s father B P Sirinimala was a police officer while her mother, Ashoka de Silva was a housewife. She has one sister, Shanika, who is an Account Executive. She wishes to thank her uncle Sunil Thenabadu who had been encouraging her in her path to success and all the teachers who helped her in carving a niche in the music scene.