"Tamil music is dominated by captivating melodies"
Within a country steeped in rich history and a love for music, a cadre of Sri Lankan artists is ready to break through.
From the lush landscapes of Kandy to the bustling streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka has long been a muse for poets, painters, and musicians alike.
However, a fresh generation of artists is preparing to redefine the narrative.
These visionaries are transforming the cultural landscape that reflects global influences and local identities.
In this upcoming exploration, we delve into the work of Sri Lanka’s rising stars, who are pushing the boundaries of new sounds.
Fusing genres, using classical inspirations and with a determination for innovation, these musicians are bound to leave lasting impressions on their growing fanbases and beyond.
When it comes to Sri Lankan artists, Isuru Kumarasinghe is a sonic architect.
Hailing from the vibrant music scene of Colombo, Isuru dances in the realm of sound perception and movement that transcends the boundaries of traditional music.
A self-taught maestro, Isuru doesn’t just create songs; he crafts tools that translate the very philosophy of listening and the intimate connection with the body into a symphony of sound.
His journey wasn’t paved with academic lectures on sound engineering.
Instead, he carved his path through self-discovery. Speaking on this matter, he explained:
“I didn’t study sound engineering in an academic way, I learned things by myself as well as reading and having conversations with others.
“I have also worked under a sound engineer.”
“Most importantly, playing with other musicians, especially the Musicmatters collective: we mostly experiment and learn from each other.”
The avant-garde collective not only play with music but also learn from one another.
Isuru’s repertoire extends beyond the confines of traditional genres, encompassing electro-acoustic music improvisation, field recordings, sound installations, and live performances.
Currently, he’s co-founding Earscapes, a new producing studio in Colombo, where the next chapter of his story is set to unfold.
Explore more of his work here.
Divanka & Shivy
Divanka & Shivy are a duo that epitomises the spirit of musical exploration.
This power-packed collaboration brings together two virtuosos, each carving their own unique niche in the diverse landscape of Sri Lanka’s music scene.
Meet Divanka Sewmin, the heartbeat of the duo hailing from Matara, whose journey into music began with a makeshift drum set crafted from scraps at the tender age of 10.
Divanka’s rhythmic prowess has graced alternative bands like The Soul, The Drift, and Magic Box Mixup.
Trained in the art of jazz drumming, his distinctive approach to music is a testament to his unconventional upbringing, tuning into both Sinhalese and Western genres.
Divanka’s musical evolution includes mentorship from the esteemed Dr Sumudi Suraweera and a serendipitous encounter with jazz maestro Aruna Siriwardhana.
His drumming is more than a beat; it’s an exploration, an experimentation that sets the stage.
Enter Shivy Fernando, the self-taught bassist from Thalawathugoda, whose musical journey began in 2003.
Shivy’s bass lines have resonated in pop/dance band The Rebels and funk/soul ensembles like Brown Sugar and A Team.
What sets Shivy apart is not just his nimble fingers on the bass but his mastery of looping pedals and his unbridled love for collaboration.
Analog tech and sound aficionado, Shivy’s skills have been finely honed through years of gigs, as a session musician, a solo performer, and a dynamic contributor to various musical projects.
Together, Divanka & Shivy embark on an exploration of soundscapes that will shine even brighter in 2024.
See more of their work here.
Many won’t be too surprised to see Sreya Jayadeep on this list of Sri Lankan artists.
By the tender age of 14, Sreya had already etched her name in the annals of music history, recording over 60+ films, 200 devotional albums, and 70 general albums.
Her journey into the world of music began at the age of three, under the tutelage of classical maestro Thamarakkad Krishnan Namboodiri.
The magic of her voice was further refined by the guidance of playback singer Sathish Babu.
Sreya’s initiation into the limelight came with her debut in the Christian devotional album Hitham and the subsequent release of Sreyam.
From being crowned the 2013 Surya Singer at the age of eight to her stellar performance in Sun TV’s Sun Singer, Sreya has earned massive recognition already.
Her playback debut in the Malayalam film Weeping Boy in 2013 marked the beginning of a series of musical masterpieces, including the soul-stirring ‘Mele Manathe Eashoye’, viewed over 14 million times.
In addition to her musical pursuits, Sreya is a part of various environmental and health initiatives, showcasing her commitment to social causes.
Notably, in 2022, she took the helm as the lead host of the popular reality show Flowers Top Singer Season 3, adding yet another dimension to her multifaceted career.
Listen to more of her here.
Asvajit is a trailblazer among the electronic maestros emerging from the vibrant post-war music scene of Sri Lanka.
With nearly a decade devoted to perfecting his craft, Asvajit weaves a passionate mixing style that dances on the fringes of house and techno.
In 2012, Asvajit made waves with his first vinyl release, Waran Dub, a collaboration with Philpot label boss Soulphiction.
Fast forward to 2022, and his Float/Parallel EP on Berlin’s Frucht Label is a testament to his enduring love affair with the lush, ethereal sounds of dub music.
His journey has traversed international waters, with performances in iconic clubs like KOKO, Kater Holzig, Sisyphos, Suicide Circus, and the legendary Golden Gate.
But Asvajit is not just a maestro of sound.
He’s an audio/visual artist and graphic designer, the creative mind behind Jambutek Recordings – an independent electronic music imprint and artist collective rooted in Colombo.
Since 2012, he’s been the curator and co-organiser of Pettah Interchange, an annual celebration of arts and alternative culture set against the backdrop of abandoned urban spaces.
Living on the outskirts of Colombo with his feline companion, Kenji, Asvajit continues to shape the world of electronic music.
With an expansive career already, Asvajit is still one of the underrated Sri Lankan artists and deserves his flowers in 2024.
Hear more of Asvajit’s work here.
Bo Sedkid is the artistic alter ego of the multi-talented Muvindu Binoy – an artist, filmmaker, and a true maestro of sound.
He is not just a producer; he’s a versatile virtuoso, seamlessly transitioning from the role of a beatmaker to the soulful melodies of a singer-songwriter.
His musical footprint is imprinted on creations for renowned artists like Q, 6ZN, and Minol, where his distinctive beats come alive with the enchanting sampling of Sri Lankan music.
The beats crafted by the star each tell a story of their own.
In 2020, he unveiled the spellbinding Full Moon Poya Day EP, a masterpiece that reimagined Sinhalese popular music from 2010, infusing it with an alternative and contemporary vibe.
This journey through time showcases Bo’s ability to breathe new life into the familiar, making every beat a dance between tradition and innovation.
2022 marked a pivotal moment as Bo joined forces with Mirshad Buckman of Paranoid Earthling and Kasun Nawarathne to create the protest anthem PALAYALLA.
This powerful track captures the very spirit of the protest movement, where music becomes a force of resistance and expression.
In the same year, the avant-garde musician dropped the magnum opus, Goring.
The 14-track album defies categorisation.
The first four tracks alone paint a kaleidoscope of genres—booming hip-hop, dreamy R&B, theatrical spoken word, and experimental acoustic brilliance.
From the dance-worthy ‘Full Dot’ to the gritty techno influences in ‘Kavvandha’, Bo reshapes native instrumentation to create unique listening experiences.
Bo almost paints with sound and you can expect a lot more from him in 2024.
Add Bo Sedkid to your playlists here.
These Sri Lankan artists all cater towards different interests and tastes in music.
They all have a direct focus on what they want their tracks to sound like but aren’t investigating and trialling new instrumentation.
There should also be an honourable mention for British Tamil producer, Dilushselva, and fellow British Sri Lankan singer, Pritt.
The groundbreaking musicians made immense strides in 2023 with the release of their joint song, ‘Unakkul Naane’.
Speaking on this, Dilushselva told Thamari:
“Tamil music is dominated by captivating melodies, they’re incredibly soulful and emotive which is really no different to R&B music.
“‘Unakkul Naane’ was the first Tamil song I’ve worked on so it is a special one for me.
“Pritt and I wanted to do something refreshing with it.
“Our cover, I guess, is an eclectic mix of our musical inspirations – a soul progression on programmed classical Indian drums all brought together by Pritt’s incredible vocals.”
What becomes evident is not just the individual brilliance of these emerging artists but the collective heartbeat of a culture pulsating with resilience, innovation, and dynamism.
The global stage awaits their ascent.