Buzz with Danu - Shaun Perera

Oct 06 2021.

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Today on the Buzz I feature a very talented person who has made a move into Sinhala music with this new song Obamai which is truly an amazing piece of work. Coming from a musical family it’s not news to know that he can sing, but what I so love about him is his style and the command on stage and I’m sure many of us have done some major moves to his singing at weddings and events. We speak to him about his music and future.

1. Tell me about your new song Obamai? Obamai is a song about love that I wrote during the first-ever lockdown. I sat down to practice the guitar one day around 3 am and I was doing some exercise of shifting between chords G, D & C when a melody popped into my head. Long story short, the initial plan was to write an English song but for some reason, it didn’t work out. So I put the guitar aside tried to sleep but I couldn’t cause these Sinhalese lyrics started coming to me that fit this melody.

And the story unfolded in such a way where I was thinking about what it felt like to “be in love”. Or my take on the normal perception of what it felt like to be in love. I was not thinking of any particular person when I wrote the lyrics was merely what I feel people know, feel and believe being in love is. If that makes any sense.

The video concept on the other hand told my story where this feeling of being in love with one individual or few can be spread to the rest of the world. I mean people, animals, plants, insects, and everything else that we can see, touch, feel. Everything that exists. And this can be spread with so much unity and togetherness even if we don’t agree on the same things all the time.

Thank you to Omeshka, Rangi, Romaine, and Good Groove Society for initially believing in this song and pushing me to pursue it even when it was a simple three-chord acoustic version of what you hear now. Shamin and Shivy were instrumental in the reworking of it and created a rhythm, solo, and a bass line that took the song on a journey that told the story from their perspective.

Rangi’s movement was always what I wanted in the bridge and it’s something I didn’t move away from, from the initial creation of the song. A marriage between sound, movement, and feel. A sense of unity amongst art.
Music, film making, expressing in the form of movement and acting and feeling. All that you see and feel were literally seen and felt during the making of this song and video. It’s a song for everyone!! It’s honestly everyone’s song, not mine! It’s for all of you. 

2. What took you so long for an original Sinhala song? I actually have two other Sinhalese songs and another hybrid like this one. Released them quite a few years back. Amma (A song for my mum), Yaluwe & Uren Ura. They never really made it through the waves of society the way I had hoped. Yeah, I did have hope for them because although I didn’t write them, the songs were written based on concepts that I felt were important and I hold close to my heart. I think I found myself doing songs in Sinhalese back then for the wrong reasons.

It was done to create a “hit” or break into the market rather than because of wanting to communicate a message to more people. It was done as means to get “popular” through my music. I’m glad it didn’t work out like that because it brought me on my journey to finding my true self and why I love singing and writing songs. It’s about telling a story n communicating and letting people know they are not alone and we may be one in feeling a certain way.
So the long break from then to now was to find a true purpose of why it’s important that I did a song in my mother tongue ..other than it “becoming a hit”. Finally, I have arrived at a point in which I think I have found my full true self and why I do music. Sometimes I still forget and I have to pull myself back to me...

It’s a lot to do with how we are personally and how we’ve balanced ourselves as a people I guess... I’m not saying I’m completely there but I’m getting there... I’m living and learning... at least I’m willing to... even if it tends to get hard out there .. haha

3. Losing your dad and uncle might have been a hard reality - how have they inspired you in music? To tell you the truth as dark and messed up some may think this is, this has been a day I kinda have been preparing myself for, for a very long time. Not only since two years ago when Thathi sat Aiya and me down and spoke to us about what he wanted to be done after his death. But way before that, because for me of the scariest things I knew I had to face was losing anyone from my family. And I mean the direct family that I live with. I think this is true for anyone who has a certain connection with family ..or even otherwise.

There are so many emotions wrapped up in one area of your being that it kinda feels quite weird. Though my dad was the first lead singer of the Gypsies when they started, I never got to see him perform other than during his karaoke sessions and the Hilton Lava (back then now called Stella). That’s where he used to take me when I was 16 to get a dose of singing in public other than those times at school concerts or choir events.

His constant support and presence and belief in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. The way he’d watch me sing (he was always in the crowd), silently proud and I know he would think to himself “that’s my son.” He inspired me just by being there and the way he looked at me I guess ..and with him, in the crowd, I’d always feel safe and secure. Being able to look at him and get the “nod” of approval while making eye contact while I was on stage was something I held on to and used to keep myself going on days I felt I was completely off. He was my “go-to” guy. I didn’t even notice some of the things he did to inspire or push me on till he ummm “left”. And some regret lingers that I didn’t realise a little earlier but I think that energy can be used to drive me a little further forward.

Uncle Sunil on the other hand, his loss for me as much as it hits I haven’t been able to process his demise because that happened in such close proximity to each other. It’s like God took two of our most seniors from our lives at once. Is it so that we transition to the next stage stronger or was it the reality check that our family needed to realise life is too short.

I remember when I used to be a kid, during our family parties and I think they were the ones organized by uncle Sunil, where they’d actually dress up and do the performances in our own “backyard” as they would on stage. I used to always wonder who was dressed up as Lunu & Dehi or Uncle Johnson. I still don’t know! 

But I think experiences and moments like these did allow us to venture into the thought of maybe “I can also do music one day and it’ll be ok” and it wasn’t something our family considered “taboo”. That in itself is an inspiration and “opening” and allowed our generation also to venture into what we felt was “us”. And it was ok! I mean look at all our cousins who are currently in the music industry, it is what the Gypsies kinda cracked open for us like family and the legacy kinda continues. In different directions and avenues. Yet it’s in music. Improving, innovating, and exploring music. Expanding separately but as a family. At least that’s the dream for me. And I know that was thathi’s, uncle Sunil’s and now it is mine. In Unity!

4. Do you feel Sri Lanka and its music will be seen by the world now after Yohani’s success? This is an interesting question and one with many ways to see and answer, it really depends on how you wanna see it.
If (myself included) we stopped looking at the How? Why? What? I think I am stuck in a state of mind that is competitive to a point where I am unable to completely enjoy another person’s success. Whether it be Yohani or even one of my closest friends or people. Don’t get me wrong, once I get past that dark truth and come back to the true essence of life and what I feel about it. I believe in unity and being human to the extent that you are happy for one another, rooting for each other,  whether you know each other or not. Jealousy and questioning each other’s success and failure shouldn’t be part of or come close to being the true meaning of life.

Once I got past it all I was able to see, past the questions. To see what I perceive as the answers, an unlocking of an industry that was hidden away from the world. We lived in a place where we thought, Sinhalese wasn’t a language capable of crossing seas and making an impact or the language to go “international”... I myself predominantly for years did my originals, covers and live performances in English, with the belief that the only way to make an impact in the international market was this. For me personally, my belief in my mother tongue which I shamelessly questioned has been rekindled and awakened because of the breakthrough. I believe, even deeper than I believed before.

Yes, I still can come back to why wasn’t it me? Is the song actually musically that good? My answer to all this is ..does it really matter? She had a dream ..she went for the dream and if you check her Instagram you’ll see how she progresses into an artiste capable of playing many instruments. She has an identity, and honestly as envious as I can feel sometimes, I truly mean it. Kudos to the team, more than anything for opening up this avenue for all of us, and for making it first to this extent. More than opening up the industry they have also taught me a vital lesson in life which is to be supportive of each other for each other. It’s not easy but it is possible! This is honestly huge for Sri Lanka, I hope I myself show more support to what has just unfolded for all of us.

5. Who has been your biggest inspiration in music? Life and its experiences. Everything and anything “life” and what happens during. The known, unknown, and learnings. What it makes me feel. The lessons it can teach and it does teach. The depth of each happening is beyond its face value. People, what they go through, how it relates to me. The link between each human due to similar experiences they might be facing. So yeah the biggest inspiration would be life, feelings, people, and experiences. 

6. Weddings and events have been so hard to come by these days - how has this been for your group? It’s been tough but it’s also been a great experience In not taking anything for granted. And I think I personally learned a lesson in not putting all my eggs in one basket. And always have a backup plan or project which may or may not coincide with the music. Something else that adds meaning to life but brings in some kind of income which can help ‘live’ life instead of “survive” it. 

It is sad that money has such a massive hold on people and whether we like it or not it is a necessity to even JUST live and experience life. But it is what it is. And the whole covid experience has taken us into a path that has forced us to see beyond our “normal” life we got comfortable in and shown us the importance of expanding. Expanding as human beings & in self-efficiency.

It’s been a tough experience for us as a group to even perform even if we give it our all. Knowing that while we do people are suffering out there is not easy. Sometimes we are stuck in a place of “is it the right thing to do? For the community?”. What is the “right” thing to do? Have the lessons we learned during this time gone to waste? It’s a tough and confusing time for our industry but it has also brought musicians together in its own way to try to come to an agreement on how to go forward. 

It’s in a way helped us get to know each other more as people as well. Which is a huge thing going forward I feel. Again, it’s up to each of us to perceive it in whichever way we want to. It’s a human choice.

7. What’s next in music for you? I plan to keep on making music. How consistently and for how long? Those two questions are ones I’m still seeking answers to. It’s one thing to have a plan and one thing to actually follow it. Takes discipline, focus, and determination. My challenge is I get that in doses. There are times I follow a script schedule, wake up at a certain time, eat at certain intervals, workout to a fixed time, record, write, spend time with family (this includes my doggos) and my music releases are scheduled and I’m really on it! But then there are times these plans and this schedule goes to shite. And it’s all to do with mental state & frame of mind. 
But yes there are more singles waiting to be released and recorded. Covers & originals. The band will strive to do the same and once it’s safe we will get back on live but right now the priority is easing into those things later responsibility and collectively as a whole industry.

8. Your thoughts on reality shows? I love them! Why? Ummm ..cause most part of it is real. I’m well aware that it’s highly dramatized and exaggerated and some parts are staged and there’s always a “system” being followed but in all honesty reality is kinda dramatic cause we make it that. And we forget the true essence of life itself. 
Reality shows kinda remind me to not be so dramatic and also really get me thinking about the different people out there and how they think and respond or react to situations. You can either judge or learn from.

9. Obamai has a powerful music video- how was the making of it? The true message of obamai had to be given by the video. The song only talks about what we know n believe or think love might be or is. At least what I think of it and my perception.

The idea I had discussed previously even with Good Groove Society was to have the video show how being “in love” or “loving” can be spread to the entire world that exists around us. And I mean EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. Life itself really!

Loushanie in the video depicts the common perception of love and romance we talk about. It was important to present that allowing them to feel the transition of that love into everything else. I hope this message is seen n felt when they see the video. That was the idea behind it though :).

Chiko (Director/DOP) listened to my concept and came up with a storyboard that I was able to resonate with immediately. However, during the making, as usual, I twisted I turned and changed, chopped, added mid-production also!

The song was more than just a song, from the inception it was a marriage between me and myself, between musician, musicians, and a movement artist, and eventually, it was a marriage between artists, a production team, and all my people together. And that’s what obamai is about.

I want people to realise that when you stop and slow down your life a little you won’t miss its essence and true meaning. Just watch the video and tell me if I’m lying? I'm not saying it cause it’s a song I sing. I saw things that I didn’t think even existed just by watching a hug In slow motion. The smiles, the emotions that u see and feel are real. It truly was an emotional ride. There were tears shed each time we sat down to edit. And even when I watch the video now!

10. What’s coming up? What should we expect? Expect Nothing! Accept everything and anything :) or try to at least. :) My expectation of me right now is just to live. I hope to see myself living and feel myself living more than I have done lately. Away from the hustle and bustle and rat race. Even music has come to a point where it is kinda like a rat race. At least it’s what I’ve made of it and it’s sad.

You’ll probably see a more free “musician”, a singer-songwriter from now on. People say I seem “free” and “wild” but I think there’s a lot more to explore there for me to truly feel genuinely free and feel like I’m living and letting people live. 

There’s so much love in the word “freedom”. I guess I’m out to find that deeper understanding and that’s what I’ll be doing with music as well. I’ll be telling my story as I move on this journey.

My hope is to ward away from what we even as musicians considered a measure of our success. Away from the views and likes and the journey search of acceptance when it comes to your music and the way of “being” in it. Just do because I love doing and present cause I want to feel and make others feel. It’s a different journey but one I’m looking forward to.



Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.


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