End-of-the-year-list: Sri Lankan artists to watch out for in 2013
In our previous features, we documented the gradual rise of the Sri Lankan dance music underground, tapped into the country’s resurgence, mirrored at the landmark Pettah Interchange and unearthed the best of its first wave of electronic music producers.
Both a recap and a look-ahead, let this list be a primer to the shape of things to come, rather than a be-all and end-all of proceedings.
5 – Toc Toc Bayah / Krema Diaz
We are not exactly sure what’s going on, but we are no less intrigued: If you run the Sri Lankan slang “Aathal” (which kick-starts “Nangi La Malli La”) through the Oxford Decoder, it might loosely translate to ‘decadent’. Equal parts parody, Mr Bungle and bongo Tropicália, the track comes straight from a twisted cave within the cavalier tropics. Its aura of hilarity and somewhat faltering rapping mask a densely constructed soundscape at the backdrop. On “Sasafrass“, a standout from their wholesomely-titled mixtape, their sly frontman freewheels on top of a sunshiny soul sample, and does his best impression of a screwed-up Bun B chorus (on the “greenest grasses”). Lax and tender, tangled and devious, the sound of the island is here.
4 – Fat Gold Chain
Good live music is a thrill. But it’s seldom that electronic musicians can accurately translate what’s inside their heads (or hard drives) to that certain wire that binds the audience. Doing this whilst making people swing and groove on this wire, is an even harder balancing act. Fat Gold Chain have played to various audiences in several different capacities before they ventured out on their own, and it can be felt. Two musicians classically trained a variety of percussion, their music is essentially pop-funk with a twist, and borrows from West African pulse to synth-pop — “Take the Ride” is a driving groove with a jagged vocal and keyboard flourish. With a new EP and accompanying tour forthcoming, the Gold Chainmen will be one to look out for in 2013.
3 – Thricona
It’s not often that you come across regional electronic music that contains the energy of stadium music, yet is built on the subtle undercurrents of arpeggios. But Thricona, the baby-faced producer from Kurunegala, masks a certain maturity beyond his age and frame. The young artist is yet to play his music in an extended live setting, and it will be exciting to see how he adopts to the challenge in 2013.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼2 – Asvajit
In a breakthrough year, Asvajit not only solidified his career but reached where he hadn’t gone before. As the year progressed, he opened up his sound and devised more eclectic live sets, whilst soaking up the experience of touring and sound-camping with international artists. But what capped off the year and set a new benchmark for other Sri Lankan producers, was his vinyl debut with German legend Jackmate on Phil e. Instrumental in jump-starting the country’s electronic music engine, Asvajit’s assiduous work ethic — not just on his own music — is slowly beginning to pay off. Years in the doldrums, with fuel leaks and dusted rust, this engine is now purring, more than gently.
Outsider music is no longer on the fringes. It is rather, what feeds the very core of the flame, keeping it alive at a time when popular music attempts to slowly suck the soul out of humanity. Isuru’s influences are rich and multihued, and it shows. His best compositions attempt to pierce through and encapsulate that luminous aesthetic that resides where “beauty has blown a fuse“. It’s music of the spirits, moving amongst beasts and waves, caves and glaciers. Isuru’s range, scope and sound are magnanimous. So will his 2013 be, we are certain.
written by Tarifa Banks