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Standing (L to R) Clifford Richards, Neranjan De Silva, Niroshan De Silva (asst: treasurer), Soundarie David Rodrigo, Pasan Janith Fernando, Nimantha Kaluarachchi, Upula Madusanka and William Jayawardane Sitting (L to R) Neomal Peiris (asst: Secretary), Sidantha Peiris (Hon; Secretary), Judy De Silva (Vice President), Rajith Rupasinghe (President), Corrine Almeida (Vice President), Janappriya Weeraratne (Hon; Treasurer) and Noeline Honter

Holding a prominent position in some organization is an uphill task, to be sure. A fresh load of responsibilities, having to put up with members who have different mindsets, ideas and opinions and sorting out arguments, suggestions and concepts, it is an uphill climb. You have to respect and listen to their ideas and some of them may not be your cup of tea, but it is crucial to have that understanding and the ability to face such situations, which certainly included in good leadership skills.

The newly elected president of WMA, Rajitha Rupasinghe thinks that he has got the best Exco up to now. This does not specifically mean that he has to bend down and agree to everything and everyone, but take his own decision for the benefit of the organization. He should have the charisma and personality to call a spade a spade, even if it means losing your best friend. The Western Musicians Association of Sri Lanka has seen several changes, and we had the privilege of having a quick chat with Rajitha Rupasinghe , the well-known front man of the band ‘’Misty ‘’ who have represented Sri Lanka at many international events ,and who was recently appointed as the President of the Western Musicians Association (WMA) . It was an interesting chat about organization skills, following protocols, the current process of WMA and future plans for its welfare. He is determined to follow his role as the new president, not giving in to personal favourations, or suggestions, which will breach the organizational protocols. He says as a normal musician, he could have helped a fellow colleague but as an official who’s holding a responsible post, he will not hesitate to say no even for his best friend. Rajitha has many plans and ideas rolled up in his sleeve for the benefit of the WMA, and hopes to start work as soon as the pandemic situation has settled down. He looks positively at the achievements of the present generation, and thinks that people need to encourage them instead of criticizing and discouraging.

 

Excerpts:

Q: Congratulations on your new post, and what do you have to say about the new committee?

Thank you. It’s very exciting. I mean, actually, and at the same time, I’m really looking forward to it because there are a lot of females: I mean, me being the president is fine, I’m very privileged and honoured to have such a senior team of musicians. The most senior member of our Expo is Noeline Honter, who’s a veteran in the music industry as well as an educator , a TV presenter .And then of course we have Corrine Almeida, and Judy De Silva as Vice presidents , two Vice presidents , and then when it comes to choirs and music directions concerned , we have Soundarie David Rodrigo, so we are privileged to have such representation from the female side. And they are seniors. And also we would like to welcome our newcomers like Clifford Richards, another young compere, Entertainer and a TV presenter, and actually we have not forgotten the youth participation to the Exco . And one person who comes to my mind is Nimantha Kaluarachchi, who’s from the band ‘’Daddy ‘’. He’s a lovely composer, music director, and I’m happy to have him on board, and then we have Pasan Janitha Fernando of ‘’Warehouse Project ‘’’ representing young talent. It is lovely to see a good mix of youth and senior musicians, in the present Exco, from 2021 -2023, and from the previous Exco we had 6 or 7 members and we are continuing. We are moving forward with positive approach, and still we are suffering from this pandemic. Slowly we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope this pandemic will come to an end very soon so that we can get back to our lives. As a very responsible association, we can continue our good work. That’s mainly what we are focusing on.

WMA President Rajitha
Rupasinghe

 

Q: What do you hope to do first, once this pandemic has settled down?

Actually there are several things in the pipeline. There are two projects that we couldn’t fulfill, one is our theme song, WMA Theme song ‘’ that is being created already, By Joey Lewis who resides in UK, he’s one of the most senior musicians who used to play with’’ amazing grace ‘’and he resides in the UK. He composed a beautiful song for us. Very soon you will hear it. The music direction was done by the great Hussain Jiffry, so we have a fantastic combination and I have no doubt that this will be a fantastic composition and a fantastic song. We are eagerly waiting for our anthem. Then we did a virtual event just before the third lockdown came into action. We had it on the 21st of May, and we managed to raise nearly two million. And we have distributed that financially in two stages. To our needy musicians. I think from that nearly 200 musicians have benefitted from that. Even during this pandemic, we have given whatever we can, we did whatever we could do to the betterment of our musicians. We don’t have such big finances, we didn’t have state support, but until such time we are banking on to build a trust fund, and from there to support our musicians. So those are two projects we are looking at first one, the anthem, and then looking forward to build a trust fund so through that, we can benefit our music and musicians. Such as medical insurance, or a pension, It’s an uphill task, with the Sri Lankan system and how it is going on, to give something to the musicians like insurance from health sector, etc.Its not easy .But we’re hopeful that we can achieve this because more and more members are joining in, and as you can see, even the Exco, is looking very strong. With the prominent figures already in the Exco , we ‘re very positive. The more we can do for our community, through this, even during these troubled times, we’re very positive and we are moving forward.

 

Q: What are the certain changes which you see needs to be made in the WMA?

I don’t think there are. I have been in the committee before, as you may know I was the Vice President. But there are no drastic changes as such. It’s that we’re continuing with the good work. If there is anything that pops up, we have a well-balanced Exco, we probably are looking at everybody’s ideas, unless something new prop up, we are continuing and we make sure our purpose is to serve the western musicians and look after them to the best of our ability. It’s not easy because at the moment we have a very nominal member ship fee. For the whole year you have to pay only Rs. 1500. That’s not even 300 or 200 rupees per month. But still, we are hopeful that there will be donors. Over the years, even when you look at the last term, there have been many people who supported us and very generous in supporting. So we are hopeful, with their contribution that we can help and look after our fellow brothers and sisters.

 

Q: Do you think you get enough government support for your field?

If you look at the history, I mean, the support the government –not only this government, but all the governments we had since we gained independence. I mean the government, yes they look into musicians, but if they can do something more, I mean if they can cover up all areas, from time to time we have seen oriental musicians, some of them getting funds etc , if they can look into it in a more wider angle The music field is still not inducted as an industry. That is important. We have the cinema industry, once you induct music, a musician or an artist, as a music industry, I think the government can support us through that. There are various associations.WMA Sri Lanka is only an association where predominantly we have western musicians as our membership. There are so many other associations like the singer’s association etc., so like that if we can all come under one umbrella as the music industry, either the government or anybody who comes to look into this, as an industry, through that industry if we can get the support we need I think we can look in a more positive frame of mind towards the government to support us. Infrastructure has to be provided, it’s not that we are asking for money from the government, but first of all, create that infrastructure, the foundation, to create a stable industry for the musicians. And then, every musician might be able to get equal benefits.

 

Q: Don’t you think as western musicians; you are rather side lined?

I won’t call it side lined, I think it’s the lack of attention towards the musicians or the artists. I’ll give you a simple example: we had a civil war for over 30 years, we had so many issues, but we somehow survived. What I’m trying to tell is, we looked after ourselves.

We didn’t go and do picketing, we didn’t do strikes, we never demanded the governments that we wanted this and that, until this pandemic came. This is actually where we realized, ‘’of course now we are helpless.’’ Still we are not fully recovered from Corona and still we are not working –most of our musicians are still at home.

What we are trying to say is , we are now in a situation that the government needs to look into us. Until that we were managing on our own.

We never depended on anybody. So this is kind of an eye opener.

Also we are trying to create a digital platform for our membership, include a database, using an app, etc so we can send messages, so we are moving along with the technology. We are taking every positive step to go forward. We have musicians even in the most far off areas, like Anuradhapura, Kegalle, etc.

That’s good but at the same time, this is the Western Musicians Association. Likewise, there are so many other associations, and so many other musicians. I’m sure in Jaffna etc, they must be having something like a regional association.

Q: Most musicians, artists are of the opinion that this is called the music scene, not the industry.

It’s the lack of knowledge. I can relate to this. When I finished my A/L’s at Mahanama college, when I told my parents that I wanted to be a musician, they were not too happy with it. But I proved them wrong. Music is a way of living. Music is a profession, I absolutely love what I’m doing and have no regrets.

 

Q: How do you feel about the late Sunil Perera ?

Personally, I feel like I lost my father. Nobody knows the relationship I had with him. Before he was discharged from hospital, I was the last musician to have a drink with him and have a chat,I don’t mind saying , till the last AGM he attended, he was very happy and was telling all of us how to develop and progress with the industry and music.

This is the person we lost all so sudden. And for the virtual concert also he was very upfront. He was very enthusiastic and supported all the way. He was so happy that we were functioning as an Association. So the passing away of Sunil Perera is a wide gap which we can’t fill. And a person who has assisted, supported us all the way throughout. On the other hand, Timal , who was handling all our IT related matters, he was like , all in one package. From making a poster to all the advanced IT matters. Unfortunately, he also left us at the most crucial moment.

 

Q: Do you hope to include more members in your association?

They are lining up to join us. I actually heard from my committee member, that there are around 30 more bands wanting to join. So we are looking at it very positively. We have a very healthy relationship with the other associations, especially during covid we all went together, we are working very closely with the singer’s association, with the bands etc .

So we have a very healthy relationship with the associations and we are looking forward to work with other associations as well. I must mention one association that is the event manager’s association. That is another very important association. It can be a corporate function or a dinner dance, anything. We have a very close bond with the EMA.

 

Q: You must be really lucky to have such a committee including prominent figures supporting you.

That is why we are moving forward, Sureshni. Within the WMA things should be sorted out officially. Personal things should not be related to those which are done within the WMA. An association has its protocols, articles and constitutions. So people should follow those. As a responsible officer , I can’t have favourations.

 

Q: What is your message to all upcoming musicians, and musicians in general?

We are passing a very crucial time, but we are hopeful, still positive that we will overcome this situation, that we will all soon have the comfort and happiness again. Most importantly, we have all missed our stage all these years. We will be onstage very soon.

 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 – 01:00











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