What is your identity as “Naadro”?
When comparing with fields like Science, Management & IT, Music is something totally different. What made you fall in love with music?
Well there is a bit of everything in Music. There’s a bit of science, technology and management in Music; as well as discipline and innovations. They say music is a universal language, and that’s what we speak the best. Like any other musician, that’s what we feel passionate about. That’s what gives us the sense of self-satisfaction, what we are curious about the most, what drives us forward and what gives us courage to experiment.
Why percussion instead of Strings & Wind?
Percussion is a vast segment of music; and it includes strings, wind and a whole lot of music making techniques.
Tell us about the beginning of your journey. How did you form this group?
The formation of the group – or our ensemble named “Naadro” – isn’t actually the beginning of our journey. It has taken me 19 years of mastering the arts of traditional Sri Lankan drumming and percussion under my Guru, Mr. Piyasara Shilpadhipathi. And Mr. Ashoka Pushpakumara, my music master had set me inspirations of western drumming and percussion art at school - Royal College, Colombo. I had tuned my inspiration in to experiments with their guidance, and was beginning to explore the international percussion industry, when I was offered a brand endorsement from LP (Latin Percussion –USA). During researches, I had come to learn of percussion bands – more like percussion ensembles of the international level – and then I wanted to take this further by gathering that team in which we set challenges and inspirations to each other, just to be better each day. So I hunted down six young and professionally skilled traditional drummers of Sri Lanka, to create the ensemble. “Naadro” means the extracted power of sun. So these six young men are the power I have extracted and they too had come a long journey of many years, educating themselves under the maestros of drumming, percussion and dance. Each of them has a story and when put together, it created the flavor I needed. Together, we had experimented and learnt through laughter and tears, and reached higher every day of our journey. We’ve now expanded our styles from traditional Sri Lankan and Western percussion to Indian, African, Japanese, Arabic and Latin American. It’s like having a little bit of everything good.
You must have faced many challenges when starting Naadro because what you do is something unique when compared to others in the field. How did you face those challenges as a team?
Yes. It wasn’t all easy and offered on a silver tray when we began. But we were sure of what we were doing as we knew what we were doing and we had learned from the best in Sri Lanka. All of us were with proper knowledge, being educated by the maestros of Sri Lankan traditional Percussion. Our uniqueness was that we were going beyond the traditional percussion frame and were experimenting and exploring similar areas from different cultures as mentioned earlier, while the list kept growing. With me on the Brand endorsement list of LP with Maestro Karl Perazzo (Santana), Bashiri Johnson (Michael Jackson), Brendan Buckley (Shakira), Giovanni Hidalgo, Tony Royster Jr. and all the other maestros of world music, we had more than enough opportunities to learn and explore. We travelled practicing and learning the cultures and their music. And there never was the lack of inspiration. So, yes, we had challenges, but since we weren’t competing with anyone, and since it was a slow and steady journey that we were on, with each step we took forward, the challenges disappeared one after one.
And personally we believe that we created a turning point in the music trade of Sri Lanka as well as we brought the next generation of percussionists to life by guiding them towards the right path. It’s a big achievement as well as there are loads of future plans written in it, as we boys get old and watch them create music and make miracles. The hope is that they would go beyond what we have done, doing wonders and breaking barriers.
How do the members allocate time for practices as they are already engaged in studies?>br>
They say that if there’s a will, there’s a way, isn’t it? We are normal human beings. There are different educational and professional requirements, stages of life that we come across and it is perfectly natural. What matters most is how we choose to support someone in our team, when they are faced with challenging situations; be it educational or professional. Naadro is our priority, but there’s always the team support towards each other of the team. And since it’s the passion of each one of us, we end up finding time to practice, learn and experiment, in the middle of the craziest times. Simply put, we manage.
What is the most important thing when you’re a team-player? Specially, of a team which needs everyone’s commitment equally?
Discipline, respect and the bond we share as a team, are the most crucial parts of being a team player at Naadro. Commitment is driven by passion as I previously mentioned. If you’re really passionate about something driven by love and will which you have towards that something, it is already sorted, the moment you become a team player. But discipline and respect towards each other are the most important. We research, learn, experiment, practice and perform, together. It requires a strong psychological connection, for a group of humans to be able to do all that together.
What is special about Naadro apart from the percussion?
Being original, simple, absolutely normal, humble and happy human beings. Our pride is that we are not a duplication of someone else or some other band. We are original for we create our own music and we are inspired, but we never copy from someone else. This is where Naadro’s sense of discipline and ethics make a difference. If you take percussion out of Naadro, all you have there is a simple group of absolutely normal human beings who are happy to be Naadro.
Tell us about the project “Let’s Do It”.
As you may already know, it was an initiative by Naadro with the support of CBL, to inspire children, to introduce “Percussion” to the younger generation of Sri Lanka and to raise the next generation of percussionists. The project took wings in 2012 where we had 70 schools covered through our program within 30 sessions and we had inspired and educated 9000 students in Sri Lankan schools. And as the second phase, we had them form percussion bands in both girls’ and boys’ schools. At the end of the second phase, the bands competed against each other. We held the show – “Let’s do it with Naadro” – with 200 students from 20 schools taking part in the competition. Most importantly, we had a whole bunch of strong and talented female percussion artists, come to light with the guidance provided by Naadro. Looking back, we feel that we’ve given back something to the Sri Lankan music industry, and we’re proud that we did.
Can you remember the very first day of your performance on a stage as Naadro? How do you recall it? What do you feel now?
Yes, I’d never forget that day. Our first live performance was at the 25st Anniversary celebration of Sri Lanka Rupavahini corporation. The event was held at Sugathadasa indoor stadium. Ours was the opening act. We were all super excited, but the performance and the act went really well, as we were well prepared for the event. Looking back, I feel that it has been quite a journey. It has always been a team effort. Not just the team of us that you get to see on the stage, but there’s also a team behind the screen including my father who’s the manager of Naadro, – it is on his shoulders that the weight of keeping Naadro afloat relies – my mother, my sister and a small group of very close people who had always been there for us, with us and behind our success.
Do you consider expanding Naadro team by recruiting new members? How do you select them?
It’s automatically growing; automatically expanding.
What are the major milestones of your journey?
Being offered to represent Sri Lanka in the Brand endorsement list of LP (Latin Percussion) with maestros of world music is the most important milestone so far. And being able to introduce Percussion to the the younger generation of Sri Lanka, being able to inspire so many of them and being able to bring them all on stage for “Let’s do it with Naadro”, has been the next.
In the context of modern music industry, you cannot survive without marketing. What are the strategies you used to market your brand? Are you satisfied with the results?
It is Organic marketing. No enhances, artificial flavors or hormones. I’m more than satisfied with it. What we have is a fan base that loves what we do, because we don’t artificially create something to make people happy. We are originally what we are, what we do is what we are best at and our fans absolutely love it. This is why I call it organic marketing. And yes, we love the effect.
As a pioneer in Percussion style in Sri Lanka, what are you planning to do, to maintain your current position, when you have to face the rising competition in the future?
Our current position is not something that needs artificial maintaining. Like I mentioned previously, it’s our profession and we are professional musicians – percussionists. To remain in any industry, one should learn, experiment and grow, to be able to stay afloat and to face the changes. So that is what we also basically do. We are known for our discipline, professional ethics, the passion for learning and exploring and we are made of that. Healthy competition is good in any industry and as long as we are true to what we do, I don’t think that there’s a need to worry about competition.
Have you ever considered going beyond percussion? What do you plan to do in the recent future?
Yes, we all have the need and the wish to do something more and give back something more to the industry and to the country which has given us so much.
Do you have any message to convey to the younger generation?
Well, our belief is (which is the ultimate truth) that we live with the “Rhythm” all our life, ever since we are given a life. When our life starts within a mother’s womb, we begin life with a “Rhythm” and it is within us all the time. There is no way we could run away from it as life continues with the “Rhythm”. There is a beat within each and every one of us and what you need to do is to find it or fine-tune it. Sri Lankan percussion industry never lacks inspiration and there’s a plenty of subject knowledge available free with today’s technology being so powerful. If you’re truly passionate about percussion, all you need to do is explore and experiment while educating yourself. So make use of all the resources that are available to bring out the shining, loud percussionist in you. Also, we’ve always loved to hear from our dear fans – be it your comments, reviews, or anything that you want to say – please feel free to contact us on our official fan page www.facebook.com/Naadro, and from our official website, www.naadro.com.