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The charming duo of Moratuwa

I met two simple and lovable young singers last Wednesday evening at Moratuwa. Although I was late, the duo, Dinu Sanjuna and Sureni de Mel, welcomed me with a child-like delight.

"Sorry girls, I am late," I said.

"Don't mind that, it's ok," said Dinu graciously as she glanced at Sureni who took a sigh of relief to cheer herself up.

Whom to talk first, the nervous Sureni or courtly Dinu?


Sureni

I talked to Sureni first. She started her singing career three years ago. Her singing ranges from Western pop and hip-hop, to oriental songs.

Sureni has six original songs to her name.

When I asked her to tell us about her progress in the field she said:

"Well, I have done six originals so far. I composed melodies for five of them. And one of my singles, Oba Magemai Kiya, has made its place in the Sri Lankan Ridma Tharanga Music Chart."

How did you learn the art of melody composing?

"Ok, I have a keyboard at home and I play by ear. I don't consider myself being very good at playing the Keyboards or any other instrument. But I would say I can still play notes on the keyboard with my right hand and make a musical phrase that is agreeable to ears. That's how I create melodies, first by mentally hearing the sound," Sureni explained.

How did you come to sing Western pop?

"I think I was much influenced by my mother, Cheryl Kuruppu, who is also a singer. She has helped me a lot. Besides singing is a passion in my family," she said.

Do you follow a particular style of singing?


Dinu

"I sing stuff from Madonna's La Isla Bonita to Shakira's Hips Don't Lie. The fact is we have to do a lot of cover songs to entertain local fans. I think I just sing the way I do," she said.

How do you sing the way you do, let's hear...

Mmm... OK (smiling) no problem... I'm gonna sing anyway. (Pause) "Estoy loca enamorada ti... It seemed to be like the perfect thing for you and me..." That's Jenniffer Lopez's Ain't It Funny.

Sureni is about to release her maiden hip-hop track, Adaraei Nam. She had written the part rapping section lyrics. The music is composed by Thusitha Niroshan, a member of Centigrade. She works as an Assistant Manager of Exports at WSA Lines. She is collecting songs to cut a CD which she plans to release at the end of this year.

Then I turned to Dinu who had been waiting patiently. Dinu had started her singing from the age of eight and her speciality is that she can sing in any given language which she believes is a gift of God. Dinu is an independent character.

She has done a track on Sri Lanka's much longed-for peace for YA TV. The track was produced by Dilantha Liyanage. The song is aired regularly.

She has done about 30 Christian songs for radio programmes arranged by Back to the Bible. Dinu toured Abudabi this year. I asked her about it.

"It was a successful tour and it was a good experience too. I had to sing a few Tamil songs in Abudabi as it was much expected by the crowd," she replied.

What kind of a singer are you?

"Well, that's a tough one because I sing all genres of music except hard rock and heavy metal. I do sentimental songs, popular and oriental stuff."

"But I firmly believe that a singer should be able to sing any type of music within her vocal capacity no matter what the genre of music might be. Whether that be country, pop or classical, a singer should be able to understand the sound, which is his or her territory," a thoughtful Dinu said.

So you sing sentimental songs as well as songs of popular culture, please elaborate on it.

All right. These days I sing Celine Dion's New Day and Shakira's Whenever Wherever with much interest. I also do covers of country songs of Dolly Parton with much ease. I like doing singles of Olivia Newton John, Abba and BoneyM.

How do you describe your position in the oriental music scene?

Well I'm doing my bit very well. I even got through my Visharada exam. But then again I should say that Visharada exams do not necessarily produce singers, but it can be of great help for one's progress in the field.

Are you undermining the Visharada exam?

No, I am saying that there could be singers with Visharada degree who may not be able to sing as is expected. Singing needs a heart, she said.

I first guessed Dinu to be outspoken. But I think she is an extremely emotional character who can get upset easily over little things.

Dinu will soon record couple of songs for her new CD. She remembered Dilantha Liyanage, Sudath Mannapperuma and Sanath Geekiyanage with gratitude for their support.

She is currently performing in Keerthi Pasquel's band and Sarath Fernando's band as a freelance singer.

She also performs with Sureni. The duo have been friends since the time Dinu had been working at the Bible Society.

I asked Dinu to sing a song for us the way her friend did, and this time I asked for a gaily oriental tune, and she sang from her top vocal range... "Obage Ruwa Magemai..."


Nightwish - symphonic metal with operatic vocals

Nightwish: The name may be unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka, but in Europe (Especially northern Europe) and in South America, Nightwish is a popular and a well-loved symphonic Goth/Metal band. Coming from Finland, the group's music is similar to music of the US based group Evanescence as both bands are female fronted and accompanied by an orchestra.

Nightwish's music has a more epic feel to it, and it's more like listening to a movie soundtrack. The reason is Nightwish uses operatic vocals performances.

Tarja Turunen, who was their lead singer until recently, is an opera singer who has a stunning voice with power. Tuomas Holopainen, is their principal songwriter. He plays the keyboards/synthesizers, Jukka Nevalainen is on drums, Emppu Vuorinen on guitar and Marco Hietala on bass and backup vocals.

According to their website, the idea of Nightwish was born in July 1996 at midnight when Tuomas was with his friends around a campfire. The first three songs, which are acoustic mood pieces, had been recorded between October and December 1996. At the time the band had three members: Tuomas, Tarja and Emppu.

When Jukka came to the band an electric guitar came to be used. After a couple of weeks training in April 1997, Nightwish recorded seven songs for their album, Angels Fall First.

Nightwish signed a two year recording contract with Spinefarm in May 1997. It recorded four new songs in August. The single "The Carpenter" was released which became number eight on the official singles chart in Finland.

Angels Fall First was released in November. Sami Vanska joined the group and a new album "Oceanborn" was released.

Their next album was "Wishmaster", after the release of which, Marco Hietala stepped in replacing Sami Vanska who left the band on personal grounds. It was after the release of "Century Child", the world started to take notice of Nightwish. Once, Nemo, Wish I had an Angel, Ghost Love Score, Dark Chest of Wonders, Creek Mary's Blood and Romanticide are the best among their tracks. Once topped the album charts in Germany, Finland, Norway, Slovakia, Hungary and Greece.

You can find out more information at "www.nightwish.com".

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