RUKSHAN perera

Published : 9:00 am  January 26, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (1254) reads | 

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Composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and singer Rukshan Perera needs no introduction. ‘Born to a musical family in the musical town of Moratuwa, his mother, a classical pianist, a music teacher at Princess of Wales College Moratuwa and a church organist for almost 50 years influenced Rukshan with the first piano lesson at age five. Before long Rukshan became a selftaught guitarist and formed his first family band at the tender age of ten, composed their originals, and at age 12 performed their songs at a musical programme at the then Radio Ceylon with Dr. Vijaya Corea. While still schooling at Royal College, Rukshan performed for the popular 70’s band “The Super Golden Chimes” as the keyboardist under Clarence Wijewardena and Annesley Malawana, and then continued with “Esquire Set” as the lead guitarist and finally with “Serendib” again as the keyboardist with Raj Seneviratne and Indra Raj, touring Asia and Europe. Rukshan was only 25 years when he retired from professional music and relocated to US to continue his studies and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems, and an MBA in Management in New York. While in the university he joined the Jazz Band as the lead Guitarist/Vocalist and studied under Milt Hinton, a famous African American Jazz Bassist. After completing his degrees, Once again Rukshan took an early retirement from his systems career and returned to Sri Lanka to continue his musical career from where he left off!! Upon his return, Rukshan launched his “Rukshan Perera Live in Concert” series, and has already completed five concerts to packed audiences. His 6th Concert will take place on 7th February at the Bishops College Auditorium and is in aid of the Sunera Foundation.

?Describe life growing up in Sri Lanka’s musical Capital Moratuwa

Everywhere you go in Moratuwa you cannot escape music – it’s a good tradition to have and an enjoyable hobby. My mother, Mrs. Trila Perera was a music teacher and a church organist and my uncles were composers. We naturally followed their footsteps

?You formed your own family band at the age of 10 and performed at the then Radio Ceylon at the age of 12 . How did you accomplish this remarkable feat

I learnt to play the piano at age 5 from my mother, and very soon took to guitar since that was the trend back in the 60s. I was hungry to perform on stage at an early age and formed a band with my cousins and started writing songs when we were about 10 years. Mr. Priya Peiris, a fabulous composer of many hit songs including “Cocka- doodle-doo” heard our songs sung in harmony, and took us to Radio Ceylon for a programme that was dedicated to new bands with original material handled by the famous Dr. Vijaya Corea.

?What was it like performing under musical legends such as Annesley Malawana and Clarence Wijewardena

I joined the Super Golden Chimes with Annesley and Clarence at their peak to play keyboards while I was still at Royal College doing my A’Levels. It was a fabulous experience to be around this very talented and confident composer Clarence Wijewardena who was able to compose beautiful songs on the go an hour before we recorded the song at the studio. While Annesley and Clarence with their fabulous voices brought in the originality to Sinhalese songs, I focused on the western songs and challenged myself to do songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and several songs from Jesus Christ Super Star among other popular hits at the time.

?What is the single most striking difference between a band like the Super Golden Chimes of your youth and the high tech bands of today

Unlike today, the instruments we had back in the 70s were very limited, and without music schools, educational DVDs, youtube and internet, we had to learn everything on our own! Back then, the only way to prove yourself was to reproduce the song to sound like the record. Today some of the new bands have begun to move away from this trend and do their own creative arrangements. I like that.

?What was your most memorable experience when touring Asia and Europe with Raj Seneviratne and Indraraj

We were the 2nd Sri Lankan band to go to Switzerland, and within 2 months of performing, we were booked for the next 2 years in several clubs, which triggered the next wave of SL bands in Switzerland! While there were many fabulous European musicians, we came out strong as a band with our voices and harmony. Raj Seneviratne had a beautiful voice and Indra Raj played Shadows songs better than the Shadows! At the time the trend was to reproduce the song like the record, and we certainly did a good job with that. We also came out strong with unique voices such as the BeeGees songs singing in falsetto and most European bands couldn’t match us with such voices.

?Do `IT’ and music go hand in hand

IT as a profession is certainly different from playing music. However, today’s musical world is all on digital media and understanding computers and handling software comes in handy when it comes to recording, mixing and mastering songs.

?What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from Milt Hinton the famous African American Jazz Bassist

He used to say “when improvising, hear the note before you play it”. This certainly comes in handy when I scat – one has to know what the note sounds like before you pluck the string in order to synchronise the guitar note and voice on the spot during improvisation. While in the US I performed at jazz concerts in New York and Los Angeles, did my own jazz recording with Hussain Jiffrey and Mahesh Balasuriya (two fabulous musicians), did a guest spot at a jazz event in Melbourne, and performed at the jazz festival in India with Harsha Makalande, another fabulous musican.

?What made you give up a lucrative career in the US and return to Sri Lanka and music

Haha! I get this question all the time! I worked for 20 years with Philip Morris International as an IT Systems manager and travelled extensively in Europe and Latin America on work, and enjoyed it very much. When I got the opportunity to take an early retirement, I came back to do something meaningful in SL – to spend time with my ailing father, spend more time with music, help out those in need by getting involved in charities, and enjoy this beautiful island. Today I don’t miss the corporate world or the money I was earning in the US, but do miss the children who are all in the US!

?What is your favourite genre of music

It’s hard for me to point to a specific genre because I like and play many genres including Jazz, Blues, pop, fusion, acapella and even Sri Lankan music. Having said that, Jazz is the most challenging genre I have found.