She’s a composer who finds herself bored with her instrument – and though she says learning to play the piano might be beyond her, she’s fortunate to have a voice that will stand alone. Just a year short of her 18th birthday, Tarini Natalya Elapata Gunaratne is preparing to make her concert debut as a singer and song writer. Petite and pretty, Natalya already has a number of fans. It helps that she’s been singing for almost as long as she could talk. Having first performed with the Merry An Singers, then the Workshop Players and most recently at Jazz Unlimited - Natalya appears entirely at ease on stage, and her voice is not only rich, it’s also beautifully controlled.
The name of her first concert, ‘La Dolce Vita’ is taken from one of the six originals she’ll be performing tonight. The concert marks the beginning of an important time in her life – on a full scholarship to the British School, Natalya knows she’s going to have to decide what she wants to study soon.
She’s leaning towards a major in theatre and a minor in psychology, the latter because she says she likes people. But the thought of leaving to study abroad also makes her “sad”, mostly because she’ll miss her partner in composition. Currently, she relies on pianist Eshantha Peiris, singing to him so that he can accompany her - “he knows what I mean when I say I’d like this bit to go dum-dum-dum,” says Natalya humming a sample.
Eshantha will be playing for her tonight, as will Sumudi Suraweera and Isaac Smith. They’ll see her through her originals and into renditions of ‘Fever’, ‘Misty’ and ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ among others numbers – all of which are favourites bequeathed to Natalya by her father. “Before we went to school, when we went out of town on trips, he’d have jazz playing,” she recalls. For her part, “I don’t have any favourite singers, I only have favourite songs,” she says, adding that she loves to sing jazz because “it’s so smooth, so easy, so fast, so jumpy...you can do so many different things with the music.”
La Dolce Vita will be held tonight at the British School Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 1000 and all funds will go toward The Sunshine Charity. Joining Natalya on stage will be her sister Aitana and Niamh Evans.
This week Natalya recommends five great Sri Lankan experiences:
- What to eat where: The plain parathas at Raheemas – they’re really great Sri Lankan fast food. Yummier and healthier than anything you can find at McDonalds. Éclairs at Perera and Sons because those have the best fillings. Desserts at Lemon - the Strawberry Pavlova and Passion Fruit Mousse are amazing.
- Where to visit: Ulpota, because it’s a great eco friendly place to get away to and relax in. Ulagala resort, near Anuradhapura is amazing. It’s also eco friendly but hi-tech as well. I love that you can turn of all the lights from one mini-computer on your bedside. Blue Water – I went there when I was much younger and when we went back recently it was really nice. Hikkaduwa, because the best beaches are there. Yala. Also Matale. I love Matale because it’s so cool and you can stay cuddled up in bed all day drinking tea and eating corned beef. We always have corned beef when we go to cold places.
- What to read: Chocolate magazine for the features and the Hi Magazine because I love looking through the pictures and spotting people I know. The Sunday Times Mirror Magazine, because it tells you what’s happening around town.
- What to listen to: There’s this new school called Musicmatters (its directors are Eshantha Peiris and Dr. Sumudi Suraweera) -- they have this music session called Big Ears every other Thursday which is free for everyone. There are lots of people, a lot of impromptu music. And the beats they come up with are great – especially since you sometimes don’t know anyone you’re playing with. It’s like they’re born with the music. The tunes are cool and innovative. And Jazz Unlimited. It’s held on the first Sunday of every month – I’ve been singing there a lot since I was 11. There are plenty of impromptu performances. I love it because it’s so chilled and you can hang out with your friends.
- What to watch: Sunsets. Sunset with high tea at Galle Face is nice. And dolphin watching in Kalpitiya, it’s amazing to see them but I hate it when people get too close to them, putting them at risk from the oil and motor.