The first time we saw Ashanthi, she was keeping Bathiya and Santhush company on stage but in the years since, she’s become one of the best known faces in Sri Lankan hip-hop and one of the only female rappers to make it big here. She has three albums, composed of most part of Sinhala songs. Now, with the launch of her fourth album, Ashanthi is on the cusp of a big breakthrough. Made up entirely of songs in English, she considers ‘Rock the World’ her first “international crossover album.” It was released on the Universal Music label after a launch party held in collaboration with The Colombo Music Festival and will receive wide airplay in promising new markets like India and Malaysia.
Ashanthi’s had a good start to her year with lots of attention coming her way after the first Indiego Music Awards, set up to honour the work of South Asian artists. Ashanthi sauntered off with four big prizes: the Best Overall Female Vocalist (Gold), Best Pop Act of Asia (Silver) and the Best Hip-hop/Rap solo award (Silver). The fourth win was one with a surprisingly metaphysical title - the ‘Thank You for Existing’ prize is awarded to the most innovative and creative act and is reportedly one of the highest honours a musician can receive at the Indiego Music Awards. Ashanthi also collaborated with Dinesh K on the single ‘Raavanan Raajyam’ for the movie ‘Tooting Broadway,’ an official selection for the London Indian Film Festival, which premiered in June this year. Now ‘Rock the World’ looks set to up the ante for the Sri Lankan rapper.
“I feel like it’s a very big career move for me,” Ashanthi told Mirror Magazine on the day the new album was launched. “I’m the first artist to release an international album out of Sri Lanka in English,” she adds. She’s clear about what she would like the album to accomplish – “I actually just wanted to raise the bar and set a standard when it comes to English music because I feel that Asians are underestimated a lot when it comes to the international music industry in terms of what we can produce.” While great artists like A.R. Rahman have kept the region in the running, Ashanthi is concerned that outside classical music, local musicians aren’t considered capable of competing with the pop icons the West churns out. “We can create as big top hits as the Westerners can I’m hoping this album will prove that from Sri Lanka as well,” she says.
Ashanthi is herself is a fan of artists like Mariah Carey, Beyonce Knowles, Black Eyed Peas, Boyz 2 Men, Blackstreet, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim and Nikki Minaj and would like to see Sri Lanka excel in similar music – she describes her own sound as “very urban and very R&B.” Her new album, which Universal Music has undertaken to promote through the global partners as well, boasts several highlights – look out for the track ‘Let’s Give Peace a Chance’ which has been recorded in English, English/Hindi and Sinhala/Tamil with music videos to accompany each language version.