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26th August 2001
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The story of their lives

'Azia Dauysy' saw Asia's best in Bathiya, Santhush, Nevanthi and Ranidu
By Ruhanie Perera 
Bathiya, Santhush, Nevanthi and Ranidu: Four young musicians who had the guts to dream big dreams and then had what it took to make them come true. Today they are slowly but surely climbing up the 'international music scene' ladder and we can keep our fingers crossed, hoping for greater things for the team that has, at this point received an offer by Universal Music Asia to sign up as songwriters under their record label and received many an invitation from all quarters of the world. 

For starters, there's Pato Banton, famous for his hits like Baby Come Back and Bubbling Hot who has invited the team, to produce and record a song for his new album next year. Then there's Shaymaa Saeed, pop sensation and actress, who will have Bathiya and Santhush appear in and do the music for one of her songs on her latest movie. In addition to that, they've also received an invitation to do the backing track and arrangement for Philippino star Ladine Roxes. 

How did all this come about one may wonder? It all started with the Silver Award that Bathiya and Santhush bagged at the 'Azia Dauysy' world music festival and awards held in Kazakhstan, Russia from August 1 - August 6. Of the 141 entries that were sent in for the festival, theirs was among the 63 entries that were accepted and eventually among the 17 entries selected for the finals. 

Organised by the 'Voice of Asia', world music foundation, the festival saw participants from all over the world covering Europe, Euro-Asia and Asia, all backed by Sony, EMI and Universal Artists having entered MTV awards in their respective regions. Flying into Almaty, Kazakhstan for the finals the Bathiya-Santhush team met with 'teams' of participants (who they noted as stiff competition) joined by their producers, managers, sound engineers - the whole works. Was it intimidating, I ask them? "It was down right depressing," comes the answer from Bathiya who says that at that point winning was the furthest thing on their mind. However once they started rehearsing, things took a turn for the better, says this team, who found their competitors awed by the music they were making. And suddenly the four Sri Lankan musicians were the focus of attention. Says Bathiya, 'Many stopped to tell us that they never heard our flavour of music before.' 

So what exactly is their 'flavour'? 'It's ethnic, Sri Lankan, dance flavour,' says Bathiya with some prodding from Santhush, but it's obvious that they've done this classification before. 

'We started off with the intention of doing something new. We stuck to the Sri Lankan flavour and introduced some international flavour to it,' they say. So do you keep up with the trends, is the next question. And accompanied by a laugh, the reply is, 'No, we try to set the trends.' Says Bathiya, 'Our music has grown over the years; it's got a more 'grown-up' perspective now. We've changed too, in the sense that we've grown with our music.'

"We've found that Sri Lankan sounds work, people like to hear this kind of music because of its distinct characteristics. Our objective all along has been to bring Sri Lankan dance music to the level that people who hear it will be able to identify exactly what it is. We hope someday listeners will be able to say, 'That's Sri Lankan music'." Bathiya and Santhush strive to always encourage and inspire upcoming artistes to achieve that kind of blend and most importantly while preserving the 'Sri Lankan-ness' of the music, their advice is: "Think differently! Be original! Don't imitate!' 

Explaining the judging process at the festival Bathiya says that the final of the competition, which was a three-day programme, was conducted in two segments. First the artists had to go through 'TV viewer ratings'. The event was shown live in 14 countries in the Romanian region where viewers would vote for their favourite artiste or group. The audience-friendly Bathiya-Santhush team that wowed audiences at home with their hits Siri Sangabodhi, Life and Manusathkule (which they chose to sing at the finals) had pretty much the same effect on audiences abroad and they excelled in this segment - obtaining the highest score in this section, being voted in as the top favourites of the viewers. The next segment, which required ratings by a panel of 14 judges, all representatives from top record companies, saw them rated second. It was with these top scores that Bathiya and Santhush bagged their Silver Award, which rated them No: 2 in the Euro Asian region and hailed them as Asia's best. 

The music festival experience taught them a lot about themselves. For both Bathiya and Santhush, along with their other team members Nevanthi and Ranidu had never really realized their potential. Despite the fact that they are hugely popular with their local audiences, it's pretty obvious that their success had never completely been comprehended by them when Nevanthi says, "There were nearly 20,000 people in the crowd and they were all cheering us on with the chant 'B and S'. In addition to that even the participants viewed us as competition, that's when we thought 'Oh wow, we're not as bad as we thought we were'." 

Adding pleasure to this whole experience was the thrill of being received as superstars wherever they went. "Even if we stepped into a mall, invariably there would be a group who had seen us on TV asking for our autographs."

"We've been working very hard for the past three years with a distinct goal in mind." For the past three years their lives have revolved around music; jobs, studies even sleep coming second to their passion. But in the end all the hard work has paid off. "If you want to hit the top, this is something you just have to do full time, devoting all your time and attention to it" they said, adding that the main problem in Sri Lanka is that all artistes treat their music as a sideline, and as a result they cannot get involved in their work full-time because of other priorities. 

So what happens now? 'Well, we're off to India to record our new album, then to Australia for the final edit, Egypt for the recording with Shaymaa Saeed, China for the Asian Shanghai music festival' and on goes their list. Their itinerary ends only in April next year when they take off to England. 

Their parting words are all about dreams. 

Each one shouts: 

'You have to have a dream in life!' 

'Dreams are possible!' 

'Even your wildest dreams can come true!' 

'Just keep dreaming!' 

They should know; it's the story of their lives.

Disguised, versed & dangerous

As part of our on-going effort to uncover the vicious plot of the Stagefright&Panic Theatre group to bombard the bard of Avon (that's another name for William Shakespeare!!!), the Sunday Times has landed this exclusive profile of the second member of this organization. Ifaz Bin Jameel a.k.a. Binja, Ifthi, Ifzi and washing-machine-man is well known in most circles (and by most squares as well!). He is rumoured to have been born in the year 1947. A master of disguise, he spent the first 30 years of his childhood in disguise and went completely unnoticed in his household. His parents finally discovered him sometime in the mid 70s and promptly dispatched him to Science College and later to D.S.Senanayake College for his education. 

Although Ifaz claims to have spent many fruitful years at both institutions, research has revealed that he is actually referring to the many hours spent by the side of the mango sellers looking for freebies. He claimed extensive experience in theatre and was shattered when informed that sneaking into the Wendt and WATCHING plays does NOT count as THEATRE EXPERIENCE! However, Ifaz did have a moment of fame when he sported extremely weird hairstyles in a play called "Widows". His greatest fear is that he will be one day be replaced by a mannequin or a stunt dummy. In "Widows" he tried to steal the Mannequin during the performance and during "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr" has been seen hovering around the stunt dummy that is used for the play.

He is currently under investigation for allegedly causing several injuries to the stunt dummy, who incidentally despite these aforementioned injuries has turned in some sterling performances during practices! Ifaz is usually seen haunting advertising agencies and we managed to track him down at one such agency in Barnes Place where he hid himself behind a small twig (ostensibly to cover his identity) and gave us this insight into their plans to 'do' the complete works of the greatest of all English playwrights in just two hours! "This is Shakespeare as you have never seen before. Imagine the complete works of the Bard of Avon, rewritten by Readers Digest, performed by Monty Python and performed at the speed of the minute waltz. So forsooth! Get thee to the delightfully fractured complete works! 

"The play is an attempt by Anu, Feroze and myself to capture in a single theatrical experience, the magic, the genius, the towering grandeur, of the complete works of William Shakespeare. In about two hours of non-stop bustle, blabber and blank verse we cover not just the 37 plays of the Bard of Avon but also manage to 'do' all the sonnets. We have expunged much of Shakespeare's subtle psychological insight, his carefully spun subplots, his wellhoned social satire, and skipped right to the sex and killing." 

What was most scary is Ifaz's use of words like expunged, subtle, insight and satire. It was discovered later that he had a pocket edition of the Oxford Dictionary which he referred periodically during the interview. Ifaz mysteriously disappeared halfway into the interview and was seen later at the Dialog GSM office and YES FM Studio. He has been seen talking to other members of this plot including Sonali White of the Haddai label, Tareeq Musafer of Tareeq's studio and The Sunday Times office where he spent a considerable amount of time trying to stop this article being published. 

Pinky and perky

Think Pink

* Never wear if from head to toe. Flashes of pink (a tie or T-shirt) are more effective.

* A pink shirt or top won't be laughed at as much as pink trousers.

* Choose your shade carefully - salmon is draining, blancmange is flat, while baby pink and cerise are more flattering to the skin. Neon is funky, but only with a tan, while dirty-pink is the most "macho" shade.

Pink shoes, belts and bags just look silly. Sorry, but there it is.

Pink is on the loose in menswear this year. Claudia Croft on how men can wear it without looking ridiculouss

Here come the men in pink. And you can wipe that smirk off your face, because the decision whether to "do" that most girlish of shades is the biggest style question facing modern man today. Pink, in all its candy coloured glory, is this year's big menswear trend, and the bad news for traditionalists is that it is showing no sign of dying out.

For winter, pink isn't just confined to traditional city shirts and jazzy ties. Bubble-gum-coloured suits, coats and even shoes will be flooding the shops, and they aren't simply reserved for the likes of Elton John to spend his pin pounds on. 

Real men - you know, the sort who wear lumberjack shirts and could strike matches on their stubble - are now proud to be pink, too. Brad Pitt sports pink T-shirts with his jeans, and Jamie Oliver has a wardrobe full of pink items, including pastel suits, cerise jumpers and dirty-pink T-shirts. 

Ian Wright was pictured recently wearing a candyfloss-coloured jumper, and even that bad-boy rapper P Diddy (formerly Puff Daddy) wears pink satin suits. It seems that modern men (well, the famous ones at least) couldn't care for the traditional rules, stating which colours are considered acceptable in a gentleman's wardrobe. 

And neither do the producers of the new Dan Dare animated television show.

In a move that may be viewed as sacrilegious by his original fans, the macho comic-book hero will be wearing bright, bubblegum-pink trousers. It's not a colour choice that you would normally associate with tough guys, but the producers of the series say that they have tailored Dare's image to appeal to the new generation of children. Times are indeed changing.

"It's not the same as 20 years ago, when there was a strict dress code. The average guy is a lot more stylish than he's given credit for," says the menswear guru Chris Bailey, the brains behind the Uth label. "Pink is now one of the most popular colours in the shop, particularly cerise and baby pink." 

Bailey, who is more than 6ft tall and has a face like a boxing glove, is himself a devotee of pink, and his wife, Ros, who designs Uth's women's range, wholeheartedly approves. "I love it when he wears pink, because he's a tough-looking man and it's such a soft colour," she says.

But what about those nagging sissy connotations? "The reason why pink is linked with babies and feminine things is because, in western social norms, it's associated with skin. Someone who wears pink is unconsciously signalling that they want to be touched," explains one consultant psychologist, Dr David Cowell. 

But there is another, more challenging side to the cutesy shade. It's made from a mix of red, the colour of energy, and white, the colour of the imagination.

"When you wear pink, it says, 'I'm here', which is the red speaking, but because of the element of white, which is an enigmatic colour, it also says: "What do you think of it? What are you going to do about it?" says Cowell. A man choosing to wear pink could even be interpreted as being aggressive, because, according to Cowell: "When you wear a bright colour, you are asserting yourself visually. You are refusing to blend into the background." 

The effect is compounded when the colour goes against the socially prescribed norms. Unfortunately, quoting Dr Cowell isn't exactly going to stop your mates snigggering if you turn up at the club in baby-pink.

- The Sunday Times, London

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