Mirror Magazine

Marisa de Silva meets local artistes who performed at ‘Child Aid 2005’ at the Sydney Opera House
Proving that the sky is the limit
Local pop sensation Bathiya and Santhush along with Ashanthi and a handful of local artistes were invited for the first time ever, to perform with a line up of some of Australia’s most popular performers, at ‘Child Aid 2005’ held on March 24 at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. The proceeds of the concert were in aid of AustraLanka Helpline’s “Let Oz Help” Foster Parents Scheme.

The rest of their band Randhir Vithana with Mahesh Denipitiya on piano, Sarangan Sri Ranganathan and American saxophonist David Collins too joined the popular duo to perform at the Opera House. David initially got to know B&S when he came down to Sri Lanka from Okinawa, where he currently resides, to help out in the tsunami relief effort and joined the duo at a few gigs in his free time. So when B&S were invited to perform at the Opera House, they had in turn invited David to join them in Sydney for the performance. David had jumped at the offer and had been very excited about getting such a lucky break, said Bathiya.

AustraLanka - an Australian based, non profit, independent organisation committed to the welfare of needy Sri Lankan children had invited B&S to take part in this charity concert. They had also invited other well-known local artistes like, Ranidu and Iraj, Harsha Makalande, Edward Jayakody, Nirosha Virajini and Sunil Edirisinghe, who would represent the diverse mix of musical styles found in our country, said Bathiya.

When approa-ched by the organisers the duo had been told that apart from the other local artistes, they would also be performing side by side with popular Australian stars like Vanessa Amarosi, Kamahl, Christine Anu, Australian Idol star - Anthony Callea, Jan Preston, Hoodoo Gurus and Dance Extravaganza from Jamie Latin Dance Australia.

Australia’s Number 1 Radio Personality cum popular host of the Breakfast Show on Radio 2GB (a leading Australian radio station) Alan Jones, was Master of Ceremonies at this concert. All artistes performed gratis and the Opera House too provided its facilities gratis.

“There are two landmark places every musician dreams of performing at – The Sydney Opera House and The Royal Albert Hall,” said Bathiya. There are so many well established musicians both at home and abroad who haven’t yet got the chance to perform at either one of these venues. Therefore, it was quite an honour for B&S to be invited to perform at the Opera House and according to the duo, it had most definitely been an once in a lifetime experience.

Having left the country on March 14 for a performance in Berlin, B&S returned to Sri Lanka on March 19 and within a few days flew out again, to Australia for the concert. “I was falling asleep at about five in the evening and waking up at about 11.45 p.m. as I was suffering from jet lag, but it was worth every minute of it,” said Santhush.

On arrival at the Opera House, they had been quite excited and almost overwhelmed by the spectacle that lay before them. “When we first got on the 360º view stage, looking up into the audience, it felt as though we could conquer the world.” Similar to the image of R. Kelly atop a mountain in the music video of “I Believe I Can Fly,” was Bathiya’s descriptive first impression of the Concert Hall. Come D-Day, “the feeling just took our breath away – it was absolutely amazing!” chorused B&S in unison.

Some of the Australian bands had nearly an entire orchestra backing them, whereas we just had our crew and our music tracks, said Bathiya. However, Mahesh added enthusiastically, “It was a treat playing on an original Steinway Grand, which required a separate lift just to transport it up to the hall.” Bathiya said that Mahesh had played like never before and that the venue was very inspiring and just helped them all give out their best.

One of the main challenges they had to overcome was to be able to hold the attention of the huge audience whose musical interests were quite diverse, explained Bathiya. Also challenging, was adopting to the nearly 100% perfect acoustics at the hall, he added. They had performed four of their most popular hits including the song “Nethara” off their latest album. The entire team of local artistes had done really well and was received with huge applause from the 2000-2300 strong crowd come to watch the show, said Bathiya.

‘Ranidu & Iraj’ had really managed to capture the younger audience in particular, whilst the veteran musicians really did the country proud by promoting the more traditional side of the local music industry to the international arena. “The class performance they gave made us proud to be Sri Lankan,” said Bathiya passionately. It was probably one of the few times both the classical and pop musicians worked together as one Sri Lankan team, he added.

One of the highlights of their act had been that it was tri-lingual with excerpts of Hindi as well, they said. Their version of “Kiri Kodu” performed by B&S and Ashanthi together with Nirosha too had been a hit with the audience, they said.

Having visited Australia when she was just nine years old, Ashanthi reminisces how on seeing the Opera House on a tour, she had longed to someday get the chance to at least watch some artistes perform there. “At that time, I never thought I would get an opportunity to actually perform there myself, so it was a huge thrill for me,” she added. The place is like a huge maze, said Ashanthi adding that until you’ve been there a few times around, it’s very difficult to find your way around. All the backstage crew had been very professional and helpful she said. “It was all a huge team effort, on the organisers part,” said Ashanthi.

Santhush spoke of the time he spent studying in Australia and how he used to pass the Opera House quite often. “I had always thought that we would get to sing here someday,” said Santhush adding that he owes his positive outlook, to his ‘sky’s the limit’ attitude to life. “Who knows, we might even sing at the Royal Albert Hall one day!” he added laughing.


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