Riding on rhythm

By Marisa de Silva, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Anyone could sense the rhythm pumping through their veins...the blur of their sticks as they beat their drums almost in frenzied conversation with each other, the swirling of their heads to the rise and fall of the pounding beat, the sheer intensity with which they move in perfect synchrony...makes Naadro what it has become today – nothing short of outstanding!

The brainchild of Rakitha Ruwan Wikramarathna, the leader of Naadro, the group also comprises Pabalu Wijegoonawardane, Gayan Manokumara, Uthpala Eroshan, Ranga Nuwantha and Chathuranga Chithrajith. Playing anything from the Cuban Conga, Bongos and Timballs, to the African Djembe, Shekere, Dun Dun and Udu, to the Indian Dhol, Spanish Cajon, western drums, chimes and of course, a range of Sri Lankan drums, Naadro never fails to create an awesome spectacle!

The group’s name 'Naadro' meaning to give birth to diverse sounds, was thought up by Kala Shuri Arisen Ahubudu, eminent writer, orator, scholar, playwright and Guru. Having been in existence since the beginning of 2007, Naadro has performed at many significant functions/events, starting with the 25th Anniversary Celebrations of the Rupavahini Corporation, B&S's most recent album release – ‘Namaste,’ Yes FM All Stars and Naadro's first solo concert held on August 12, at the BMICH which had the whole of Colombo abuzz! The show which also featured two international artists US Flamenco Guitarist – Roni Benise and Indian flutist – Bikram Jith Singh. Naadro also launched their 10 track debut album 'Naadro' at the show.

Rakitha, having learnt all the Sri Lankan drums under Kalashuri Piyasara Shilpadhipathy for the past 16 years, also met Gayan, Ranga and Nalinda (a founder member, now gone to the USA to study) at class. Later Pabalu, who learnt under Premasiri Wedage, and Chaminda Cooray and Uthpala, who learnt under Ravibandhu Vidyapathi joined the group and once Nalinda left for the US, they recruited the "baby" of the group, 18-year-old Chathuranga, who was also a student of Kalashuri Piyasara Shilpadhipathy.
"We focus exclusively on percussion, be it of African, Latin, Lankan or Indian origin. We take a lot of time and effort to master the traditional techniques used to bring out the best in each instrument we play. I learn these techniques from DVD's and the Internet and then pass on whatever I learn to the group," said Rakitha.

"We usually decide on a specific theme, then shoot ideas off each other and eventually create something jointly. Sometimes, we stumble upon ideas by accident, whilst randomly 'jamming.' This sort of spontaneous improvisation also tends to happen with us a lot, so we take it in our stride and work with ideas that blossom from them too. Some of the main international percussionists that have influenced us as a group have been, Giovanni Hidalgo, Daniel de los Reyes, Tito Puente and C.G. Ryche," he added.

"Also, nobody can question our knowledge and ability on local drums, as we all come from oriental dance and music backgrounds and were all brought up on mastering traditional Lankan drum techniques. Basically we try and do justice to each individual instrument we play and bring out their respective flavours and colours," emphasised Pabalu.

"I am currently a Latin Percussion (LP) 'Brand Endorser,' which is quite significant as less than 10 applicants have been selected from Asia this year. From the start, I've only played LP instruments," said Rakitha.

"All of us had rhythm in us right from our childhood, and most of us followed arts subjects in school too, and always worked very closely with drums. Ranging from 18-27 years of age, Naadro has products from the University of Visual and Performing Arts, the University of Colombo and school. Whereas, Pabalu, together with his mother run the Sarasavi Dahana School of Experimental Theatre and he's also a founder member of the popular group Triloka. Rakitha also plays with Mahesh Denipitiya's band," elaborated Gayan.

For more information visit www.naadro.com. I walk away to the rhythmic beats still resounding in my head...Thath, Jith, Thong, Nang Tha!

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