When it comes to music, we’re always searching for a sound that’s familiar. But what makes a song stand out or even go on to become a hit lies in its uniqueness. This is why bands such as Dream Theatre, Megadeth and Iron Maiden etc, are some of the biggest names in the industry. Being [...]


A beat of his own

Joshua Surendraraj in conversation with veteran drummer Roshan Taraka Seneviratne

When it comes to music, we’re always searching for a sound that’s familiar. But what makes a song stand out or even go on to become a hit lies in its uniqueness. This is why bands such as Dream Theatre, Megadeth and Iron Maiden etc, are some of the biggest names in the industry.

Being unique has always been a guiding principle that drummer Roshan Taraka Seneviratne has strived to follow. Today, he remains the only Sri Lankan drummer to receive two endorsements from world renowned bands, Dixon drums international and TRX cymbals America.

“Don’t ever try to be someone else, just be who you are,” he tells us as we meet up for a chat. Taraka’s journey began with Piano lessons, because it was his father’s dream that he become a pianist. But Tharaka never seemed to get far with it.

He always had that drumming spirit in him.

Tharaka recalls constantly getting in trouble at school, because he used to always tap on desks. In fact during our conversation, I catch him tapping on the table at every pause we took.

Since his father had a career in the music industry, he used to own a practice studio. And Taraka would visit this space just to play the drum kit. In 2002 his brother bought him his own set and this further enabled Tharaka to pursue his dream of becoming a drummer. Sooner he found himself performing in some of the country’s biggest heavy metal bands, ‘Tantrum’ and ‘Stigmata’.

Taraka always wanted to be the best he could be, but at the onset this proved to be a little hard since he was left handed. As he puts it, drummers would usually “play cross.” But he plays free handed and still does so. “People used to mock me when I played this way. But seeing left handed international drummers like Billy Cobham, made me realize I should continue this,” he says.

If you’ve been frequenting the local metal scene, you’d definitely be familiar with Taraka’s signature style of playing. Perhaps this is the reason why an audience member would always scream “drum solo” during every concert.

With nearly eleven years of experience, the 29 year old left handed drummer has performed at leading festivals and tours in Malaysia, Australia, India, Dubai and New Zealand.

Pix courtesy – Taraka Seneviratne

He has also recorded drums on Stigmata’s internationally acclaimed albums ‘Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom’ (2010) and ‘The Ascetic Paradox’(2015). In 2012 he also composed and recorded drums on Tantrum’s ‘Rebellion’ album.

Best known as a versatile player, Taraka specializes in a range of genres. These include Progressive Metal, Jazz, Thrash Metal, Technical Death Metal, Funk, Latin, Fusion and Eastern music.

He tells us one of his biggest musical inspirations has always been Virgil Donati. But playing in a metal band also meant learning all kinds of complex drum beats that would fit with the guitar riffs. So Taraka would constantly listen to and draw inspiration from internationally acclaimed drummers such as, Daniel Erlandsson from ‘Arch Enemy’ and Mike Portnoy from ‘Dream theatre’.

We move onto Taraka’s international endorsements and how these came to be.

He tells us, back in 2005 ‘double bass was every drummer’s dream. Since he was still schooling Taraka’s budget was a bit limited so he decided to approach his father who took him to ‘Pioneer Sounds’. Once in the store, Taraka spotted a pedal with the Dixon insignia on it and liked it almost immediately.

Tharaka used this pedal for nearly a decade. Unfortunately though, during Taraka’s tour to New Zealand in 2015, his pedal was damaged beyond repair. Having gotten back to Sri Lanka, he tried to procure a similar pedal from ‘Pioneer’ but was unsuccessful.

That’s when a friend suggested he try to get an endorsement from Dixon. Sooner, Tharaka wrote to them and to his delight, they got back to him.

Two months later, Taraka became the only Sri Lankan drummer to receive a full gear endorsement from Dixon. “This was another milestone,” he recalls.

In 2017, Tharaka wanted to try to get an endorsement for his cymbals. By this time he had recorded three albums. He wanted to try something different and decided to approach TRX, which is a Turkish brand. He explains, Turkey is one of the best countries for cymbals, because they do hand hammered cymbals.

Here too he remained successful and the company decided to grant him an endorsement valued at over Rs 1 million.

Despite his achievements, Taraka admits he still has a long way to go. With a cheeky grin, he tells us his goal is to be one of the best drummers in the world someday.

Although he has taken a pause from the Metal scene, Taraka continues to play with some of the renowned musicians in the local music industry such as Chitral Somapala, Indrachapa Liyanage, Umaria, Mihindu Ariyaratne etc.

These performances soon made him realize that being versatile is the key to becoming successful in the industry. And this pushed Taraka to create his own solo album.

Currently Taraka is putting together an EP and is working on his first track, which will be available to the public in the coming weeks. He also hopes to break into the international music industry adding that anything can be done as long as one works hard and knows how to use their drum kit to the fullest.

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