Ashanthi reaches out to the future
Sitting opposite me sans her usual stage image is singer Ashanthi the
epitome of Frank Sinatra's hit "I Did It My Way..." No baggy trousers
and heavy shoes, no colourful T shirt, no shining and sparkling
jewellery on her wrists and chain round her neck.
This is the other side of the mature, level-headed young singer
handling a successful career in a demanding business with admirable
competence and professionalism. These are ever changing times when it
comes to the music business. There is a notable generational gap with
the continued success of rap and hip-hop.
Strong in mind, courageous in approach and creative to do her own
thing Ashanthi's recent crossover CD release was 'Rock the World' for
Universal. The CD carries nine tracks some featuring Ranidhu, Reshaman
and Benny Dayal, from India. It goes without saying that the earlier CDs
in Sinhala were fast moving and successes too. There was Oba Wage Mai
Question: Now that you have released your CD 'Rock the World'
containing your English original songs for Universal what was your
intention in doing so, how did it all come about and what's going to
happen in the future?
Answer: My intention to release this album was to actually
take the Sri Lankan English music on to the next level. I felt that in
terms of what we do right now in the English music scene it is very
small, but for us to branch out into other markets we have to look
elsewhere. So India was the biggest place I could think of. It's really
hard to go straight into a mainstream market.
Us being Asians and being deli as they call it, I think it's better
to go through your neighbouring countries, gather the forces within Asia
and then take the world by storm. So I feel little by little I'm
conquering different areas. I've conquered Sri Lanka with my Sinhala
music plus also introduced my English music to them. I put out my
English album in India and also the South Asian region and Universal
music is definitely spreading the music into countries such as
Australia, UK, US, Germany and other European countries as well. But
basically I feel like I'm gathering forces within Asia to take myself on
to the global platform.
Q: In hindsight do you have any comments about the English
Tracks. Do you feel "I could have done this track a little better" or
may be "introduced more impromptu arrangements in some other tracks?
A: It's close to a year since I made this album and yes there
are things I would have liked to change, but I feel this album in
English for me was the first of its kind in Sri Lanka and for me it was
a learning curve. For the next album I know exactly where I have to go.
This album has put me in the place I want to be when it comes to my
lyric writing, my producing, just having an edge when it comes to the
English music I create.
Q: You are a successful central figure in the industry today,
some day you will have to leave this behind you, then, what?
A: I don't think any musician can go on singing the same
songs. I can't sing hip hop all my life neither can I sing pop until I'm
forty or fifty whatever. I have laid the foundation right now. I am at
the peak of my career and may be it will go on for another five to ten
years, who knows. It really depends on how the market is. I am glad that
in my youth I have laid the foundation for other musicians to get my
training and to get my guidance in how to get into the music industry,
which is why I came up with my music school, the Ashanthi School of
Q: Do you think you have made the leap that every young singer
A: I do think I have made that leap. I think that at the peak
of my career, it's hard to manage a music school and my full time music
career. But I manage both of them. I have absolutely no time for
personal life because I feel that my time right now is for my career.
Musicians cannot sustain themselves in the music industry by only
perusing music. You have to have other avenues as well and this avenue
is one I've always dreamed of. Just like Bathiya 'n Santhush, their
digital music studio and company, I feel that music and singing and
teaching singing is my passion and it's what I know to do really well.
It comes from within me.
Teaching is something that comes to me naturally. So I feel it is a
great way to woo the next generation. We've introduced a bunch of new
ideas called the London Trinity College Pop/Rock Exams. When we were
young we never had these opportunities of doing Pop Music singing
examinations. It's a great way for the young to get into the industry if
they want to take their singing to the next level.
Q: New challenges have arisen for you as a producer, composer,
lyricist. Do you think it will hamper your singing career?
A: I don't think so. I think all these elements will make me a
better artiste and a bigger artiste because I feel that being a writer
you can relate to what you sing if you've written it yourself or if
you've produced it yourself. So producing and composing, writing myself
and singing the songs myself bring but the true emotion of the journey
I've been on or somebody else's who I have seen. But it's always a story
and I'm always telling a story so I feel that it comes from my heart.
Q: Did you draw influences from other singers and composers
who are enjoying global popularity?
A: Definitely. The first record I listened to was Mariah
Carey's 'Music Box'. I was then nine years old. I listened to the tracks
over and over again. I practised all her tunes until I got them perfect,
then added my style to it.
I would say that I've drawn a lot of influence from Mariah Carey as
an artiste. As for contemporary artistes I really respect Pink, Beyonce,
Will i Am, Jay Z, Miss Elliott. These artistes are those who challenge
themselves, they don't stay within a box they keep doing something
Q: Are you branching out on other musical activities to spread
A: I have to say yes to that question. One of course is my
Ashanthi School of Music. We've done a major concert and we are
targeting for another one soon, and are currently gearing the students
and looking forward to a great show for the Colombo market. I have to
say thank you to Maryanne David who gave me the grounding to my music
when it comes to the classical and operatic training I received when I
was in school.
So I would say my roots are in classical, opera and Broadway and
thanks to her I am a trained singer. I have taken my knowledge from what
I have learnt and also put together genres I am specifically best at
which are pop, r & b and hip hop.
I give my students an overall rounded knowledge of music from
Broadway to pop, how both are different but also similar. I have a
contemporary approach to my teaching. We don't teach mostly pop. Times
Even places like the Trinity College of London have changed their
syllabus to pop/rock because the market demands something popular that
young children would like to learn.
I have great respect for classical music, I listen to every genre of
music. But I feel that in terms of pop music we never had anything like
this before. So its great that children have the opportunity to follow
pop music and face examinations, instead of only in classical music,
this is a different path.
Q: So what's your advice to those youngsters who are aspiring
to become famous but don't know how to get about it?
A: I always say follow your dreams no matter what. You may
have many obstacles along the way. People may tell you a million things
on why should not do this or that. But it is really in your mind. If you
make up your mind and you set your goals high, anything is possible. The
sky's the limit.