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Ray Pereira:

A singer with an impressive voice

Back home from the States and showing no excessive familiarisation of the music of the 'fast-food generation' is Ray Pereira a singer with an impressive voice quality that is rarely heard around in our music scene.


Ray Pereira

He left for the States in 1992 but it was not for active music work. He left Sri Lanka to involve himself in the work of the church but as he revealed to us, the lure of the music vibes was too strong which he was unable to resist.

As a result he frequented the events called "open mikes" in Texas and in Los Angeles.

He joined the many groups that were featured and sang with them. Since he has a wide repertoire of songs, be it pop, Latin, funk or jazz he had no problems singing with the groups especially when the leaders called out the tunes and the respective keys.

In an interview with Montage he airs his views on music. Excerpts:

Question: It is an acknowledged fact that you have a wide repertoire of songs. Could you take us back to your early years in Sri Lanka and what are the bands you performed with before you left for the States?

Answer: I started singing when I was just five years. I sang with my Mum, Jean van Heer.

The song was "The Lightning Express" of the Everly Brothers fame. Thereafter I sang for the Navigators, a group from Kandana and after that with the Bees who later became Amazing Grace.

When I joined Rodney van Heer's Quintet, it gave me the opportunity to work along with the big names then such as Milroy Passe de Silva, Patrick Nelson, Revel Crake, Peter Menezes and Verna McLeod. We were a versatile group.

We played pop, Rock'n Roll, Latin, jazz and whatever was popular at the time.

Early influence

I cannot forget the fact that my singing talent genes must have come down from my grandaunt Erin de Selfa who was a big name in Sri Lanka.

Q: Apart from the singers and musicians in Sri Lanka who were an early influence on you? There must surely be singers on the international scene whose style of singing would have impressed you.

A: My favourite bands were Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Average White Band, Three Dog Night, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire and Kool and the Gang. My favourite singers are Stevie Wonder, the late Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, Luther Vandross, Kurt Elling and George Benson. I'm a versatile singer. I can sing pop, Latin and jazz.

I like to improvise on phrases, go out off the melody and come back to it with ease. I enjoy the singing style of Al Jarreau and I must confess his style has influenced me.

Q: In the States you are at present in Charlotte, North Carolina. Have you had opportunities to sing regularly at night clubs?

A: I sing at the Double Door Inn night club on Tuesdays where a lot of famous musicians turn up to play. I sing with a big band whose leader is Bill Hanna and he is considered the Godfather of Jazz in Charlotte.

He has a quintet as well, I sing with the quintet too. I was planning to go back in November last month, but I thought I'd stay and do some gigs with those musicians who have asked me. I hope to leave soon and I'll be here to see 2015 move into our lives. New Year's Eve in Sri Lanka is something special.

Flexibility

Q: You have the flexibility to sing rap. Haven't you made any attempt to sing rap?

A: No, I haven't really got down to it. It's not that I don't like rap. I've never tried it at all. I think you need to have a certain voice, accent and a style.

I'm a musical person. I like melodies, rapping does not attract me that much. However, I like the music of the Gap Band. In the early years the band was popular especially their hit 'Oops Up.' On the other hand I like the cool hip hop. I sing some of these songs that are currently popular.

Q: Do you think that our young musicians need to be knowledgeable about music and develop a variety in their presentation and repertoire?

A: You need to have a knowledge about music and develop a variety in repertoire if you want to be on the scene for a long time. Our young musicians tend to go one style and after a while they feel that their style is fading, we begin to lose them and then they are lost. When we did music we did all kinds of music.

As a young singer I was all pop. But I was lucky. When I sang with senior musicians such as Cecil Rodrigo he used to tell me, "Go listen, do all styles and try to be versatile." I was really fortunate to have that encouragement. So my advice to our young musicians is learn whether it is pop, rock, funk, Latin or jazz if they want to be really good musicians and be able to play with any musicians any time.

Q: Have you explored the possibility of making an album of your songs?

A: I broke into music only recently in the States. I want to do a recording of six of my compositions. I know a saxophonist called Ziard. He was helpful.

He said that when I return he'll introduce me to some musicians who will help me in my project.

The songs I have composed are love songs. The others are a mix. I'm writing a song about my mother Norma Jean, my mentor. It has been a good holiday for me and my family and I hope to return in October next year.

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