San Michele - a quiet storm
Back in the land of her roots to survey the music scene in Sri Lanka
is San Michele nursing a hope to come back and be actively involved as a
singer. "All the musicians whom I sung with here in Colombo are
astounding" exclaims San Michele, who is back after something like 30
years. She left Sri Lanka for Australia with her parents a year after
she was born, with absolutely no idea whatsoever of becoming a singer.
And when she did decide to start a part time career in music in
Melbourne she was 24 years old.
"Some people may think that it was too old but at that time I didn't
care. My first singing lesson was when I was 24. I was incredibly
nervous. When I got up on stage to sing in front of the whole class my
knees shook. I was singing into a microphone but they couldn't hear me."
You can imagine how nervous I was! Being thus nervous I took to
encouraging others who were nervous like me, to do better. Because in
time you get used to hearing your voice-once you hear your voice you
begin to work with it. I worked at a few office jobs but that didn't
So when did she decide to branch off as a singer?
"In my last job I was working for a charity organisation, I suffered
a brain aneurysm. This was in 2003. After that experience I realised
that I hadn't come close to doing everything I wanted to do in my life.
What if I had died! From that point I decided to do everything that was
in my heart because that's the only way I was going to live a satisfying
life. I became a part time office worker and sang for children part time
and after two years of doing this I became a full time singer. The
desire to be on stage and perform saw fulfilment when I started singing
with my cousin Guy Joseph in Melbourne."
In a scenario in Melbourne when reggae, soul, pop and funk were
holding sway, San Michele moved into that scene with ease. But deep down
in her heart she was not satisfied. She felt that there was something
lacking, she was not feeling comfortable singing in these rhythms. The
need to feel free while singing began to be important and she realised
that she had to switch into the jazz idiom.
"My Dad loved jazz. He was Engene Joseph and he played cricket for
BRC - I hope his friends who knew him will read this.
They were at item my Mum and Dad. My Mum loved jazz, she loved the
musicals, she used to dance and sing. My Dad had a wonderful voice, he
had great rhythm and he used to dance. You wouldn't believe this. In
Australia I told myself I'm never ever going to love jazz because my Dad
liked it! But listening to Dad's collection of jazz, the music slipped
into my veins and now I feel very comfortable singing jazz. I drew a lot
of inspiration from Cassandra Wilson, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Ella
Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughu, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, but I must
admit Ella and Sarah made a tremendous impact on me."
To compete in the music industry in Melbourne it is imperative to
follow voice training. Sam Michele made it a point to learn from
different teachers to gain much knowledge and views. She acquired her
style through formal training.
"There were 20 students in my class, we had to do a warm up together
and after a certain time once your voice and style is strengthened we
had to sing individually on stage, in front of an audience and my fear
of nervousness in the early years, just didn't arise and I fell
naturally into the rhythm of the song. I did some gigs with the group
Mr. Briefcase with David Senn and Tilani daughter of Christine Gamlathge
no stranger to Sri Lankans. Also I'd like to add that I enjoyed singing
to children from babies to five years. It is a basic music program
involving movements, instruments and singing."
San Michele's rise to fame in Melbourne was no easy path. She has
come through courageously and with success. How she achieved success she
would like to share with young aspiring singers whatever idiom they
choose to sing in.
"Don't give up on your dreams. When you do dream about what you want
to do, you have to dream with feeling. Put in every ounce of your
feelings to the point that you cry thinking about it. Because that's
what makes it real. Make use of the law of attraction and remember that
it must come from the heart.
One part is to dream and the other part is the action. Start lessons,
do research into what you need to do, go find a teacher and learn. You
have to be in it, don't give up even if your parents say 'no, no, no'.
You have to go above all that.
Because that's the only way you can keep your desire strong. I'm
coming back with my Mum to work in Sri Lanka. In the meantime I intend
recording CDs and albums. To all the musicians I sang with here in
Colombo I'd like to say "Thank you very much guys - you are amazing and
I'll see you soon!"