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Sunday, 19 May 2013





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Sweet Inspirations soon on stage

There's a saying often bandied about that "music runs in the family" and the next time you hear it, I guess you would want to scream your head off. Sure it is a well worn out cliché but ironically we have to apply it to the threesome who are Sri Lanka's hottest female trio. We haven't heard them in the recent past but soon you will see them in action at the Bishop's College Auditorium. Calling themselves 'Sweet Inspirations' the three sisters Shyami, Yasmin and Marcia are gearing themselves to unleash on the audience their special brand of singing style that was the rage in the early years and still continues to keep you in your seat, lapping up their singing style.

Marcia, Shyami and Yasmin

The most obvious and striking aspect of 'Sweet Inspirations' is the sheer warmth and down-to-earth nature of their personalities which has translated into their musical quality. "Yes, we pride ourselves in being down-to-earth and being real about what we feel and what we want to sing. At our forthcoming concert we are bringing back the eras of the '70s and the '80s, not forgetting the Motown sounds and R&B Yasmin tells us as she wears the mantle of spokesperson in the absence of her sister Shyami who was out of Colombo when we met up for this conversation.

Question: What made you come back into the scene with this concert after a considerable lull in time?

Answer: We had this idea of getting together for quite some time. But unfortunately we couldn't put it together in a flash so to speak. We had our hurdles which we had to surmount. The three of us move in three different paths and quite naturally we couldn't get together. Now we have decided that the concert will go on the boards on July 14 at the Bishop's College Auditorium. Five years ago we had a concert on a small scale and most of our fans since then have urged us to stage a bigger show. So 'Sweet Inspirations' will be the title and theme of the concert.

Q: Sweet Inspirations, would it mean only the Motown and R&B sounds in your program for the concert? And are you featuring guest artistes as well?

A: Apart from the gems of the Motown and R&B world we will be singing hits of ABBA, Pussy Cat, Gloria Gaynor, Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand and songs such as 'River Deep Mountain High' and 'O Happy Day' to name a few. Our brothers Rowan Yohan and Mario will be featured along with us and also Shyami's son vocalist/guitarist Ravin Rutnam. Sohan and the X'periments will be the backing band, with Sohan Weerasinghe in the guest spot. Pianist Harsha Makalanda too will be with us on stage.

Q: Before the three of you started your individual careers you were a family band performing as the Fontrapp singers. How did that come about?

A: Yes, we were recognised as the Fontrapp singers. Our father Placidus Fonseka, was a multi-instrumentalist and very creative. He could play the piano, accordion, violin and guitar. Our mother Rita, was a pianist herself and the name Fontrapp was a take off from the von Trapp singers. Our family band was a delight of many. We sang and played our own instruments, we harmonised with ease.

Shyami is a pianist, I play bass. Marcia concentrates on harmony vocals but our brothers were quite versatile and accomplished in playing their instruments apart from singing. In the early years a family band was an attraction in our music scene and Dad instilled discipline in the band. In fact this concert is a tribute to our parents who were an unforgettable inspiration to us and we carry on the finer points in band work which all of us learnt from them.

'Sweet Inspirations' is the musical prowess of three sisters who have been singing together for a long time and to date they remain unparalleled. Shyami's debut on stage was when she was just three years old. Her song was the favourite of Elvis Presley's "Wooden Heart." In the early years of her career she launched three EPs which contained original compositions by Clarence Wijewardene. It was during this time that the Rasa Pirunu Katha singer was recognised as the "most popular female vocalist of the year." In 1982 Shyami moved into singing gospel music as well and currently is the vocalist in the band Friends in Harmony. She imparts her knowledge to the young - she's a music teacher at Lyceum International School.

Yasmin, the leading female vocalist in the popular band Sohan and the X'periments, started playing bass at an early age. Her professional career commenced with the band Heathrow before she joined the veteran keyboardist Dilup Gabadamudalige and performed as a jazz duo.

Marcia, blessed with a rich contralto voice is not seen regularly on stage like her sisters. She follows her passion in a culinary career but joins her sisters for many musical shows and other singing engagements. She is a versatile violinist.

Q: They say that to really understand music you have to get at the foundation, the basics. If you learn most of the rudimentary things, you can play in any style. Improvisation is spontaneous melody. What's your comment?

A: To apply it to today's music scene I have to agree with that thought. We have a lot of bands and singers springing up like mushrooms which is a good sign for the industry. But unfortunately some of the musicians are lethargic in learning and forging ahead. Playing by ear as they say, is a wonderful gift but at some point you will find yourself up against a wall and to overcome it you have to have a knowledge of the rudiments, the basics. It is important that you learn these basics. Because today, especially, the pop scene is a vast changing scene and if you don't keep up with it, you'll be left behind.

On the other hand I've heard some young musicians who are quite adept in their singing and their improvisation. I commend their dedication. Because what is important is to have that little extra something in your expression or delivery which will switch on the popularity mode for you.


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