Friday, 31 January 2014 00:00
Total control on stage
A sense of healing, peace and unity was what pervaded the air at the ‘Rukshan Perera Live in Concert’ musical show at the Bishop’s College Auditorium on 19 January, enveloping a multicultural audience in the very spirit of healing and unity.
Colombo rarely sees performances of this nature. First and foremost, the highly experienced and insanely talented Rukshan sets a very high standard for himself – a unique concert of originals varying from pop to blues to a’capellas, simple melodies to intricate harmonies, serious lyrics to entertaining humorous songs, current events turned into songs and tributes, songs of reconciliation to jazzy instrumentals, were an amazing variety of Rukshan’s compositions that resonated at the Bishop’s college auditorium that evening.
Dedicating songs for reconciliation, with the accompaniment of flute, violin and piano, the opening song ‘Bullet Holes on the Wall’ brought the audience to tears when Rukshan sang in theatre style, portraying himself as the father who lost his son (a child soldier) in the war. This was followed with ‘Bless Our Land’, a song he composed for a pre-CHOGM event (Prayer for Peace) asking for blessings for Sri Lanka from above. These two songs set the stage for the ‘Concert for Reconciliation’ in aid of the Unity Mission Trust that fosters Healing, Integration and Reconciliation.
Adept at guitar solos, accompanying himself on the Piano and playing harmonica, this talented multi-instrumentalist together with the guest artistes who contributed to the cause by pitching in free of charge, sang Rukshan’s own original compositions in a variety of styles and topics; ‘I Am Malala’, a tribute to the 16-year-old education activist from Pakistan was sung passionately by Umaria with the backing vocals of ‘Little Sopranos’.
Teleported to South Africa
Another fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela was sung by The De Lanerolle Brothers with their operatic voices belting out ‘Freedom, freedom, the whole nation smiles now with freedom’.
Combining a part of the South African national anthem into this freedom song was very cleverly composed by Rukshan, and the choral group ‘Choro Calibre’ joined the Brothers in the choruses. With Nelson Mandela visuals in the background and singing the chorus in Zulu, the audience seemed ‘teleported’ to South Africa during the song.
In lighter vein, Rukshan entertained the audience at the piano singing ‘Scrambled Eggs’ and ‘What Time Is It’, a fond dig at a partner who went ‘blah, blah, blah’ was another of his catchy originals – jazzy solos on the piano seemed to be flowing effortlessly for Rukshan. These songs have already become favourites among his fans. Two simple Sri Lankan tunes, the lullaby as old as time, ‘Doi Doi Doi’ and the evergreen ‘Olu Pipeela’ by Sunil Shantha were turned into a big band style masterpieces with the Colombo Brass Ensemble playing a harmonised brass section with Sureka on flute, Ruwan on violin, Ray Gomez on bass and Harsha Makalanda on piano. The jazz enthusiasts would have certainly enjoyed their share of solos on these two songs.
Beyond his already effortless musical wizardry, Rukshan gave a demo of his unique harmony whistle and did scatting solos on a couple of songs that has earned him his unique place in the musical arena.
Rukshan’s concerts are not complete without his a’capella performances – the 70s songs were intricately arranged in a’capella style with Mariazelle joining the group at the end, followed by ‘Sri Lankan Blues’ joined by Derek Wickramanayake of former ‘Wildfire’.
Then entered the dynamic entertainer Rajitha of the band Misty to do Rukshan’s ‘Reality’ and the most hilarious song of all ‘Gossip Queen’, where Rukshan and Rajitha together crowned the Queen on stage and the hall echoed with laughter every time the gossip queen spoke on the phone.
Bringing more variety to the show, came a jazzed up Kaffringha tune that Rukshan had performed in Denmark for an international music festival with Ruwan on violin and Lelum on percussion, adding another dimension to Rukshan’s compositions with solos by all three musicians that took the audience by surprise.
Rukshan featured many youngsters at his concert and called in the amazing 12-year-old-twins Sarith & Surith – the next generation of Sri Lankan musicians as he called them – who did a brilliant performance on guitar and drums.
The curtain came down on his Sinhalese composition titled ‘DevarakThuna’, featuring another two youngsters (brothers) Udesha & Rukshan Karunanayake to accompany him on drums and guitar. After the applause and encore, Rukshan came back on stage to play a small part of ‘On Broadway’ by George Benson with his unique harmony scatting, and bowed out with ‘Bless Our Land’ with all singers on stage, winding up the ‘Concert for Reconciliation’.
Two and a half hours of extremely entertaining non-stop music with Rukshan’s originals, his humour on stage, and moving so freely with expert control of the entire concert made it an evening to remember. Let’s wait and see what Rukshan has in store for us next!