Saturday, 7 June 2014 00:05
Stigmata, the unsung heroes of the South Asian music industry
For 14 years Stigmata have established themselves as the true unsung heroes of the South Asian music industry. Let’s be fair, to the extreme musical ensemble’s credit they have survived countless trends, less than lukewarm support from local radio and TV (although the band are frequently asked to judge or appear as special guests at many of the aforementioned media programs, events and occasions) and are certainly not your average poster boys for idolatry by a stretch.
Stigmata is a band you either grow to love or learn to hate. There is no middle ground with them. They are stubborn, their passion is often misinterpreted for arrogance, and their musical goals seem to differ largely from any other local artist seeking fame, glory and fortune in the music industry.
Do you know these bad boys have the distinction of having all of their albums reviewed internationally – ‘Hollow Dreams’, ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ and ‘Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom’ chosen as Top 10 Albums of the Year in the US and Europe while having received superb reviews in France, Australia, Dubai, India, Malaysia and Japan, to name a few countries?
Stigmata had the honour of being featured on Discovery Channel twice on legendary travel icon Ian Wright’s programs ‘Out of Bounds’ and ‘Invite Mr. Wright’ seen by millions of people around the globe. Do you know that these guys have represented Sri Lanka in leading music festivals in Australia, India, Malaysia and the Maldives? That they’ve had their music played on the huge Triple J Radio in Australia and they have performed an acoustic rendition of their opus ‘Lucid’ for Nikhil on MTV Superselect?
Powerful, addictive music
These guys have had to struggle and fight for every bit of recognition and respect they have garnered over the years – not with publicity stunts, cheap media gimmicks or chasing the sanctum of currency… these guys have stuck to their guns, their guts and carried our nation’s flag loud and proud around the world.
My point is there is no one who has witnessed Stigmata perform live on a stage who will ever tell you it is a forgettable experience. If my fate was not to be employed overseas, believe me, my wife and I would not miss a Stigmata gig if our lives depended on it. They don’t mess around, they mean business and they create powerful, addictive music that appeals to the heart as it does to the mind.
‘On the Wings of the Storm’
Stigmata recently launched a professionally shot and edited music video for one of their new songs ‘On the Wings of the Storm’ to mass acclaim. Naturally the feedback generated overseas trumps the overall support garnered in good old Sri Lanka.
The song is an intricate piece; a six-minute beast equally constructed with melodic beauty to match the sheer unpredictable moments of frenzy and wizardry that is their trademark. Brilliant musical arrangements and superb lyrics and melodies, exceptional musicianship and a guitar lead solo to die for, all of which is no surprise because this is Stigmata after all. However, for people with the attention span of a may fly, it’s easy to see how this can be too much for them to digest.
The video is not for the faint of heart, it really packs a punch to one’s senses. Without spoiling too much for you, the video depicts the band performing together looking rather sharp fully suited, but also showcases the band members in very different scenarios, each member’s situation highlighted as the calm before and after the storm but also those moments of unexpected tempests raging in our lives that are inevitable and inimitable.
This is my interpretation of the song and the video, although I feel with their music it’s an eternal creative puzzle that cannot be easily solved. There is so much depth in the band’s sound that there are things in their music that with time reveals new discoveries – and this music video is no exception. There is more to it than what meets the eye that’s for sure, and the more one watches it two things happen:
1) ‘On the Wings of the Storm’ just plants and roots itself in your mind, some of it is so catchy with a hook you right in sing-a-long chorus that before long you find yourself humming parts of it non-stop at work, at home etc.
2) The more you watch it the more one begins to understand just how clever these guys are – by that I mean the production team and the band for choosing this song – because every second of the music video is calculated and executed to complement the song and its multiple themes.
A slick package
The DVD is a slick package with a live clip of a new song titled ‘Our Beautiful Decay’ from Stigmata’s recent performance at the South Asian Band Festival last December, Lyric Videos for new tunes ‘Children of the Lion’ and their tribute to local Alt/Rock giants Independent Square’s anthem ‘Anger’.
The highlight obviously is the video for ‘On the Wings of the Storm’ and equally captivating are the Exclusive Behind the Scenes and Making Of Documentary that shows the band unlike you’ve ever seen them before (unless you know them personally) and their amazing team of guys and gals.
If one was to say the video is disturbing, then the Making Of… is worthy on its own of generating its own shock factor… much of it is hilarious and shows the world that these guys make serious music but off stage are five guys that are down to earth, charming, crazy as a cuckoo’s nest and undoubtedly weird.
The DVD (which we were real lucky to have received to the States!) credits Arcane Productions for organising and making this a truly provocative video experience; Visual Effects Director Feroze Farook and Editor Wajid Mahadoon have done a truly remarkable job. But a continent shattering shout out must go out to the Director of Photography Aabhishek Mikael Gunaratnam and Director Shanjei Malraj Perumal for a spectacular job on finally doing justice and giving Stigmata a visual accompaniment they truly deserve. Bravo to the entire team for a job splendidly done.
I for one cannot wait to see what these guys have in store for the next select single and video release.
Sri Lankan music industry milestone
We were informed that the video for ‘On the Wings of the Storm’ was launched on Saturday 22 March at the Punchi Theatre to a full house (with next to no advertising and electronic media support) and that the band delivered an explosive performance that night. I for one wish I could have been at the said video launch, it is a milestone in the Sri Lankan music industry for many reasons.
It has yet again proven that despite constantly being ignored by mainstream media that Stigmata have created fan loyalty few others could boast of in Sri Lanka. The band have endured enough strife and drama to last a lifetime and yet it must be frustrating for the ensemble to have stood their ground for 14 years and to be the subjects of prejudice, bias and judgments in a country that rarely appreciates the underdog or that odd entity that defies all norms.
Like I said, Stigmata aren’t your average poster boys, they don’t care much for following trends and sucking up to the big guns that decide what is popular and what isn’t in a country still blinded by short term benefits and not the bigger picture.
Powerful and memorable
Sri Lanka seems to take for granted its own talent. Most guys would have thrown in the towel by now. Most guys would have just given up, changed the way they look, changed who they are and decidedly embarked on some sad, commercial endeavour that would not do justice to their legacy. If there are any DVDs left, I advise you to go pick one up now. If there aren’t any, then contend with yourselves to watch it on YouTube or online. Believe me, it’s that awesome.
This is powerful stuff. This is memorable stuff. And it’s high time people see these guys for what they truly are. And what are they, you pointedly ask? To you they can be whatever you want them to be. To my wife and me, Stigmata changed our lives and our musical tastes and proved to us that dreams don’t end or fade away… you just need to build them layer by layer, even if it means it’ll take you 14 years.
– The Man on the Silver Mountain