Ashanthi, the “Queen of Sri Lankan Hip Hop Music” is a Sri Lankan musical phenomenon. One of the most powerful singers in the music industry in Sri Lanka, Ashanthi is the youngest and only female in the island to be signed to an internationally recognized record label – Universal Music. She has toured the globe creating music that thrills audiences. ‘Melodies’ features Ashanthi, the number one contemporary female music icon of Sri Lanka.
“When it comes to writing lyrics for my songs, what inspires me is anything around me such as any situation I feel I need to write about, and anything that comes from my heart as well. It needs to be something I feel very strongly about. The things I try to convey in my lyrics – I don’t try and force something to come out, it is always something natural that happens organically and flows organically and that has an artistic touch to it, when I write it. If I am on a tangent of writing and I feel the best time for my creativity happens in the night. So I get up in the middle of the night and jot some things down. Or I have one thought and it develops from there,” said Ashanthi.
For Ashanthi it is a process of learning on the go right throughout. She has spent almost 20 years in music.
“For me, music and creativity is a process, of learning and keeping on learning as you go. Because every day you learn new things. And every day new things come into play. There are things that keep evolving and changing so much in the music industry – if you take the sounds from 10 years ago and compare it to the sounds now, it is very different. So you need to understand these different levels of music and how they affect people and how people react to it. You have to have a good relationship with music to understand it. I try and have a good relationship with my music and to understand what my audience likes to listen to and what the current trends are and how it sounds and how we can revolutionize the Sri Lankan music industry with the influence of the Western Music Industry, bringing new sounds to our industry as well,” explained Ashanthi
Ashanthi feels that what she has achieved right now, her success was not forced. It was very organic.
“I was just a girl who wanted to do a lot of stuff in the music industry. I just wanted to make sure that I leave my mark in the industry. I have built on that from my first song to whatever I have done up to now. It has always been making one better that the other,” added Ashanthi.
Ashanthi’s brand of music is mostly pop if you could give it a wide scope in terms of genre.
“But if you narrow it down a little bit more it would be Hip Hop & R&B. Hip Hop is very close to my heart. It is a cool form of expression in music with the rap, beats and the rhythms. The way hip hop works it really connects with the youth. R&B is a really nice flavor to bring in vocally through music and melody. The combination of those two really work for me. When I was a kid that was the kind of music I focused on and listened to,” pointed out Ashanthi.
When it comes to inspirations in music, if it is an international artiste, from the time she was a kid she first listened to Mariah Carey.
“I listened to her first tape and I played that tape over and over again. Being an R&B singer I am self- taught, so I followed her technique and I followed other bands such as Boyz II Men. So when I was growing up that kind of R&B music really influenced me. And another big influence in my life is my mom. She is a famous Sri Lankan Pop and Jazz singer, Antoinette De Alwis. So I had constant training on the go. I received formal training under Mrs. Maryanne David. I was with the Merry An singers for almost six years, probably more. I was one of the youngest members in her professional choir. It was fun and challenging for me. Even as a kid I always loved a challenge. I am very ear trained, if someone sings me the line that I am supposed to sing I can memorize it by ear, and I will be able to sing it. I will never forget it. So that is how learnt how to sing classical music,” stated Ashanthi.
Ashanthis is very choosy about who she collaborates with.
“As an artiste if you are trying to build up your image as an icon, and if you want to maintain a certain uniqueness, you need to be careful about what collaborations you do make. It is about how they gel with your music as well. I have done collaborations with Bhathiya and Santhush, Umaria and a few other local artistes. And I have done some collaborations with international artistes for my English Album ‘Rock the World’- such as Reshmuno the biggest English R&B star in Malaysia. Then there is Benny Dayal from India. He is a really famous singer in India, one of the best playback singers in India. He sings in Tamil and Hindi and maybe other languages. He sang in Sinhalese for my Album. We did a song called ‘Let’s give peace a chance’, he sang in English, Sinhala, Hindi and Tamil. I have done a collaboration with Raxstar, he is really big in the UK Asian Market.
I recently went to the UK on tour, I did this festival called ‘Beats without Boundaries’. It was to showcase South Asian Music in the UK. They got top artistes from all the South Asian Countries. I met artistes from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. There we were allowed to collaborate with an artiste of our choice and make Music. So I collaborated with a guy called ‘Rapid’ and he is from a group called the ‘Ruff Sqwad’. So it was really different. I have never attempted to go into the genre of grime music. It was looking into a different kind of music and style,” elucidated Ashanthi.
· Oba Magemai (Sony Music 2003) it is called the Ashanthi’n’ Ranidu Album.
· Sandawathuren ( Universal Music 2006) – Ashanthi’s first solo album
· Daas Panawa (Universal Music 2011) –
· Rock the World (Universal Music 2012) – The International Cross Over Album – Rock the world was directly linked to India. Ashanthi was the first female singer from Sri Lanka to get a recording contract with Universal India for the region. It was a personal milestone.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL AWARDS/ACHIEVEMENTS
· Winner of TOYP award 2012 (Ten Young Outstanding Persons) by the Junior Chamber of Commerce for her contribution to the Arts in Sri Lanka
· Winner of Bite My Music Global Awards – Best Pop Act (GOLD)
· Winner of IndieGo Music Awards Asia – Best Female Singer (GOLD), Best Pop Act of Asia (SILVER), Best Hip Hop Act of Asia (SILVER) and Honorary Award for Most Creative & Innovative Act ((2011)
· Winner of Best Baila Music Video of the year for ‘Papare’ Derana Music Video Awards (2011)
· Brand Ambassador for Dialog TeleKom’s pre-paid brand ‘KIT’ (2006- 2009)
· Winner of the ‘Most Promising Singer Award’ at the Shanghai Asia Music Festival where she represented Sri Lanka in China (2000)
· Winner of ‘Song of the year’ for her solo hit ‘Angel’ on the ‘Oba Magemai’ album at the Golden Clef Music Awards in Sri Lanka (2003)
· Winner of Best Hip Hop Video of the year at The Derana Music Video Awards (2008)
· Judge for Sri Lanka’s own version of American Idol Music reality TV show “Yes Superstar” (2010)
COLLABORATIONS WITH INTERNATIONAL ARTISTES
· Benny Dayal (India)- Let’s give peace a chance (Rock the world Album)
· Reshmonu (Malaysia) – Letting your love (Rock the world album)
· Menis (UK) – Get out of my head (Single for UK Radio release)
· Raxstar (UK) – Get out of my head (Single for UK Radio release)
PERFORMANCES WITH MAJOR LABEL ARTISTES ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
· Aqua – Shanghai, China 2000
· Moffats – Shanghai, China 2000
· Venga Boys – Colombo, Sri Lanka 2001
· Ali Campbell and UB 40 – Colombo, Sri Lanka 2002
· Vanessa Amarossi – Sydney Opera House 2005
· Anthony Caleah (Winner of Australian Idol) – Sydney Opera House 2005
· Sean Paul – Colombo, Sri Lanka 2010
· IIFA Awards (International Indian Film Awards) alongside Salim Suleiman –Colombo, Sri Lanka 2010
· Asha Bhosle – Colombo, Sri Lanka 2011
INTERNATIONAL TOURS AND PERFORMANCES
· Millennium Dome (London) 2003
· Child Aid Concert for Tsunami relief at the Opera House (Sydney) 2005
· ITB World Conference (Berlin) 2005
· Cannes Film Festival (Cannes) 2005
· IIFA Awards (Colombo) 2010