Jan 24, 2020

Tuneful ode to three decades

Being in the music scene for more than three decades is certainly a challenge, and also an achievement in some way, being able to meet all the veteran musicians of yesteryear, learning from them ,gaining experiences, having the ability to learn the techniques, different instruments, fundamentals of music of different genres, and so much one can learn for over 30 years.

And to be given respect and recognition for not only for one’s experience in the industry but also for his love for charity and the need to help those in need is also to be appreciated.

Those who have faced all the challenges through years of experience and talent will be in people’s hearts forever, while those who need quick publicity may not last long in the field. one such person to be respected as thus is none other else than Keerthi Pasqual , veteran musician, instructor and a record holder for being in the judging panel at numerous musical and talent contests, who has shared his experience and knowledge among thousands of students, of some have already entered the industry, have entertained audiences over 180 countries, worked with the cream of music industry, and still , won numerous awards, and still enjoys doing charity whenever possible, without expecting anything , but for the sheer pleasure of it.

Keerthi is not only a vocalist, but also a seasoned Bass guitarist, who have played with the best musicians, and from his younger days as a student of Dharmaraja College, Kandy, he was interested in charity and social welfare, which he proudly says he inherited from his parents. In 1996, he received an international award from the World Science Council in Japan, where he competed with musicians of repute from 123 countries. He has released a vast number of top hits including, ‘’Sinhala raja kale ‘’ , ‘Neela Ahase’ , ‘Sandalatha’ , ‘Kavikariye’ ‘Nil Upuli’ and ‘Kandula’. His latest songs include ‘Thawa Dawasak’ and ‘Sitha Kohedo Gihin’. He has also shown his talents as an actor in four TV dramas, but his number one priority was music.

The main purpose of having this interview was also to highlight on his latest DVD ‘Manamala Handaawa’ and also the launching of his autobiography, based on his music career, professional and personal life, experiences and also his experience in charity and social welfare. This special occasion will be held on January 26 at the Tharangani Hall, National Film Corporation at 3 pm, and parallel to that on January 29, a special donation of Rs. 7.5 million will be handed over to the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of Apeksha Hospital, Maharagama. This will also mark his Birthday which falls on the same day, and will create a memory which will last a life time. All are most welcome to join this moment which depicts compassion and humanity. Keerthi was good enough to spare us some time of his busy schedule, to talk about these events, as well as his professional career.


Q: Can you recall your first experience as a musician?
Firstly, being a musician was not actually on my mind. It just happened I was given exposure to music on different occasions. One day, my brother brought a guitar. And then I can remember my father bringing me a Japanese mandolin for one of my birthdays. My mother was not very happy about it though, saying that I won’t be able to study. I went to Dharmaraja, Kandy, where we had talent shows in school and I used to train other students to sing, because I was good at singing and a good vocalist, so I was given the opportunity to train other students too.

One day we had a talent show in school, and outside bands also came. While those whom I trained got 1st and 2nd places, I was given the 7th place which was surprising. But I was not dejected. Those are good memories. I had a small band when I was in school. We had a stage show in the 1970’s , and I was appreciated and praised, saying that I had a good future as a musician. And there was another booking for a show, where they needed a bassist but didn’t have one. When there was no other option, I had to practice the Bass guitar and I played. At this event I was approached by a veteran musician who said that I had an opportunity of playing in a band, and to my surprise I found that the band was led by Stanley Peiris, and there I met two of my contemporaries-Rukantha Gunthilake and Mahinda Bandara. I was a bassist in 1978, and in 1982, I started my singing career.

Q: You took a break from music for some time and moved to New Zealand. How did things proceed at that time?
I taught music for students there. Also, I did a radio programme called ‘Kshithijaya’ and did the backing for Sri Lankan artistes who came for our shows there.

Q: What kind of recognition do Sri Lankan musicians get overseas?
I have been to more than 180 countries. It’s all about Sri Lankans among Sri Lankans. There is no international recognition as such. As musicians we only cater to the Sri Lankan audience there and no one else.

Q: How would you see the difference between music concerts overseas and here in Sri Lanka?
When performing overseas, we have to face certain difficulties because we get a different crowd there. As an example, a foreign sound engineer may not understand our system and techniques. Then there will be a different output. We don’t get good sound there. Even in backing it’s the same. We have every facility here. Auditoriums, musicians, sound systems, event management companies, sound engineers, everything.

Q: From modern musicians, whom do you think will have a good future in music?
Most musicians nowadays only want to follow the trend and instant publicity. There are also people who think of the future and creating good music like Bathiya & Santhush, Sanuka, Kasun Kalhara, and Harashana Dissanayake. But like I said, 75 percent of musicians want to go along with the trend. Such people can’t go much further. But those who create good music can go a long way. Nowadays it’s easy to compose and produce music because everything is done by the computer. But in the old day’s things were different and also, we produced good musicians.

Q:Tell us about your two schools of music. How is their progress?
I have two music schools. One is for pleasure, called the ‘Pasqual Sound of Music’ and it is equipped with everything, guitar, drums, keyboards, etc. I have another school in Thimbirigasyaya, where we train students for academic purposes like London exams, professional training etc.

Q: You will be releasing a new DVD, along with a book launch. Can you give us an update?
I was in the music field for 40 years. I have so many experiences in my music career and also my professional career. All of this is included in my book, and anybody can learn from this and get inspired. The English section is done by Ramesh Uvais, and details also include about my social work. The book also includes various letters sent by veteran artistes, musicians and noted people of the society, 30 songs with notes, 350 of my songs, music directors, lyricists, and photos from my younger days, those up to now. Speaking about the DVD , this is the DVD of my concert , ‘Manamaala Handaawa’ which was held at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksha theatre, Colombo last year. 41 musicians backed for the show. The blue ray will also be released at the same time.

Q: What about the special charity donation which will be happening on January 29?
I have collected Rs. 7.5 million to be donated to Apeksha hospital, because it urgently needs funds for the Bone Marrow transplant Unit. This was earlier collected to establish a Bone Marrow transplant Unit at the Kothelawala Defense Academy, but we needed 300 million. Therefore, as this was urgent, we decided to hand over the amount which had been collected to Apeksha hospital for the moment. I hope to request help from overseas to build the Bone Marrow transplant Unit at the Kothelawala Defense Academy.

Q: How do you see the talents of contestants in reality shows an experienced judge?
I’m a record holder as a judge. Speaking about the contestants, there are people with different talents. We can only show them the way, and to decide their journey is up to them. We have selected talented people. I have met more than thousands of students who learnt music from these shows. I’m happy that I have guided so many people being a judge, an instructor with my experiences.

Q: Looking back at your music career, how do you feel?
I am happy with what I have done throughout the years. I came up step by step, I maintained my popularity, and I will continue singing, teaching and my social work till my last breath. I’m blessed with a good family, and I’m an independent person who expects nothing from what I do, and I have to do something for my nation, for the love and respect they have given me. That is done through my social work and at the end I’ll be happy that I have done my duty for the country. This will also bring honor and tribute to my parents as well for showing me the correct path, and that is enough for me.

- Sureshni Pilapitiya