Serendib Sextet presents a unique journey through traditional Sri Lankan music -a distinctive blend of folk, Indian and Sufi music- with contemporary experimental music. It is the product of collaborative work between three gifted Sri Lankan musicians and three accomplished New Zealand musicians.
The Serendib Sextet was born out of percussionist Sum Suraweera's keen interest in his home country's musical legacy. Having recently completed a doctorate in ethnomusicology in Christchurch, his research has seen him study with traditional masters of the craft. This project brings together this interest with his creative and performing passion for new and innovative music. The project has sought out three of the most talented among the younger crop of professional Sri Lankan musicians, eager both to exercise their traditional musical lexicon and to break new ground in borrowing from other musical traditions. The Serendib Sextet sees the Sri Lankan performers paired with three prominent and accomplished musicians in Wellington's (NZ) flourishing improvisational jazz and free jazz scene.
A Creative New Zealand grant allowed the Sri Lankan musicians to reside in Wellington for four weeks of intensive musical ferment with their NZ peers in January 2009. The result is a unique set of pieces that both showcases traditional Sri Lankan music and explores experimental contemporary music. The melange of blasts from double bass, percussion and vocals with traipses of tabla, clarinet and harmonium will leave you reeling.
About the performers:
Sum Suraweera is a graduate of the Chch jazz school and recently submitted his doctoral dissertation in ethnomusicology. Both his performing and research interests have led him to collaborative work with traditional Sri Lankan musicians. Among his recent tours in NZ, are his performances with the experimental jazz ensemble 'The Crust' and the world-jazz ensemble Mundi.
Isaac Smith is a bassist and tuba player whose recent performance credits include Kafka's 'The Trial with Stephen Bain, 'The Dentists Chair' with Indian Ink Theatre Company and tours with Wellington based groove shaman 'Fertility Festival'.
Jeff Henderson performs on clarinet and alto saxophone. He is an exponent of free improvisation and performance. His performing experience spans Australasia, Europe and Asia and has seen him collaborate with many internationally renowned musicians. As well as performing, he founded and until recently ran the independent performance venue Happy in Wellington.
Gayanath Dhahanayake began his musical studies at the age of 9, and by the age of 22, he had completed the Sangeeth Visharad qualification, (an Indian music degree). He is employed as a full-time musician for the Sri Lanka State Music Ensemble under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka and also a guest performing accompanist at Sri Lanka University of Visual and Performing Arts. As a professional percussionist with expertise in tabla, he has performed in Sri Lanka and overseas.
Ashoka Indrasiris vocal talents were identified in his early teens, when he was selected as the best young vocalist singing Buddhist religious songs in 1986. Since then, his musical training has taken him through a Bachelor of Performing Arts (specializing in vocals) at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo. He has been a music instructor at the Belwood Music Institute and a lecturer at the University of Visual and Performing Arts. As a performer, his talent as a freelance vocalist has seen him partake in leading concerts such as the oriental orchestras in Sri Lanka. Currently, Ashoka resides in India, pursuing a Masters degree in North Indian vocal music.
Chamila Sangeeth's main instruments are harmonium, keyboards and vocals and he is also a graduate of the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo. His early musical experience saw him maintain an exceptional record in all-island Music Contests including first place in classical music (1994), classical singing (1997), folk music (1998), and youth music producer (1998). Currently, Chamila works in popular music dramas and television programmes in Sri Lanka, as an instrumentalist and vocalist. His talent has seen him perform around Asia, including China, South Korea and Pakistan.
Debut album 'Raju Ravana' will be released soon!
A typical Serendib Sextet set consists of a range of Sri Lankan folk songs, Original Sri Lankan songs and experimental musical pieces.