With the uncertainty of 2020 and the multiple waves of Covid-19 that have hit us, going out, depending on who you ask, has become slightly sombre with social distancing and controlled numbers.
Even now, in the wake of Covid-19, a Friday or Saturday night at the restaurant and entertainment hub that is known as Park Street is always an evening well spent, especially now with Asian restaurant Monsoon Colombo having resumed its weekend performances with the stylings of acoustic soloist Ravin Ratnam.
With performers like Ratnam making their way back to interesting spots like Monsoon Colombo, there is hope that things are slowly picking up again and heading back towards normalcy, albeit a new form of it. The Morning Brunch chatted with Ratnam to learn a little more about how the crooner got into the music business.
Getting into music
Ratnam shared that he comes from a musical family, with both his parents being professional performers. “I’ve been in music since roughly 2003, around 18 years ago now. I’ve been into music from my small days, but got into it properly through the church I attended and the music I was exposed to at home,” Ratnam said.
Through his 18-year musical journey, Ratnam has explored a few different genres of music, starting with his first love, rock and heavy metal. “My first proper live gig was with the band Mute, a band started by my brother and some guys from church. It was a metal band and my debut in public music. I was a bassist at 13, and the other guys were 18 to 20 years old. It was exciting being in a band that young, playing music that was deemed rebellious. Being exposed to something like that was awesome for me.”
Mute lasted about one-and-a-half years before eventually splitting because its young members were following their own paths in life, leaving the country for higher studies, and so on, and so Ratnam formed his own band, The FuzMechan-X playing hard rock, grunge, and fusion music. The FuzMechan-X went on to win “Best Band” at the home-grown music competition showcase TNL Onstage in 2006, going on to release some of their own music in 2008.
Looking back on the experience, Ratnam shared that winning TNL Onstage was a turning point, adding: “We started getting a lot of gigs, and The FuzMechan-X went on till about 2009, performing at gigs with Stigmata and similar bands and getting exposure. 2009 was when we had our last gig as The FuzMechan-X; it came to an end because some of the guys had to leave for studies.”
The year 2012 saw Ratnam formally founding the band R.A.G.E., which got its first start in 2010 with a single gig but wasn’t formally founded till 2012, when Ratnam found the proper lineup to carry it forward. R.A.G.E is still playing today, although its lineup has evolved over the years to include other artists.
Getting into acoustic music
Through the 2010s, Ratnam played with a lot of commercial bands, some of which he started on his own and some others he joined as a guest, including the contemporary and pop band Inner Voice; reggae and pop band “The Rebels; hard/contemporary rock band Soul Free; pop, rock, and dance music band Dee Zone; and two bands with which he still plays to date – jazz, blue, retro, funk, and soul band A Team and funk, jazz, and blues band Brown Sugar.
Ratnam shared that after joining the band Dee Zone, with whom he played for one year, he got interested in acoustic music and that became the basis of his launchpad into the genre. “In 2011, I got the chance to play at the then InterContinental Hotel as an acoustic solo guitarist. But then, with the hotel closing and all that, I wasn’t getting enough work,” Ratnam said, explaining that in 2013, the management of the hotel, which had then rebranded as The Kingsbury, Colombo, asked him to come back creating his full break into acoustic music. He was also a part of the band A Team, which helped him develop a lot musically, opening him up to a completely new side of music he’d never fully tried before.
Having formed quite a reputation as an acoustic soloist, Ratnam shared that heavy metal and acoustic, while completely different, are both forms of music he is completely at home with. “Heavy metal is completely different; when you play it there is always a crowd and once you touch a certain fan base or market, there are die-hard people who will enjoy your music and show their feelings and emotions when you’re on stage, which is very exciting,” Ratnam explained. “Acoustic music gives me the freedom to do anything I like and express myself musically in the way I want to do. It doesn’t hold me back in any way.”
Keeping it going in 2021
With the last two years being very tough for anyone in the entertainment field, Ratnam shared that he hopes to record an acoustic album and is currently figuring things out to make this album take shape. He’s also started guitar lessons in an attempt to zone into a specific scene in the solo and acoustic industry. He’s also working on trying to start up R.A.G.E with a new lineup as well as another band he has hopes of initiating.
Speaking to aspiring musicians, Ratnam encouraged young musicians to follow the kind of music they really like and to try to work towards creating music they enjoy making rather than following it for the money.
“Money is important, but you need to find a balance. If you’re passionate about something, go for it and don’t waste time. It’s good to start off as early as possible. Own your instrument and what you do with it. The influences you’re born with are the strength you have. See how the crowd is responding to your take and be able to take feedback and be careful to balance it with your vision. It may not always be the best way to go, but sometimes it’s important to do what you’re passionate about.”