2020 has drained all of us on so many fronts – physically, emotionally, financially, and most of all, socially. It is important to remember that when times became dark, we turned to creators to help us make it through. We turned to books, movies, music, and a whole host of other content and activities to keep us going in lockdown and after and power through uncertain times.
While these uncertain times are by no means over, with the pandemic still in full force, we have also reached the point where we have realised that the pandemic is now something we must live with.
Rock and heavy metal music is often an unsung creative hero, and a genre that rock and heavy metal enthusiasts and conceptual event organisers the Suriya Brothers have always championed. Other events conceptualised by the Suriya Brothers include Rock Saturday, Acoustic Saturday, Metal United Worldwide, Wacken Metal Battle Sri Lanka, and Colombo Open Air. Suriya Brothers is also the official album partner for Stigmata’s fifth album.
Following 2020, the Suriya Brothers are approaching 2021 with new zeal, and an all-new event lineup for the whole of 2021. Rockdown is a series of concerts taking place every Saturday for the rest of the year that will feature rock and heavy metal, acoustic rock, and other genres and talent as well.
The story behind Rockdown
The Morning Brunch spoke to Suriya Brothers Founder and Director Pubudu Suriyapperuma for more on Rockdown, how Suriya Brothers handled 2020, and their thoughts for 2021.
Suriya Brothers – an expansion of the Suriyapperumas’ import/export business – is Suriyapperuma’s brainchild, which he runs with his brother Asanga, who handles operations and marketing. “We do only conceptualised events,” Suriyapperuma explained, adding: “We are an organisation that nurtures talent and focuses on original music by original artists.”
Rockdown is a weekly concert series that will take place from March (its first edition took place on 6 March) until the end of 2021 (except on holidays that fall on Saturdays like May Day and Christmas). Suriyapperuma explained that the Rockdown concept was born to allow bands to perform; not just established bands, but fresh bands as well. “It’s a chance for fresh bands to introduce their genres and play their favourite covers,” Suiryapperuma said, adding: “And for people who come to get to know what rock and heavy metal is, and what Sri Lankan rock and heavy metal artists do.”
Suriyapperuma also shared that Rockdown is an opportunity for people to support local bands and music, as opposed to frequenting trendy night spots and listening to bands who simply play covers of other artists’ music.
Speaking on how Rockdown is breaking boundaries, Suriyapperuma explained that the Rockdown event platform is the first of its kind to provide rock and heavy metal bands with a weekly platform to showcase their talent and an established payroll; something that has never been done before for rock and heavy metal performers. “Usually, performances would normally take place like once a month, but we’ve always made sure bands go home with some sort of financial reward,” Suriyapperuma said, adding: “Their livelihoods are dependent on music and there has to be a value for art.”
Jamming through the pandemic
Safety is paramount, and this is at the forefront of the Suriya Brothers’ minds. “Right now, because of the nature of the country, we’re limiting Rockdown to a small number of people with strict rules and regulations,” Suriyapperuma explained, adding: “And this is how it will be until the gates are properly able to open again.”
Some of the rules implemented to make Rockdown include limiting where tickets are sold to keep careful track of the numbers of people attending, tickets sold in advance only with no tickets available at the gate, heavy scrutiny by the health sector at the event itself, and the discontinuation of activities that can contribute to the spread of Covid-19, like moshing.
Speaking on how the pandemic and 2020 affected Suriya Brothers, Suriyapperuma shared that as a rule, Suriya Brothers generally plans its activities two to three years ahead, but never expected 2020 to unfold as it did. “Normally, we put out a schedule for our fans for the whole year, but once we got to know about Covid-19, we had to cancel a lot of stuff. After the first lockdown ended, we launched a concert just for the people who’d been suffering inside, called Uncaged. It was sold out almost immediately, but we couldn’t host it because of the second wave. We are now holding Uncaged on 11 December 2021 at the Otter Aquatic Club.”
The lockdown has left people wanting to celebrate their favourite music genres, with Suriyapperuma sharing that Uncaged sold more than 400 tickets, despite Suriya Brothers’ attempts to keep the concert minimal and control crowds. This demand also played a part in the postponement of Uncaged.
For Suriyapperuma, Rockdown is all about getting people going again. “We don’t actually push people, but we also want to keep them going because nothing has been happening for the last year and three months. Pubs have events taking place with their DJs and whatnot, but nothing has been taking place with rock and heavy metal.”
While 2020 saw a lot of bands from all genres surviving by putting their recorded originals on social platforms, Suriyapperuma explained that the main survival point and motivation of most bands is to play in front of a live crowd, and this has been sorely lacking in 2020. “For it to happen in 2021, someone needs to take the initiative to do these things again and get these bands playing their own genres and other unique genres, while also giving them the chance to get some cash into their hands.”