Shehan and Shivy, two talented musicians, have embarked on a project that promotes music in Sri Lanka. Together with the restaurant A Minute by Tuk Tuk at One Galle Face, they host an open mic night every other Wednesday to celebrate the creative industry, spreading good vibes amongst great food and drinks.
Taking us through their journey in the music industry, Shehan explained that initially the two of them were in the same band called “The Rebels”. “In 2008, we took part in TNL Onstage and became the runners-up and also won an award for the Best Original Song.” After their smashing success, they were in demand and were eventually picked up by an individual who wished to manage them as a band. Shehan added that the rest is history.
Shivy elaborated on the moment he realised music was his calling. “It was when I was 17. I was still in school, and my other bandmates happened to also be in school with me, so that’s how the band was also formed and it’s been an exciting journey since.” He made note that the band was not officially together at the moment, as one of the key members is abroad studying music, adding that both he and Shehan have other commitments in their lives as well. “I’m not quite sure about a band reunion, but hopefully this will come to reality in the future.”
Speaking about their gig at A Minute by Tuk Tuk, Shehan explained that it was a relatively new concept, and it’s been about five weeks since they embarked on this project together. “We started this open mic to give an opportunity to young musicians who were out of work during quarantine, while also showcasing young talent.”
The idea behind this concept is targeted towards musicians who love their forte wholeheartedly and are simply looking for a place to show off their music in a chilled environment. Although it’s an open mic, they explained that it’s open to all creatives. “We’ve had comedians, magicians, and even a French poet. Anyone who wants to have a good time is welcome; it’s always a good time!”
Talking about how it came to be, Shivy added that he was initially conducting open mics Down South, and once the business minds behind A Minute by Tuk Tuk got in touch, this was an easy transition. Shehan interjected that before they began this, Colombo was quite dead in terms of entertainment, even though the coast was always happening. “Shivy was the best partner for this.”
They added: “With the vaccinations coming in, people will feel less hesitant about moving around, so we want to tell them to come experience a session. We promise you will be entertained.”
Initially, their plan was to host a session once a month, but upon receiving such great responses, they wanted to push it to every other week, in keeping with their busy schedule while still giving the audience something to look forward to after a couple weeks’ worth of stress.
The pandemic affected many industries; the music industry was hit particularly hard. Shivy talked about how he spent the pandemic. “I was in Mirissa with my brother and a few friends. We spent the lockdown at a friend’s hostel, so the quarantine was good.” He also added that even though he enjoyed the lockdown, musically, nothing was happening.
Adding to this, Shehan commented that the service and hospitality industry also suffered greatly during the pandemic, so this is a great way to work towards bringing both industries back on its feet. Going back to how he spent the lockdowns, he said that during quarantine, he and the rest of the band spoke about potential new music. “My bandmate said ‘let’s do something since we don’t have any other work’. All we knew was we wanted to do something new and innovative.”
After the band broke up, both Shehan and Shivy established themselves as freelance musicians, but with the pandemic, they have had time to look at creating some originals as a band. In exciting news for their fans, Shehan commented: “We are hopeful about publishing an album – maybe like an LP – with a few original tracks which we initially began working on 10 years ago but now have had the time to sit down and put in the work.”
He also explained that right after lockdown was when they began playing at A Minute by Tuk Tuk, adding that the restaurant wanted them to come and start things off on a high note, after such a troubling period of time.
“There was a good response. I think it’s because nobody was going out, as there was nothing to look forward to, but music brings people together,” observed Shehan. He also revealed that he never thought there would be such a good response; they invited all the musicians they knew and began jamming together as one. “There could be a bassist from one band playing with the frontman of another backed by a drummer from a different band. So it’s all a very big community coming together for the love of music.” All they had left to do was make sure this open mic continued.
Looking around the restaurant, we can confirm that Shehan’s words were definitely not empty; the crowds were pouring in, glasses in hand, singing along to the music, despite the two of them warning us that on a rainy day, the numbers dwindled.
Aside from their gig at A Minute by Tuk Tuk, they also play at Angel Beach in Unawatuna every other week on Fridays. After watching them play, we can undoubtedly urge you to keep a Wednesday or Friday free and catch one of their shows.
Photos Saman Abesiriwardana