‘Patriots of Humanity’: A first-of-its-kind creation
By Pujanee Galappaththi
The artistes lending their talent in this production include Achala; veteran musicians Chitral Somapala, Ravibandu Vidyapathi, and Rohitha and Rohan Jayalath of Jaya Sri; Shiraz (Rude Bwoy); Natasha Rathnayake; Suresh De Silva and Tennyson Napoleon of Stigmata; David Luchow; Tamara St. John; Natalie Gooneratne; Sanjeev Niles; Hirushi Jayasena; Rap zilla LKM; Sudarshan Arumugam; Niranjani Shanmugaraja; Sachithra Madusanka; Shanudrie Priyasad; Vidhu, Kavi, and Yasal of November Romeo; Lucky Lakmina Agalawatte; Nick Leoz; Jesh Arulrajah; Randy Chriz Perera.
Speaking on the vibrant artistes that were part of his project, Achala said: “The most memorable thing for me is the love, energy, assistance, and encouragement extended by veteran musicians to a humble musician like me – it was phenomenal. Also, the support rendered to me by everyone who made my subsistence easy in this curfew situation whilst working on this project day in and day out was incredible. I felt that there was humanity in this world. Each musician infused their own colour, vibe, energy, and style into the song and transformed it to become incredible with a different touch, making it one of a kind.”
Achala, widely known as Mr. A Official in the industry, is the Director and Co-owner of AAA Rated Productions, the company that undertook this project. He is also a music producer, DJ, VFX artist, vocalist, radio presenter, and the Assistant Production Manager at Kiss FM Sri Lanka. He was a former radio presenter at Sun FM and TV presenter at Channel Eye and began his career at HDPL after completing his education at Trinity College, Kandy.
The idea behind this song was generated by Achala himself – an attack against the keyboard heroes that have been ruling social media sites, implanting the imprudent idea that a particular community was responsible for the spread of coronavirus. After deciding to preach his lesson through music, Achala contacted Lakmina; urging his support for the cause, he readily agreed after which several other artistes too were contacted, who all agreed to lend their voices. The list just kept growing like a snowball gathering momentum. And the final count of artistes was 24.
We asked Achala what the core message of the song was, to which he said: “The ballad of life may cease to exist abruptly, regardless of religion, race, colour, or creed. This is signified by the flat line at the end of the video that unexpectedly ends the song at its crescendo. In this global pandemic, not riches, not material belongings, not high-flying jobs, nor pride matters. Nothing does, except life. Life belongs to everyone. Not just a single race or colour. The virus does not discriminate. So why should we? Doesn’t humanity cure all ills? This is our message to the world.”
He added that the thinking behind the name was built around the idea that a patriot is a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors and that he wanted to transcend beyond this definition and engage each person of this country and the world to be defenders of humanity. “Fundamentally, aren’t we all humans above everything else? What use is life without humanity? Thus, the name ‘Patriots of Humanity’ was born,” he added.
Working with the challenges of social/physical distancing and curfew, we were told that the base melody and demo track were composed by Achala and sent to the artistes with the eight bars allocated to each artist. The lyrics of Chitral Somapala and Rohitha and Rohan Jayalath were written by Sakunthala Dissanayake. The rest of the musicians wrote their own lyrics and adapted their individual melodies to the demo. Those who had a home recording studio used it, but the majority recorded their parts on their phones and forwarded them to Achala.
Once each artiste’s piece was sent to Achala, he mixed it, plugging in each part onto the track according to its genre so that it blended with a flow that was smooth and melodic. He also introduced percussion, synth, and acoustic sounds so that it all came together as a whole. Genres like trap, rap, opera, rock, classical, soul, and ragga drum and bass were all infused to create it.
Achala managed to put together the first-of-its-kind 360° VR video in Sri Lanka, using the modest hardware that his company owned. It was Achala’s blood, sweat, and tears along with his persistence and dedication of nearly a month of sleepless nights that made this vision a success.
Speaking of the challenges faced during production, Achala explained that while coming from humble beginnings, they were not deterred by the state of their hardware. “I did it all on a laptop from 2012 with the aid of Ableton and Adobe’s After Effects, Premier, and Photoshop. The final renderings took more than 28 hours in total and there were bugs to fix. But the journey continued,” he said, adding that this experience taught him that nothing is impossible if we set our hearts and minds to it.
Asked if he believed that Covid-19 has pushed the boundaries of virtual art, Achala said that art has no boundaries and that this moment is a harsh eye-opener for everyone on the limitless possibilities available. The current pandemic has pushed our own limits to explore vistas that were unheard of.
“This entire piece of work – both audio and video – was done using 24 voices recorded on mobile phones and produced on a single laptop. It is a nudge to each one of us that the limits we set are our own, self-imposed boundaries, and if we are ready to cross borders with whatever tools we have, possibilities are infinite. Hence, Covid-19 or not, we should constantly strive to break boundaries and push our limits. Only then do we reach our fullest potential,” he shared.
Finally, Achala took this opportunity to thank November Romeo who has been with him since school, his music teacher at Trinity College in Kandy Ms. Chryshanthi Cabral Surendrakumar for believing in him and pushing him to be the best version of himself, his parents for raising him to be who he is today, his loving children Shenaya and Joshua, fellow Director and Co-founder of AAA Rated Productions Anoushka Fernando for the enduring support in liaising with artistes throughout the entire project, and all the wonderful humans who have faith in humanity.
You can find Patriots of Humanity on YouTube