Sri Lankan Prabuddha Shyamal, a self-taught guitarist with a speciality in bass guitar and percussion instruments such as the cajon and drums had a dream of showing the world his musical talents.
A few years ago, Shyamal decided on a whim to follow his undying passion for music, by travelling the world, busking, and playing his music wherever he was able to. He arrived in India last year, with big dreams of touring the country. After visiting many parts of the country, with his guitar in hand, he arrived at Bengaluru, which was supposed to be the last stop of his tour. He was all set to fly back to Sri Lanka to begin recording his debut album. Rather unfortunately, he got stranded there, as that was around the time Sri Lanka announced its first lockdown, and he was unable to fly back due to the country’s restrictions.
Giving us an insight to his experience, Shyamal commented: “I started off playing in Ladakh, then visited Mumbai and Goa, and finally Bengaluru because I had a flight from Chennai to Sri Lanka in a couple of days.” He added that right before his flight, the airports shut down and he was stuck there for six months.
His rules for travel are simple, as Shyamal is a firm believer in packing light. He told us that wherever he goes, the two things he will always have on him, despite the countries he’s chosen for his next adventure would be his guitar and amplifier. “I wander around the streets, guitar in hand, playing my heart out to whoever would listen. That is what my music is.”
When we asked him how he survived the six months in Bengaluru, he explained that he had been staying at a hotel, which was very nice to accommodate him for his unexpectedly long stay. Shyamal said that even though the first lockdown was only three months, the airports were still not entirely functional in Sri Lanka, so he had no choice but to wait until the second wave had arrived and receded. Sharing an interesting anecdote of his experience at the hotel, he said: “During the first three months, I had a picture of myself up on the hotel walls, because I was there for a very long time, in comparison to their other guests.”
Talking more about this engrossing situation, he also added: “The manager at the hotel was a really nice guy. They even offered us gas and a gas cooker so we could prepare our meals, which really helped with my homesickness.”
As hospitable the hotel was to him, everything comes with a price; Shyamal revealed that he had to pay roughly around Indian Rs. 2,500 for the hotel throughout his stay. He explained that he had to earn his keep by taking up whatever gigs came his way in Bengaluru, and he also engaged in quite a bit of busking. “I enjoy busking a lot; you get to meet new people, understand cultures, and have fun with your audience.” With the pandemic ongoing at a bad rate at the time, gigs were quite hard to come by, Shyamal noted, adding that busking was a lot easier than scovering for gigs.
When it comes to his music, his forte is rock ‘n’ roll, the blues, and hip hop along with an avid interest in classical music.
He added that he would love to travel again this year, but the pandemic is really not a good time for musicians. “Business is down and with my experience last time, I don’t think I want to risk travelling and getting stranded again,” he joked. His one hope for this year is that the pandemic dies down, and he will be able to embark on his adventures once again. He also has plans to release his very own album this year, that he has been working on throughout the lockdowns, as, he explained, there are not many musicians in Sri Lanka that play bass, which is one of his strongholds.