BETWEEN BEATS AND STICKS
Musical performance is an inherently theatrical experience. Drumming in particular requires the artist’s autonomy in composition and endurance in performance, which cannot replicate the action in presence and effect. Performance artist, Aruna Siriwardhana’s inimitable style of drumming is characterized by his sharp improvisational instincts and formidable inter-genre prowess. The artist’s fierce energy coupled with rolling beat and his loose yet clear time have stimulated audiences since 1976, when he joined ‘The Emeralds’ at the age of 17 as a drummer.
Aruna’s idiosyncratic, primal take on drumming stems from many creative influences. In conversation, he stated that he receives infinite inspiration through interactions with artists around him. We found that as a performance artist, Aruna is extremely uncomfortable talking of himself and his artistry to no avail. He fondly recalls his first music teacher, Olga de Livera whom he describes as “an angel” under whom he was trained in the classical curriculum as a pianist, fuelling his passion and skill which heavily influenced his idiosyncratic melodic drumming style. In 1978, Aruna received the opportunity to be a part of the revered band ‘The Jetliners’. The experience he accumulated during the one and a half years he performed with the Jetliners contributed to form a vivid musical pronouncement. Mignonne Fernando, who spearheaded the band is recalled by Aruna as “a vital cornerstone of whatever I am or I have become”. In 1976, The Jetliners reached its pinnacle of success and toured Hawaii, Hong Kong and upon their return to Sri Lanka, Aruna watched the band and was inspired by the delightful performance of the drummer, Hassan Musafer, whom he eventually became cordial with and refers to with brotherly affection.
Neri Fernandes known for his internationally acclaimed exceptional piano artistry and late Stuart De Silva, the pianist are defined by Aruna to be some of the finest musicians and human beings. Constant interaction with these prolific artists together with David Sansoni, the incredible tenor and light baritone of the St Paul’s Anglican Church.
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