Musical experiments! | Daily News

Musical experiments!

Affable and Flexible are two words to describe Sohan Weerasinghe of Sohan & the X-Periments. The band is a huge success due to the values Sohan has instilled in them. In that sense the band is an experiment in itself and the experiment is a success! Daily News speaks to Sohan Weerasinghe, one of the great entertainers of this day and age.

“When I was a law student in the early 70’s there was a group called the X-Periments already performing in Sri Lanka. All the members of the group migrated to Australia. I met the manager of the group. I asked him – ‘Would you mind if I take over the band and call it ‘Sohan and the X-periments’? He said –‘I am very happy if you could do that because I want the name to go on!’


 Sohan Weerasinghe. Picture by Thushara Fernando

At that time I was singing with ‘Gabo and The Breakaways’ and ‘Moonstones’ at the same time, having just entered the music field. So I moved away from them and formed my own band called ‘Sohan and the X-Periments’. Or course the name was already established in Sri Lanka,” said Weerasinghe.

Just like any other band throughout the years you don’t have the same line up. Band members come and go just like in any other field.

“But I kept the identity of the band right throughout. We don’t have regular signed contracts. So if a member wants to migrate or do something on his own, follow his own path they always have the freedom to move out and do their own thing. Just like any band in the world.

Even I moved out of ‘Gabo and the Breakaways’ and formed the X-Periments. See, I wanted to do my own thing. I learnt a lot working with Gabo and the Breakways and Moonstones. When you perform for somebody else you don’t have the freedom to do what you like. I wanted to fashion a band according to my expectations. That is why I moved out and did my own thing,” stated Weerasinghe.

Weerasinghe wanted to fashion a band the way he wanted and play at the gigs at the prices he wanted.

“At that time the Moonstones was led by Annesley Malawana. They wanted a Western Vocalist to do the Western Song because they were an Oriental group. They wanted a guy to do the Western Songs in the band. So I was singing with them while performing with ‘Gabo and the Breakaways’. My main band was the Breakaways but when I had time, when I was free I sang with the Moonstones. There comes a time when you feel that you are the master of your own destiny so I formed my own band Sohan and the X-Periments. I wanted to select my own band members and do it my way,” explained Weerasinghe.

When the band first began, he wanted the band to get experience by going abroad.

“We had never performed abroad till 1980, when we went to the Middle East to perform at the Intercontinental in Oman in Muscat. We went there for four months. They were so pleased with our performance they gave us another one years’ extension. Finally till 1985 we played at Muscat in the Intercontinental in Oman. It was a long standing contract. And as a band financially we were very stable. So our band members were able to build their own houses and we were able to do many thing because of this contract in the Middle East,” added Weerasinghe Also thanks to Sri Lanka Airlines, the band started visiting many other countries.

“We ended up going to Australia, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and all over Europe, London, USA and Canada. We performed mainly to Sri Lankan audiences who like bands to come and play Sri Lankan music there. Our song repertoire was Western as well as Oriental. We could play to any sort of audience. So it all worked out really well.

In Oman Intercontinental we were the hotel’s resident band. We lived at the Hotel for five years. That is where we learnt so much about different types of music. We had a Jazz night, we had a Country and Western night, we had a Disco Night, a normal dance night and we played for Barbecues on the lawn – Italian Barbecue and German Barbecue. So we learnt a little bit of French and Italian Songs and German Songs. Our repertoire widened. Country and Western night – we learnt a lot of country songs. As a result the band became very experienced after going to the Middle East. That was the start of our success.

Once in eight months the hotel gave us a month off. So we used to come twice a year. Once we came for Ramazan, because at that time there is no music in the Middle East. Then again after three or four months they gave us three and a half weeks off fully paid. So twice a year the band came to Sri Lanka. They were all married at the time and had families,” pointed out Weerasinghe It was a five start hotel so they were not only playing for Sri Lankan audiences.

“All the oil company executives were living there. So we learnt a lot of American/ Western songs. I developed myself as an entertainer really in Oman. Not just singing alone but the interaction you had with the crowd. So I learnt all of that by going to the Middle East. The pay was excellent,” said Weerasinghe

There is of course healthy competition with other bands.

“Sometimes bands undercut each other but that is there in every field. But the main thing is to be courageous and different and build your band name. So every gig I treat as an audition. To me customer satisfaction is important. I make sure I do what the client wants. If they are happy then we get repeat performances.

If you have too much of attitude, don’t do anything extra and you are not flexible people, will not like to work with you in the long run. People like to work with others who are easy going, go the extra mile and who are flexible. If we are booked for a show, I always tell the band it is alright if we perform a little longer. If it is half an hour more I never make a fuss. Of course if it is unreasonable and they want us to play for a longer duration then I charge a little more. It helps if the client recognizes me as flexible guy. It is good for a band leader to have good PR.

It is also important for a band leader to read the crowd and play what they, the crowd wants. I have to make sure we are pleasing the people who have booked us and satisfy the audience,” explained Weerasinghe.

The band does not stick to any one type of music. They play a little bit of everything.

“For you to survive you should not stereotype. You have to be able to have a wide repertoire. You have to widen your scope. That is one way of becoming successful. We can even satisfy a young audience. Especially at weddings they may want modern day hits. We can play songs from today’s charts. If they want ‘Fireball’ we can do it. Initially it was Elvis who had an impact upon my music. I liked the music of Engelbert and Tom Jones. My band members like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Then there are the Bee Gees and the Beatles. When we perform we do a little bit of all that. Then there is Backstreet boys and Justin Timberlake. But we admire them! oh yes very much! But at certain weddings we do totally oriental! They tell us that they only want Sinhala! We give them a song list and they select what they want. A success of a good leader is to lead the crowd. I keep on doing that. I have to be careful because at Weddings I cannot play Guns N’ Roses,” summed up Weerasinghe.

Currently the band members of X-Periments at the present are – Trishelle Wijetunga (Female Vocals), Neville Davidson (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Shobi Perera (Bass Guitar/ Vocals), Nuwan Galappaththi (Keyboard/Vocals), Thilak Samarakone (Drums/Vocals), Nishantha Siriwardena (Ethnic Percussion) and Sohan Weerasinghe (Lead Vocals)


 

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Or log in with...