Reaching up to the stars | Daily News

Reaching up to the stars

Criticism is a common aspect in today’s society, be it positive or negative criticism. But most of the time what we see is negative criticism, or more like hate speech towards an individual, what he’s doing or the way he lives his life.

Why I wanted to bring out that subject was, Harith Wijeratne also had to go through a lot of criticism for his way of singing, his dress sense etc, but at the end overcame all obstacles and emerged as the winner of one of the leading reality TV shows in Sri Lanka, with a lineup of some of the top music icons in the country as the judging panel.

This was one contest which was praised by everyone for its team work, good rapport and interaction between the coaches and the contestants. It was refreshing to see how each contestant was encouraged and advised by each judge despite which team he/she was in. Yes, that was the ‘Voice Sri Lanka’. The contestants were always encouraged to be themselves on stage without making themselves uncomfortable, and they were free to have their own style. Our guest on today’s T&C fondly recalls that it was one reason why he could reach his ultimate goal. Whoever the contestant was, they wanted to bring out a talented individual at the end. A fourth year medical Student at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura , he is a classic example of what you call intelligence mixed with a passion for arts and music


Q: Congratulations on your achievement. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Harith Wijerathne. I am 25 years old. I am an only child and I schooled at Royal College, Colombo 7. I graduated from Royal College in 2015. And I got through to medical school through my first attempt to Sri Jayawardenepura University. I am a full time medical student as of now.

Q: What do you feel about your achievement?

It feels so unreal! As I have mentioned before, it feels like a real thing, and at the same time processing what I achieved, and I’m still in the process of doing that.

Q: Who or what encouraged you to join this contest?

Actually many people, starting from my parents motivated me. My parents always wanted me to apply for reality and showcase my talents and I always waited for the right competition to come along. So I thought this was the competition, so when my friends told me to apply, one from my own batch, and my best friend from the Management faculty of the same University. So they told me to apply and I applied, and I got a call back surprisingly, and I’m surprisingly here. (laughs)

Q: How did it feel to be among all those popular musicians and your fellow contestants?

To be honest, I feel honoured to be coached by such great icons in Sri Lankan music, and also to admire the fellow contestant’s talents, and to jam backstage, we have been doing that, and we have been appreciating each other’s talents backstage, and it’s been such a pleasure within the span of one year in the competition. To be in that competition was such an uplifting experience, as a musician myself.

Q: Was music in your blood from those days itself?

I would say yes, according to the testaments of my parents, they have been saying that I started to sing as soon as I started to speak. They wanted me to do these little ‘’bits’’ from small advertisements etc, and I used to imitate the operatic voice when I was 6 years old. I also took part in lot of school concerts, including ‘saga’ we took part in that from 2004 to 2013.I took part in almost all of the concerts which took place. So yeah, that’s where I got the start to my musical journey.

Q: What was the reaction from your family when you told them you were going to participate in this contest?

They were very supportive. They were like, ‘Why didn’t you apply before? Why are you doing this now? You should have done this way before’ that’s what their response was. They were, you know, scolding me for not applying. I was like, ‘Ok, calm down, I’ll do this’. They actually admired the confidence that I had in myself. Though I used to joke about it with them, I always had it in my heart to become the ‘Voice Sri Lanka’. So that was actualized, and I’m really happy about that.

Q: How was the support which you got from Umariya as your coach?

Immense level of support I should say. As a coach she’s very hands on, like a mother, sister to us, and the most special thing about her coaching is it’s tailor made. It’s not one sized all sort of an approach. She knows how to read a person and coach them accordingly. So that was very impressive. As a very young coach, herself, she did a very fantastic job, getting people to be comfortable, on stage and performing and being themselves, essentially. So that was very important and I think the credit should go to her as much as I performed on stage.

Q: How did you find the other coaches?

What you see on screen is what you see off screen as well. The other coaches, the way that they appreciate the other talents of young people on stage, off camera as well, sometimes they looked at the arrangements and appreciated, and they encouraged us all the way through up to the finale.

Q: So you worked together as a team?

Yes. Even though there are four separate entities, it was not.

Q: So what were the experiences which you got from this contest?

I had a good understanding of music, I had an awareness of what I could do , but in this competition I got to know the intricacies of what I was capable of. That’s one of the biggest takeaways of the competition. The other thing was how to perform and how to become yourself, that’s also one thing I learnt from the competition.

Q; How did you manage to balance your studies with your competition practices, auditions etc?

One of my lecturers told me a good way of doing this. Her name is Esha Premathilake , so she helped me from the Pathology department of the University , she told me to compartmentalize – basically not think about – block out the music stuff when you’re studying and when you’re practicing music , block out all the studying. So compartmentalization is the key to balance two drastically different fields. So I have been following that ever since.

Q: At some point certain people tended to criticize you for your singing?

First of all, I should say I feel confident about myself. The fact I got through the blind audition, and it was highly acclaimed by the coaches as well as the majority of the people was a good yardstick for me to measure my talent and say, ‘’ ok, I’m talented and I can do it’’ but when I got criticism it was the fact that I was singing my head voice. Actually the falsetto. I have sort of an enforced falsetto, so it sounds like a female voice to some people. So some people took issue with that. I don’t take it as an insult when people say that’’ you sing like a woman ‘’in my opinion, we are both equally capable. That was the first thing and the other thing was my fashion sense. People were saying I was wearing Pink, etc. Honestly I don’t know why they are doing that. The key to tolerate all that is just blocking it out, whatever. I’m confident in my own skin, I can be myself on stage, and that’s not something most of those who criticize can say.

Q: What do you think about criticism in general?

As I said before, I know the difference between hate speech and criticism. When somebody comes from a hateful place I can immediately sense it. Over the years I have developed that skill. The other thing is criticism, which comes from a very kind place. So when they say, ‘Ok, your pitching was a bit unstable there’ ‘You could have added more emotion’, then I understand. I take that as constructive criticism, and based on that I try to improve myself. When people say, ‘You sing like a woman’ that’s not criticism. That’s hateful. So I don’t take it seriously. So I kind of sift through the comments, talking the good points and blocking out the negative points.

Q: Who were the musicians who supported you throughout this journey?

It was another point where people criticized me for, because I registered myself in Umara Sinhawansa ‘s classes. And that was something I did after I applied for the voice, so I took interest in it because I was always interested in that duo of sisters. Their level of talent and their contribution to the music industry etc,that was one thing I was criticized for , but she really supported me as much as coach Umaria did,and also coach Kasun , Coach BNS, coach Shasika, they also gave me very encouraging comments. And good constructive points for me to improve myself.

Q: Through this contest you won a considerable prize. What do you hope to do with it in future?

I want to invest in myself, and also in my music career, maybe do some charity work along the way, if time permits.

Q: Anything new coming up?

Yes, I’m working on an original right now, so probably it’s going to be released next week.

Q: What are your future aspirations as such?

I want to become a doctor. I’m in the process of becoming a doctor. I’m also a professional musician as of now. So what I want to do is to find a sweet balance between those two careers and excel in both ways.

Pictures by Nirosh Batapola

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