Going Strong

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By Shanuka Kadupitiyage

Ceylon Today Features

Music has the power to change lives, and for Supun Perera, it has had the power to change his. The popular artiste is known for recent hit singles such as Prathihari and Prema Chaaya. Although a hit success now, his journey is one of self-discovery, courage and dedication to his craft. Ceylon Today had the opportunity to learn more about him and his story.

Starting out

Born and raised in Gampaha, Supun obtained his education at President’s College Minuwangoda before setting out to complete his university education at the Peradeniya University. 

Although he enjoyed music and singing – even participating in many school musical shows – Supun pursued an education in Business Administration instead of the arts. But that didn’t stop him and a group of friends coming together to create a band and play music together. 

It wasn’t until he was encouraged to take part in a popular reality TV singing competition that the prospects of a career in music started to appear in Supun’s mind. 

“I did my best and placed seventh in the competition,” he recounted. “I started to think that maybe I could succeed if I tried.”

A slight detour

But those thoughts had to be put on hold. Supun had a degree to complete which had been on hold whilst pursuing his singing competition. But after successfully completing his university degree, Supun went straight into finding employment. 

“I worked for about two-to-three years,” he shared. “I had a stable income, and a clear career progression. But I couldn’t help but wonder if I was happy in life. If I was happy in what I am doing.” 

Realising he needed to make the change, Supun decided to take the plunge. Throwing all caution out the window, he quit his job and began a full time musical career.

“It was risky, but I knew that this is what I enjoyed. So why not take the risk and follow this path for my dream?” 

A thorny road

The journey to Supun’s dream wasn’t laid with flowers. Even with the safe cushion of his savings, gaining recognition in the music industry isn’t an easy task. 

“Making music is expensive,” Supun admitted. “You have to pay for producing, pay rent for studio space, on top of that, I didn’t live in Colombo at that time. I would often get late after a recording and miss the last train back home. I’ve spent many nights sleeping at the Maradana station with nowhere to go.” 

Tides turn in favour

However, the uphill struggle paid off when the tides began turning in Supun’s favour after Radhawani, a collaboration between Charitha Attalage and Supun. The song gained a lot of popularity, which helped listeners be introduced to Supun’s music.

“It was also a great motivator for me to keep making more music,” he added.

Supun continued making more of his music, and his audience kept growing. 

”Compared to more mainstream artistes, my music doesn’t have a massive outreach,” he admitted. “But I ended up finding my own niche, with an audience who continued to listen to my music.” 

Like many artistes, all of Supun’s hard work paid off. Growing until the floodgates opened with a song that put him on the map as a bona fide artiste. 

“Prathihari was the turning point for me,” he shared. “The song became very popular, very quickly. It caught the hearts of the people, and is also a very special song for me. The song also opened a lot of doors for me to continue on to the next stage of my career.” 

Setback after setback 

Supun amassed a lot of momentum with his single Prathihari, but that all fell short since the pandemic came into full force not long after.  

“I was at a peak in my career when the pandemic happened,” Supun recounted. “It wasn’t just me, many artistes struggled to make an income outside of streaming services when musical shows and other events had to be shut down.” 

Not long after, Supun temporarily lost his voice but he is better now. “I’m not back in full strength, but I’ve recovered quite a bit now,” he shared. 

A sprinkle of old, a dash of new

Although Supun’s music takes inspiration from many Sri Lankan greats such as Rookantha Gunathilaka, H. R Jothipala and the maestro Amaradewa himself, his biggest musical influence comes from across the sea – classical Indian music, from musical greats such as A.R Rahman and Arijit Singh.   

“I used to watch a lot of Bollywood films,” he explained. “And I fell in love with their musical elements, which is why you might hear some of its flavour in my music as well.” 

“I started making original music around the year 2017, when the local music scene among the youth had somewhat of a renaissance. Young artistes started mixing classical elements in music while adding a modern feel to it as well.”

“Not a lot of people would have expected the ‘modern classical genre’ to come from young musicians, who previously had gained somewhat of a bad reputation thanks to a lot of cheesy music being made.”

Supun admitted that like many who made music in the modern classical genre, he never expected it to be as popular as it did. Even so, the nature of music is constantly changing.

The future

“At the moment, hip hop music is becoming very popular among Sri Lankan listeners, especially among the youth,” he opined. “Popular music evolves fast, and apps like TikTok now have a massive influence on popularising new songs. And who knows what will be the next big thing in Sri Lankan popular music.”

Supun himself is interested in experimenting with new sounds and genres. “I don’t want to stick to only one genre. I want to try new things in my music and collaborate with different artists and producers too.” 

Even with a fast-changing industry, Supun is confident that new good music will always be made, regardless of the time or period. “There will be many trends, but the people who care about meaningful lyrics, quality music will still be there, and timeless music will always be exist.” 

“Things can change. New ideas, sounds and technology will undoubtedly change the nature of the music we listen to. But even then, the core value of good music will not change. Whatever trend comes and goes, people will still love good music.” 

“You can expect a lot of new things from me as well this year. I’ve got some amazing projects in the works, and I’m excited when I’ll be able to share everything with all my listeners. I want to thank them all for being with me, and I wanted to thank everyone who wished me a speedy recovery when I was ill.”

“I just want everyone to know that my best is yet to come, and I’m only getting started.”