NOT MISSING A BEAT

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Although not as notable among a majority of the local population, Sri Lanka is home to a number of artists and producers who make amazing electronic music, even topping charts around the world. Sajay is a great example of such talent. A veteran in Sri Lanka’s community of electronic music creators, he pursues his career by day and creates music, even publishing his work with international labels at night.

“Music has always been a big part of my life, even as a kid growing up,” Sajay shared. “My family used to play music very loud using big speakers, playing practically any genre that was out there, from jazz to rock,” he recounted.

“I guess you could say that as a result, I was able to develop a very good grounding and understanding of music across multiple genres, and I fell in love with music.”

As time went by, Sajay started exploring his own musicality and sound, picking and choosing sounds and genres he like, taking a particular affinity to rock music. “I’m still a big rock head,” he admitted with a smile. “I love bands such as Linkin Park, Radiohead, Pink Floyd and I take a lot of inspiration from these guys.” Sajay explained that in electronic music, he discovered certain nuances, expressions and emotions that were common between the two genres, which played a big part in forming his own personal flavour of music as an artist.

Discovery

“My dad used to DJ for fun back in the day, so he taught me a few things on the console. Of course, it all began with a very bad laptop, and a very early version of Virtual DJ, where everything would freeze and sometimes even crash when you loaded up a track,” he laughed.

He shared that this naturally transitioned into taking up gigs which helped him discover a group of peers that soon became lifelong friends, all who were interested in making music and helping one another. “I was very lucky to meet a good group of young boys who were on a similar path as me. We all supported each other,” he recounted. Working together, perfecting their craft on the console, at a time when electronic music and DJ-ing wasn’t as popular, Sajay and his friends worked hard, practicing with every opportunity they had to work with a console, building connections, gradually making a name for himself and building his network.

Evolution

This led to Sajay taking up gigs in many places such as Clique, Botanik and other locations across the island. But the friends including Sajay wanted to take things further.

“Globally, the music industry works with people who make their own music. You need to have your own individuality. We wanted to elevate the platform in Sri Lanka, locally for everybody,” he shared. “This was before YouTube was a thing mind you,” he added. “We would just download the software, try to learn from wherever we could, experiment and we started making some really bad music,” he laughed.

“We stuck to it, refined our craft and maybe about a year or two later we started releasing demos to international record labels across Europe, North America, Russia and different labels across the globe that were in the progressive house music sphere that we were creating in,” he added.

Getting in

“It works like any university application. If you’re good enough, you’ll get in,” Sajay explained. “If your song is on a certain level, they sign it for you, and that’s how we started releasing tracks.”

Of course, creating tracks that records labels are willing to sign for is a completely different game, which involves creators exploring their musicality, expressing themselves, a mastery of the necessary technical skills and creating an experience for the listener.

Sajay’s creative inspiration mainly comes from his love for rock, and his favourite bands. Whether it be a unique effect they’ve created, or something creative they’ve done in production or use of chords. “It all translates very well into our style of electronic music.”

The balancing act

But unlike full-time producers, Sajay has to play a careful balancing act, managing his time between his career at work, and his career in making music, among the many other responsibilities he has.

““I’m definitely still in the process of perfecting that balance,” he chuckled. “But I’ve learnt not to burn myself out, sitting in front of the computer.” For Sajay, striking a balance between work and creating music has been allowing himself to be in a healthy headspace. “I try to maintain a few healthy routines, take care of my exercise and diet, I also try to practice daily meditation as well,” he explained.

Sajay also shared that scheduling in his time producing music and having a routine to get into the creative mood after work has also helped him in being consistent in his work, without losing balance.

But the most effective skill by far for Sajay to maintain a balanced lifestyle, is avoiding the pressure to continually churn out new music.

“Being in a country where inspiration can sometimes be pretty hard to come by for a lot of people here in the creative industry, not just music. It’s difficult, and being in the electronic industry, the field is very narrow,” he commented. 

“If I’m not feeling the music, I wouldn’t try to force it.”

“There’s a lot of pressure, seeing people on social media being out there, sending out new music all the time, but I’ve learnt to bide my time,” Sajay continued. “For lack of a better phrase, I’ve learnt not to choke it to death. If it feels good, I go all out and let the creativity flow, but when it doesn’t I just leave it and come back another time. There’s no rush, the world isn’t going anywhere, and that has been a healthier mind-set that I’ve been building on.”

Want to become a creator?

“I think it is an amazing time to start learning how to produce music. There is so much resources freely available. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. If you’re hungry and you are ambitious, and you want to learn. If you work hard at it, results will show, without a doubt.”

“Keep yourself inspired. Don’t overthink things too much. Music is fun, it’s for everybody. If it feels good, it is good, and if it doesn’t, then leave it for a bit and come back to it another time. Find a space where you can be creative, where it’s quiet and you can express yourself freely. Learn from the best, and refine your craft, but have tunnel vision to create freely. Be brave enough to make your own sound and craft your own brand of music, because that’s what the world needs right now, originality, something new and the moment you find it, everyone is going to latch on to it. Be yourself, and always be creative.”

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage