From 60F to 30F in 24 hours, Boston’s weather has been quite a spectacle to experience. As I sit at my dining table, sipping on coffee while it snows outside, Sanchitha Wickremesooriya is enjoying the 80F sunshine in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He laughs when I show him the snow on Skype.
“The sun is where it’s at!” he chuckles. Having finished his last semester at Berklee in the Fall of ‘15, Sanchitha is back in Colombo, multi-tasking and handling various projects. He tells me how he wants to restart his Family Record Label, Sooriya. Surprised, I realize there’s a lot I don’t know about his background.
I can’t believe you’ve never told me about your record label! What else haven’t you told me about your musical background Sanchitha?
I started singing when I was four and a half years old under the guidance of Mary Anne David, a voice instructor in Sri Lanka. My parents said I never really spoke much but used to sing all the time instead! Ever since, I’ve been part of many productions at the Mary Anne School of Music. I also started learning the piano around the same time and this really helped me with the school choir. I ended up being assistant choir leader and the chairman of the Western Music society in my school, Royal College!
As for the label, my grandfather, Gerald Wickremesooriya was a pioneer of Sri Lankan pop and he owned the record label, Sooriya which is what I plan on restarting now that I’m back. Studying Music Business at Berklee was a really good fit to what I want to do so I’m very excited about that.
Wow, that’s great! You were part of the ensemble before I came in so tell me how that happened!
I heard about the ensemble through mutual friends in the summer of 2013, which was my first semester at Berklee. I wrote to Annette and she asked me to come along to audition. It was really hard for me because I’d never sung music like this before and I knew Annette wasn’t convinced either. But she asked me to go back home, practice it and send her a video of me singing it and when I did, she gave me a chance to be a part of this ensemble. And I spent the rest of my time at Berklee being part of this ensemble. Spending every hour of every day rehearsing for the Rahman concert was incredible. We fought, we cried, we rehearsed – It was the creation of a real family bond.
*Wipes tear away* We miss you in the Ensemble! But now that you’re done with school, what’s next?
I’m working on a bunch of projects – one of them is a documentary on the Sri Lankan Music Industry that is set to release in May. But right now, I’m focused on promoting the Berklee video “Celebrating Sri Lanka”. The project was inspired by the Indian Ensemble and I wanted to showcase how unique Sri Lanka is to the rest of the world. It started out with me trying to get Berklee to be a part of the EDEX fair in 2016, an educational fair that happens in Sri Lanka every year. I thought it would be nice to have them showcase music education and have a couple of workshops. This video was initially supposed to be a promotional video for Berklee in Sri Lanka. However, once I actually started working on the music with Shannon Jacob, an amazing arranger also from Sri Lanka, it took a life of its own. Nalinda Peiris came down to help with the drum and dance part of the video and since the Berklee – Boston Conservatory (BoCo) merger was just announced, I thought it would be great to have dancers from BoCo to be a part of the project too.
The response in Sri Lanka has been amazing – people love the music, the decor in the video and they’re very excited to see people from different cultures singing and playing Sri Lankan music. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of everyone that was part of this project, my family and my friends.
We’re all so proud of you Sanchitha! Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I really do want to thank Annette Philip, Clint Valladares and the rest of the Indian Ensemble for doing what they do because it motivates others, like me, to work towards showcasing their own culture and heritage. They are such an inspiration to me. I am so glad they do what they do!