His songs change lives | Sunday Observer

His songs change lives

Manoj Yapa
Manoj Yapa

He is a man with a mission. Though based in London, his “heart is in Sri Lanka”, he says. A descendant of Sri Lankan vocalists of Tower Hall fame, Wilfred Perera and V. P. Anulawathie Perera, he believes that musicians play a major role in societal changes. His songs are ample proof of this idea.

“Songs are powerful. They need to convey a positive message and be able to change lives,” says Manoj Yapa. Though his is not an entirely unfamiliar face in the Sri Lankan music scenario, this is the first time he had gone solo with six songs to release a compact disk.

His songs are about contemporary life, mainly questioning its existential perspective with a lot of humour. “I sincerely hope people will start thinking after listening to my songs,” says Yapa. “I love my country very much but our current value system and attitudes need to go through a paradigm change to be on par with developed countries. We will have to value talent, skill and equality instead of monetary gain,” he stresses.

His ideas resonate through song and are eye openers to the facts of life. For instance, listen to his new song ‘Dewaleta Awilla,’ which questions as to who comes to a place of worship to pay homage to gods and why. Why would all of them want clemency for their sin? What are the instructions of the ‘Kapuwa’ as the representative of the deity? What does he think of the devotees? What oils the wheels of this system of worship, is it piety or is it something else? Opening listeners’ minds to the facts, he lets them to decide.

His song ‘London Jeevithe’ could be the portrayal of the story of most of the Sri Lankan migrant workers. It is hardship, debt, loneliness and the difficulty of getting used to another culture that surround them like a dark cloak. In the quest for money, a cog in the wheel in the commercial system, man becomes a machine. However, as time passes and life away from home becomes the norm, he becomes one with the new life and likes it as well.

However, modern Sri Lanka is the backdrop for most of his songs. A tribute to ‘Rawana’ views culture and tradition from a different perspective. It questions the attempts to alter history through varied means, and the consequences that the country faces. ‘Wes Muhunu’ is a satirical comedy on the myriad of ‘faces’ we wear and the labels or identities we give ourselves, in the public eye. Who would find out about the masks, because all in our society hide behind these masks he stresses. ‘Minis Wes Gath Nominisun’ is a catharsis of jealousy which plagues the Sri Lankan society. His song ‘Ada’ gently points the listener to how people in contemporary Sri Lankan society live “as if they plan to live on earth forever.”

In UK, though he doesn’t get much free time, he participates in almost all music related gatherings of the Sri Lankan community there, says Yapa. ‘London Jeevithe’ had been the first original song which he had sung at these gatherings. “A lot of friends encouraged me to enter the music field again. Anyhow, it is my hobby. Thereafter, I received some good lyrics from a person in Italy, who further encouraged me to go on singing in my particular style,” says Yapa.

His style is unique. While his vocal talent enriches the songs, so does the music, a mix of contemporary and classical; Lankan as well as Western, appropriately used in bringing out the meaning of the lyrics. Fusion is close to his heart, Yapa reveals. In 1995, leaving Sri Lanka for greener pastures in Germany, whenever he got some free time, “I was performing with a fusion band as the lead vocalist for nine years, ” he explains.

Would his Sri Lankan listeners get more albums in the future? “Well, it depends on the feedback from them,” says Yapa. However, he plans to continue producing music both in Sri Lanka and UK.

Most of the Lyrics of his album ‘London Jeevithe’ are by Susantha Dandeniya Gamage, while Dilan Gamage and Kelum Srimal also contributed. Music is by Ashan Fernando, Nawarathne Gamage and Tony Mallawarachchi.

Pic: Saman Mendis

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