A chat with Shehan
The latest Sri Lankan cover of Girls Like You by Maroon 5 done by Shehan has been making the social media rounds lately. Featuring some of Sri Lanka’s most well-known and influential women, the video was done together with production company Elephas.
Shehan is 22 and handles social media pages for different brands for a living. He makes music, does production, direction and script writing and comes up with some amazing content that’s putting a spin in the Sri Lankan content creation scene.
We spoke to him about music, women’s empowerment and more.
Tell us something about yourself and your journey in music.
I’ve been singing since I was a kid and I’ve been a YouTuber for around six years. I stopped working a day job about three months ago and now I’m putting in 100% into my career in music, because this is what I want to do. I’ve been making videos since 2009.
My journey has been a tough, long winding road. It has not been easy at all. I started making amateur covers and videos for YouTube. The first two got a decent response, but it was really difficult to make a mark and get the ideal amount of views I would like. I entered TNL Onstage, got into the final 16 with Yes FM Super Star, Asia’s Got Talent and Sri Lanka’s Got Talent. I never made it far on those competitions. With Asia’s Got Talent and Sri Lanka’s Got Talent, I was let out of the show without any warning and that really was a huge turning point, where I spiralled downward.
It was around this point that I went through a bad break-up as well and my studies suffered and I hit depression. I deleted all my content, deleted my FB Page, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, everything and just went off the grid.
But this is how amazing life is. In two or three days, one of the videos that I did, which was a cover of ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ by Zayn and Taylor Swift was shared by this page Inspire Sri Lankans and it blew up to around 160,000 views without any paid promotions. Everyone was asking who I was, but no one knew because I was off the grid. Later on, Ranura Perera approached me to do a mashup of Sinhala and English songs for ‘24k Magic’ by Bruno Mars and that became an even bigger hit, hitting 250,000 views in two days.
I’ve performed quite a bit, but I’ve only ever made money out of it, once. Everything I do is done purely out of passion and I never looked at money as a reward for what I do, but something that will come gradually in time, if I worked hard enough. There have been many setbacks in my journey. Even so, I’m really trying to do something different and make my dream a reality.
What did you like about the song and video, ‘Girls Like You’ by Maroon 5 and what inspired you to create a cover like this, featuring our very own women?
I really loved the original video, because it spreads such a powerful message and I loved the fact that they featured women who weren’t as famous as well, but who were doing something to make the community go forward and make a change. I saw a need, an opportunity to spread the same message here as well, considering the amount of criticism, mostly negative, that women get in this country. So I felt that doing a cover on the song would spread a powerful message, just like the original video did.
How did Elephas support you?
Elephas is this amazing production company that provides a great platform for a lot of content creators and they give good reach to their content too. I do not have the finance or the equipment to make my own videos, so I pitch my ideas to brands, production companies and other content creators and network to find ways for my visions to come to life and make my ideas happen. Elephas was interested to do this video and they did an amazing job on the shooting, production and editing and it was also the very first vertical video production in Sri Lanka.
Shooting the video was also really difficult. In the original video, there is a robotic arm that goes around Adam Levine and the girls, which is timed and programmed to zoom in and out. We obviously didn’t have that, so we had to literally use our camera and walk around and then figure out a way to edit the whole thing.
What do you think about women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka?
Well there is a lot of room for improvement. I feel the amount of hate women get, is phenomenal. And I think people need to be better informed and better aware about the damage this does. Even on this very video, which we did to appreciate the powerful, strong women out there, I got a lot of hate comments, expressing that the women we featured were just Insta-models who have never done anything worthwhile, other than post photos on Instagram, but if you know the stories of these girls, you would know that it is not true and that there is so much more than meets the eye.
You cover very popular songs and give it a Lankan twist by changing lyrics and adding Lankan flavour with unique, fun videos. How has the feedback been?
It’s been mostly positive, but still my top comments are all hate. And these really get to you. But like I said, I’m trying to make a change and regardless of the mixed feedback, I’ve also gotten a lot of support and opportunities as well. There are a lot of youth that follow me and support and cheer on the content that I make. So personally, I’m trying to create content which is a step further and something new and exciting in the Sri Lankan space, so that people can relate, and feel good or just feel something in general about what I do.
The video featured some amazing women, including Melissa Dharmadasa, who owns the brand Bakes by Bella and who helped by getting in touch with the other women in the video and also with the set for the video which was her beautiful café.
The other women included Melissa Stephens who did the rapping, Yazmin Yousuf, Saarah Faisal, Zainab Faizal, Aaliyah Mohamed, Tarja De Silva, Gamya Wijayadasa, Nadiya Fernando, Shenelle Rodrigo, Aanisha Cuttilan and Jessica Ferrari. All these women were selected for the amazing things they’ve done in their lines of work and to push Sri Lanka forward.
To keep updated on the content this young trend-setter does, follow him on
By Rovina Vandersay