Binu Sax – when jazz and electronic come together

By Mahika Panditha

One of the world’s greatest composers, Leonard Bernstein, once said: “Life without music is unthinkable.” And that is one of the truest statements out there. Can you truly imagine a life without music, not listening to it on your way to work or school? Or not having something to jam to while you work out?

Well, on this week’s cover, we feature one of the most talented musicians out there. You may have caught some of his performances – this is Binu Sahan Narangoda.

He is a 22-year-old professional saxophonist based right here in Sri Lanka. His stage name, Binu Sax, may ring a few bells. His goal in life is to become an international saxophonist and thereby represent our beautiful country. We are here for it and cannot wait to see what great things lay ahead for Binu.

Those of you who know how saxophonists play would know that normally they balance the saxophone using their two front incisors. However, Binu says he balances it using just one! You can check out some of his work on YouTube or even on his Instagram page (@binu_sahan).

Apart from being an amazingly skilled musician, Binu also loves to travel and hang out with his loved ones, and he is also taken ladies! Without further ado, let’s get into it.

When and how did you get into music?

It all started from school at St. Peter’s College, Colombo. I was in the primary school choir and then, in Grade Five, I joined the Western Brass Band led by Mr. Daya Karunathilka. He was the first person to encourage me to play the saxophone. When I was in the senior band, we won competitions in 2011 and 2013.

I was also in the college Oriental Orchestra led by Mr. Samantha Amarajeewa. We won the all-island orchestra competition in 2014. I performed in the orchestra in the 2015 Bhava, which was the first orchestra concert that was organised by our school. After that, I performed my solo item My Heart Will Go On at Bhava 2017. It was my first solo performance in front of a big crowd. I got so many good comments that day. I performed another solo item at Bhava 2019 as well. I have also done Trinity exams, but there’s some more to be done!

When I was a senior prefect during my Advanced Levels (A/Ls), some of my friends and I came up with the idea of starting a band. We named it “Coco”.  We won the Interflash 2017, Noise 2017, and Centerstage 2017 band competitions. And currently we are doing commercial gigs.

I came up with the concept of a DJ and a sax; it is basically jamming with electronic music. For the first time in Sri Lanka, I started making melodies to random tracks. I have released some of my own edits and a 30-minute live sax session on my YouTube page. Using that concept, so far I have played at leading clubs as well as events in Colombo and Down South. I’m planning to do my own album in the near future.

Also, I’d like to thank my parents, my brother for always being my strength and support; and especially Mr. Daya Karunatilaka Sir and Mr. Samantha Amarajeewa Sir, without whom  I would not have come this far. A special thanks to Mrs. Tishani Pathmaperuma as well.

So, why the saxophone and what is your favourite type of saxophone to play?

I believe the saxophone attracts people because of its smooth, sensual, and very relaxing sound. For me, too, it is very relaxing to play the saxophone and it helps me live in the moment. But whatever the instrument you play, if you really feel it, it’s good therapy for the mind. And my favourite type of saxophone is soprano sax.

What would you say is your favourite piece to play and why?

I can’t specifically name a piece I like. But I like to jam to random tracks.

Any favourite gigs?

With this as well, I don’t have any favourites. I enjoy and give 100% for each and every gig I do. 

I know you might have been asked this question before, but what is your opinion on jazz today?

Jazz is one of the most influential and modern genres I have seen. When it comes to Sri Lanka, I haven’t seen a huge market for Jazz. There’s only a few people who like to listen to jazz. Jazz is still improving here, and jazz musicians have huge value here because they are in short supply.

Other than playing the saxophone, how do you like to spend your time?

I like to hang out with my friends and also to hit the gym.

Finally, any advice for up-and-coming saxophone players or musicians?

From the day I started playing the saxophone, I have faced many ups and downs. There will be people who put you down and ignore you, but the most important thing is to do what you love because if you don’t like what you do, if you don’t love it, no matter how hard you try, you will never be successful.

If I am to advise a starter, I’d have to say practice is the most important thing, and you should listen to sax jazz and classical music and follow artists and their styles. Always try to come up with new ideas and compose music.


Photos Ramesh Roshan