Finance consultant turned musician – Kanishka K
By Mahika Panditha
You guys already know that I get super excited to introduce you all to new talent, but I am pretty sure some of you have already heard of this gem of a human who is revamping the rock industry right here in Sri Lanka. Meet Kanishka Kavirathna, everyone! He is an independent artist, musician, and producer. Of course, his passions lie in music – but also basketball and cooking – which we would love to hear more about one day, but today’s discussion focuses on his music. Kanishka hopes to become a renowned artist/producer, “not for fame, but to be able to contribute and become a part of people’s daily lives. To make music that people can relate to in their different emotions, and create them in such a way that those who listen to it find some light in this already degrading society”, he expressed.
We had the opportunity to have a chat with him last week, and here is what he had to say. Stay tuned to Kanishka’s socials for more information on his upcoming music (@kanishkakavirathna). Before we get into this, I do want to mention that he knows how to play five instruments, and he is completely self-taught! Isn’t that absolutely amazing?
Hey Kanishka! Do tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m Kanishka K. Singer, musician, producer, amateur chef, and dog dad. I’m from Matale, and have lived most of my life in Kandy. I studied at Dharmaraja College, and at Gateway College Kandy. I did my Bachelor’s in Accounting and Finance at Staffordshire University. Then, I worked as a finance analyst/consultant for two years. I realised my passion lies elsewhere and made the necessary adjustments to get into music production.
So, how did you get into music?
My family has always been musically inclined, and more as a hobby and means of entertainment than professionally. My late dad was a stellar drummer and singer, and my mother is also a singer and a flamboyant lyricist. She has written for notable characters in the music industry such as Dayan Witharana, Nelu Adikari, Dammika Bandara, and more.
Around the age of four years, I used to drum on everything at home with pens and pencils. And my mother says that for a child of four years, I was very in touch with my grooves, feel, and tempo. And she also says that I used to randomly mumble phrases that rhyme, which she has written down in a book.
My father wasn’t supportive of pursuing music in depth, because he expected me and my sister to follow the path to become white-collar individuals. So when I was around the age of 12 or 13, I used to sneak into the house of a friend who has a drum kit and practice on that. Around the same time, I started learning the guitar. My best friend Madhawa Udawatta and his brother Lilanka were aspiring guitarists and I learnt the trade from them.
I was a chorister from a young age, and I started learning the piano as well, mostly by observing and practicing at a friend’s place.
Around 2007/8, I joined a high school band called Flight of Bullets. This consisted of the Madhawa-Lilanka duo, myself, and two more schoolmates. This band went on to win the Distinction Award at the London Music Festival of Performing Arts in 2012.
After moving to Colombo in 2015 to pursue my higher education, I joined the band The Odyssey as their drummer. I was with them for over two years and we’ve played at multiple entertainment events such as Lanka Comic Con. Down the line, I also played with Dushyanth Weeraman and was part of a band called Sanity SL as their lead guitarist.
In 2019, I realised that my potential was beyond playing a single instrument in a band. I proceeded to quit the bands and learn music production. I met the veteran music producer Nisal Gangodage, who is now my producer and mentor. Nisal produced my track Abhinikmana in 2019, Maa Neth in 2020, and also Heenayak, which is set to release in late February 2021. Apart from these, I have produced two songs Seetha Meedum and Amma.
Nisal took the time to teach me the ins and outs of the music production scene, and to this date, he takes the time to guide me through and clarify grey areas, for which I’m very grateful. I should also mention Tharindu Saranga, who has also taken the time to help me from time to time.
This is my journey in the music industry up until now.
What would you say is your favourite genre and why?
I grew up listening to a wide array of music. As a kid I was very keen on the boy bands – Westlife, BSB, NSYNC and the sort. Later, I was introduced into alternative rock to the likes of Linkin Park, Three Doors Down, Three Days Grace, and Evanescence. Avenged Sevenfold and Shinedown remain my all-time favourite bands so it’s safe to say I’m leaning towards rock and metal as my favourite genre.
My preference with rock music is mostly because I have taken the time to learn and analyse a multitude of songs, including spanning of the music composition, to lyrics and performance. I’ve deduced that rock music lyrics hold a lot more depth than contemporary hiphop/trap music. Also, the technicalities involved in the instrument performance is commendable in rock music comparatively. I don’t mean to let down other genres, but I personally believe rock music holds more water.
When it comes to producing my own music, I try to blend two different genres in each song. Obviously, there is the rock element to it because it’s my identity is leaning towards a rock artist. But at the same time, I wanted to do something less traditional by blending genres. I believe it brings out a very unique colour into the production.
What do you enjoy the most about performing/creating?
What I enjoy the most about production is how we try to express a lot of emotion in the track. I take a considerable amount of time when doing productions because I hate being rushed and I like to take my time with a track like a proverbial tea sitting in a pot for flavour. I make sure that the lyrics are well written. This is very important, as I’m not a big fan of the colloquial lyrics that are often heard this day and age. Once that is done, I take some time with the melody and the instrument composition because all of that needs to complement the story and emotion we are trying to express through the words. The process sounds perplexing, but to me it’s very enjoyable.
As a performing artist, I love the energy of the crowd. I love how they come in and become a part of that performance and part of that energy. It’s been a hectic time without gigs thanks to the pandemic.
Any notable memories you can share with us?
I can recall the recording process of my song Maa Neth. Truth be told, it’s my favourite out of my own songs, and this is mostly because it was very sudden and very emotion-driven, but the outcome literally blew my mind.
I’m in the habit of recording random melodies that I fumble upon into my phone (just like Charlie Puth, yes). And in early January 2020, I was going through a breakup and I was more vexed than sad, to be honest. I have a notebook into which I write down lyrics that cross my mind. One fine day at work, I was thinking about the breakup and my irrational state at the time, and just threw a bunch of words together that I wrote down, went home the same day, and put it in line with one of the melodies I had in my voice notes and it sounded great. From that point, I took about three to four days to finish the writing process and polish it up. I did the initial chord work at home, and then went to Nisal’s studio and laid down the base. The next weekend we had a very long recording session from morning to evening where we tracked all the guitars and basses. After all things were said and done, we had this very punchy, angry pop-rock song which also has these underlying subtle emotions.
The production of that song made me realise how much a part emotion plays when it comes to music production.
Aside from music, you are also an advocate for mental health. What is your stance on the mental health support in Sri Lanka at the moment?
This is more of a “takes one to know one” situation. I’ve been struggling with my mental health for some time and during my time of struggling with it, I realised that the support for mental health in this country is beyond disappointing. There is a huge stigma around it, and most people don’t acknowledge it to be a legitimate condition that requires treatment and attention. I have personally heard the phrase “it’s just in your head” countless times, and I’ve been discouraged from seeking out help. First and foremost, we need awareness campaigns to break the stigma that surrounds this conversation. And we also need to continue to educate the masses that this is a legitimate illness which requires medication and/or therapy. We need people to be more understanding and kind towards this. We need them to be supportive. There’s honestly a lot that needs to be done in the topic of conversation, and the amount of work being put in by governments and authorities is very poor. But it’s heartwarming to see that there are support groups and individuals who try to help at their own time.
The reason I have the tag “mental health advocate” on my social media is because I know what it’s like to not get the support that is needed. So I try to do my part in trying to be there for someone who needs aforementioned support.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
I would very much try to change the mindset of a majority of people in this country. We have sadly embedded a mindset of ego, superiority, lack of understanding and compassion, so on and so forth. People need to move on from archaic ideologies (which mostly stem from the lack of understanding), and move on with the new world. We may have been taught something, but we can always unlearn and relearn.
So, when can we look forward to some new music?
A new song by the title of Heenayak will be released at the end of February 2021. And I’m also in the studio for another song which I hope to release at the end of March or early April 2021. Hang tight until then. And don’t forget to check out the music, as it’s available on all major streaming services.
Any advice for aspiring musicians?
Being in the music industry here in Sri Lanka is a struggle. It can be very difficult for a new young artist to emerge into the masses. But the key is in your persistence and perseverance. Keep honing your craft, learn new things, and try out new things. You will come across the thought to give up many times, but always keep true to that dream of yours. Envision it, put in the work for it, and without realising it you will be living it.
What is your ideology/methodology when producing music?
Most of the time, I tend to write the lyrics and make the melody. And when it comes to the recording process, I play the drums, guitars, and pianos/keys. My producer then takes it from there to make it apt to industry standards.
Photos Che Studio, Pearlbay Studios