Sri Lankan musician Soundarie David, also a specialist in Intellectual Property Law, muses on how music touches every aspect of her life.
Soundarie David Rodrigo is the consummate musician who transformed the Western music scene in Sri Lanka by starting and directing a femal'e ensemble, Soul Sounds, the first choir to perform and win awards internationally over the last few years. She was the first Sri Lankan to be on the panel of the Asian Choir Games held in Korea. She has toured with Soul Sounds Australia, Kuwait, India, France, China and last year the U.S. and Malaysia.
An Associate of the Royal College of Music in piano performance and piano accompaniment, Soundarie is the recipient of the SAARC Woman of Achievement Award, Zonta Woman of Achievement Award and the Japanese Bunka Award. With a Masters in Intellectual Property Law from UCAL, Berkeley, she is a concert pianist and violinist, and a member of Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and also the Interkultur Foundation. She is currently the Deputy Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo. Excerpts from an interview.
On training in Royal College of Music
I guess my training and my ability to relate to singers stems from my experience while I was at the Royal College of Music, as I was the resident accompanist for the French Song class, and also worked with a lot of singers and their vocal coaches. So it not only enhanced my ability to sight read, but also taught me how to work with singers.
I did my post graduate studies in Piano at the RCM, so I was there for 1 1/2 years. It was a great experience, and I am thankful to all my professors in London. Following that, I was awarded a scholarship to participate at the Hereford Summer School for nearly four years, and I kept going back to London.
On balancing law and music
I work a normal 9-5 job, and also lecture part time at the Colombo Law Faculty. My evenings are full of music, and my weekends practically 15 hours of music, which gives me virtually very little time to relax. I enjoy trying to balance both my law and my music.
However, my passion is music, so I guess it is inevitable that sometimes unintentionally that takes priority. I am blessed with people all around who understand this, and everyone has been very supportive.
I perform regularly with Ramya de Livera Perera on select repertoire for two pianos and our duo concert in Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai, this April too drew critical acclaim.
My specialisation in Intellectual Property law, more specifically in Copyright and Entertainment law, is the link, between music and law, and this is indeed fascinating. In fact my thesis while I was at Berkeley was on the notion of subconscious copying and copyright infringement.
I strongly believe that you have to give back to God the talents he has bestowed you with.
Music and stress
Music does not stress me up... but I guess I do stress my family in the process. But they are all very understanding. Having a great understanding husband, who gives me the space to pursue my dreams, is also a blessing. Dealing with younger kids is a totally different ball game, and I have the help of two of my senior students from Soul Sounds.
I would always opt for an acoustic piano, a grand if I am lucky. No electric keyboard could produce the tone of a piano, and I always insist on playing on a piano, even if it is to accompany the choir. The pipe organ always sounds great in a church and some of the churches in France, where we performed, were equipped with great pipe organs. It is nice to hear a good organist play the pipe organ.
On the significant other
My husband, Pradeep, is involved with Indian film music as he is a freelance bassist, so I have begun to appreciate Indian film music. This apart, even prior to meeting him, I have had my favourites when it comes to Indian film music. I remember growing up listening to some of Ilayarajah's hits while in school, as I also studied in the Tamil medium.
Soul Sounds Academy
Soul Sounds has done four CDs and won three golds at World Choir Games, Austria. I am in the process of setting up my own Academy. I would like to give Sri Lankan children the opportunities I had while studying abroad. Not many can afford this, and scholarships are rare. So my academy would be the hub of activity, in getting professors from abroad, giving young children opportunities to travel abroad, summer camps, festivals, specialised training, performance tips, concert planning. My Artistic Director, Jerome De Silva, is a great theatre personality, and we will also work on musical theatre. Then of course my husband will also contribute in not only running the establishment, but also in teaching.
I would also at some point want to merge this with my own connections with India. Exploring new kinds of music, fusion with Indian music — working on our cultural ties, and hopefully make it an easy access point for all talented musicians in the region.
Tips for upcoming musicians
It is not just technique that is required, but soul, passion and musicianship. Bring this in, and you will find fulfilment. At the end of the day, if music brings you pleasure that is all that matters to me. Don't be afraid to dream the impossible.