The music and drumming styles of the island of Sri Lanka, an independent nation situated off the southern coast of India, are as diverse as the populace. Influences include Portuguese folk music, Caribbean calypso, Indian folkloric compositions, pop & dance music, and even American classical. This rich cultural milieu inspires musicians to heights of creativity and innovation.
Take, for example, the case of Rakitha Ruwan, a child prodigy who, by the age of seven, was performing traditional Sri Lankan music in concert. Understandably, Rakitha's head start on his instrument soon distanced him considerably from his peers. At competitive drumming performances, he began leaving them in the dust. As a teenager, Ruwan eclipsed the work of drummer and percussionists hailing from across Sri Lanka. Rakitha speaks proudly of the four awards he took home from all-island championship bouts.
After mastering indigenous Sri Lankan drumming, Rakitha turned his gaze to the percolating pulse of Latin. The exciting blend of Spanish and African rhythms, centering on the essential two-measure clave rhythm, fascinated him and continue to motivate him to this day.
While the lilting Latin drumming traditions appealed intellectually and aesthetically, Rakitha's physical skills-his chops-rose to dizzying heights. Band leaders called upon him to tour and, accordingly, Rakitha's talents were appreciated by audiences and media in neighboring India, Singapore, and other Asian destinations. Concurrently, Rakitha began to contribute his drumming and producing skills to studio projects. Perhaps his most significant recording is the mega-budget Sri Lankan feature film Aba. Released in July, 2008, the movie is based on Sri Lankan history.
Never one to pause for respite, Rakitha enrolled in the performing arts degree program at the University of Colombo and also managed to squeeze in concerts with famous flutist Rk Bikramjit Singh. The acclaim was such that Rakitha will accompany Bikram overseas in 2009.
Rakitha recently spearheaded the formation of Naadro, a six-member drum ensemble that breathes the passion of a new generation of Sri Lankan musicians unafraid to embrace Indian, Mediterranean, Latin, and native Sri Lankan musical styles. Audiences thus far have gravitated to the exhilarating blend of rhythms and sounds, thrusting Naadro into the spotlight. In addition to delighting crowds at significant national concerts, Rakitha and Naadro acknowledge responsibility to educate-draw youths into the new world of world music. The band's objective is to foster world peace through music.