Music director and founder of the choir Soul Sounds, Soundarie David Rodrigo tells Weekend Nation that this year she would be moving into “bigger and better things”, musically.
She has completed her extended term of 6 1/2 years at the SAARC Cultural Centre as deputy director. “While it has been a journey where I have given my best and showcased the cultures of the region to the rest of the world, it is now time to work on something that would showcase our own uniqueness, which is truly Sri Lankan to the whole world,” she disclosed.
She remains mysterious on details but says she is looking forward to taking on new challenges, new dreams and bigger plans, based on the enormous wealth of experience she has gained over the last few years. At the same time, her work on area of entertainment law would continue. “I can see a trend in issues that arise from copyright and the rights of artists in general,” she says.
She discloses that Sri Lanka will be hosting the Asia Pacific Choir Games in October this year, and as of now there are over 100 choirs that have shown interest.
“I think this would be a great experience for all our local choirs to not just compete in an international choral event, but also to learn and watch other choirs from all around the region and the world. I would say choral music is definitely becoming more popular in Sri Lanka”, she says.
Soundarie reminisces the collaboration with late Pandith Amaradeva as a blessing “He is not just a great legend in the field of music, but also a gentle human being. I will not forget all that he taught us, from the ease in which he sings and performs, to the lilt in his voice,” she declares.
While they did have to change certain nuances when delivering some of the songs, his son Ranjana helped them with it all. “Music at the end of the day is universal and we had no issues in the fusion of styles. After all even though we are a choral ensemble, we are truly Sri Lankan,” Soundarie emphasizes.
For her, as a musician, what is most important and fulfilling is touching the soul of someone in the audience. “That I know we have achieved. Also when Sri Lanka is actually acknowledged when we perform abroad, that brings about a sense of pride, ” she declares.
Soundari says that Soul Sounds was conceived while she was training the Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya choir after she returned from London.
They then entered an international competition in Wales, for the first time in Sri Lankan history and were placed first runners-up.
“On return I decided to form a choir of those passionate about music and singing. This was the birth of Soul Sounds,” she reminisces.
Holy Family Convent, being a girls’ school led to the choir having an all-female group. “I also think it is easier to work with females, as I feel they are more passionate and dedicated,” says Soundari.
Soul Sounds learned from their competitions in Austria and China as well as from their concert tours in Australia, France, China, USA, India, and Malaysia. “By watching other choirs we learnt that choral music doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to classical music and there were ways of presenting different genres of music. Today, gospel music has become our forte,” she says.
She revealed that in her case being a music director is a combination of many roles. The main role is arrangement of music, looking into the music per se, the rendition, organizing rehearsals and concert plans, the technicalities of conducting a choir and putting it together, working on blend, diction, overall delivery, and looking at the entire production and theme.
“This may not be the task of a music director per se. But this is what I have done over the years, with of course a fabulous team of girls and the support of my family, other musical experts and fans that have helped me along the way” she says.
Soul Sounds Academy, in addition to providing music education, offers music as therapy for children with special needs.
Soundarie is an alumnus of Royal College of Music in London, where she is an Associate, in piano performance and piano accompaniment. Through time she has been recognized with SAARC Women of Achievement Awards, the Zonta Women of Achievement Award and Bunka Awards by the Japanese Cultural Fund.
“I am humbled by the awards, I am thankful to God for the blessings, my family and friends for the support and I am glad that all the hard work and sacrifices are appreciated,” she says.
But she emphasizes that it’s not about awards or achievement. For her, being able to perform, to help others through her work and music and having a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that she has completed what she set her mind to achieve, brings in contentment.
She is also a qualified lawyer with a Masters in Entertainment Law.
While she was an undergraduate at the Colombo University, she asked for a deferment at Colombo Law Faculty, finished her music education and then completed her LLB She refers to her Masters as the “link between her music and her law.”