This is what Sunday Obeserver said about Hasthi
Ranil and Miron Fernandopulle are cousins. Dineth and Sahan Wijethunge are brothers. Ranil and Sahan were classmates. All four of them schooled at Maris Stella College, Negombo at least at some point in their lives and were good friends for as long as they can remember. Amongst other things that they discussed during their usual conversations was of course music.
In 2000 they began to compose their own melodies together. It was around this time that they hooked up with another pal of theirs from school, Vijitha Senanayake who after listening to their compositions composed the lyrics that he opined suited their music.
Though they had formed a gang of sorts, it wasn't until the end of last year that the foursome together with Vijitha as their exclusive lyricist created, together with the rough tracks that they had already composed, 'Hasthi'.
"Hasthi means tusker in Sinhala. We wanted to call ourselves something that was compatible with our ethnic and national identities and not something that was influenced by western concepts." Their music is western pop with a rock flavour, what they term as smooth ethnic rock.
As Sahan put it, "We wanted to play serious rock music in Sinhala, our aim is to bring rock music to the masses, which is why we perform in Sinhalese. However we realised that to do this, we first have to establish ourselves and then use ourselves as a platform to rock the masses."
The quartet however are unique in that, though they all can play guitar, none of them actually play any instruments on stage; rather they all sing. They are currently in the process of giving the finishing touches to their debut album titled Kinneri (mermaid) which they hope to release in about three months.
They have also already released a video for their song Meedum Andure which has been played on Sirasa TV and received a massive response from the regular audience. "People found our video completely different from the videos that they are used to seeing everyday. We shot it on location in this metal junkyard. To give the effect of mist they burned diesel and blew the smoke our way, so we had to do the entire video breathing in smoke. It certainly was an experience," smiles Ranil.
According to the members of Hasthi, the usual Sinhala music is very compatible with rock music. They have used geta beras, thammattangs and tablas together with distortion guitars in certain of their songs. The Vannams, according to them is very compatible with rock music. In essence their music is a reflection of the compromise of their unique styles and individual preferences. "Altogether we've got fans of folk, punk rock, jazz, pop, heavy metal, alternative, etc."
As a band they're quite strong they say as they've "known each other for so long that we know each other's finer points, quite well" and hence are able to always recognize and give each of them their due place. "Usually people form a band and then turn good friends, as for us it's the exact opposite," smiles Miron.
Hasthi will be playing at a benefit show for their Alma Mater on July 30, where they are scheduled to play five of their songs from their to be released album. Excited? "We've got a case of butterflies in our stomachs as it is our first performance as a band. However we also have the confidence that we will be alright since most of us have performed solo before, Sahan even won a prize in India," says Ranil.
Dreams, hopes and expectations as a band? "We want to go international, not necessarily reach the UK or US charts but even India will do." They are also in the process of negotiating a trip to play a couple of gigs in Washington, U.S. at the end of this year, after their songs were nominated to the Art Circle of Washington.
"Hasthi is definitely a long term goal for all of us. We do intend to continue with the rest of our daily lives, but have absolutely no intentions of doing this just for the short term or to quit, in a couple of years." These guys are determined to stay come hell or high water.
Special thanks to Band Hasthi and Rikaza hassan