By Yashasvi Kannangara
Uswatteliyanage Shaun Heshan Perera is one of the most vivacious 27 year olds one could ever come across. Coming from a family of musicians Shaun recognized the power and influence of song at a very young age. “When I was about 10 years old my best friends and I formed a 'band'. It had no name and we just entered a musical show that was happening in school. I took the role of lead singer while we had a rapper and even a background dancer in the band. Were we any good? At first yeah, we were but when we refused to get off stage I remember the boo's and jeers exponentially growing. That’s when we thought it’s time to get off stage. So eventually we did” says Shaun recalling a treasured memory from childhood.
Shaun is also one of the luckier few who is supported in a carrier of professional singing by his family who believes in him. “My father being a former musician himself loves the fact that I am pursuing my dream through music” explains Shaun. His cousins who are also members of the popular local bands ‘Daddy’ and ‘Battery’ are constantly compared to their legendary predecessors. The young artist admits that the inescapable comparison is not something he greatly looks forward to, but that it gives the family much to talk of and relate to. “My uncles and cousins are involved in the same industry and when we meet we enjoy the fact that we have a common subject to discuss. Whenever I meet my cousins a common question we would ask each other first would be 'so when is your next song coming out?' which is quite funny actually. But yeah my immediate family and others are all supportive of the fact that I'm pursuing this career which definitely helps me maintain my 'never give up' attitude”.
Shaun initially attended St. Peter’s College and was later a student of the Elizabeth Moir International School. While he performed as a skilled sportsman while at St. Peter’s College, it was at the latter that Shaun was first recognized as a powerhouse of talent. Apart from his great vocals, the growing artist also found ample opportunity to showcase his theatrical flair. “When I was at St. Peter’s College I only performed once but whilst I was at Elizabeth Moir I was involved in a number of performances. Not just musical performances but drama too and I went on to win the ‘best actor’ title two years in a row. Choir was an obvious choice and I'm sure you guessed I was involved in it. My creative side was mainly brought out during my years at Elizabeth Moir School and I will always appreciate that. They moulded me into the performer I have become today”.
As Shaun evolved into a professional vocal performer, his music also developed character. While his most familiar style is alternative rock Shaun had experimented with many other genres of music and song. Today he leads an alternative rock band named Magic Box Mix-up.”Since recently I have taken a liking to RnB and some dance music and so I am currently working on a few originals of those genres as well” he says. “My favourite song choices include ‘Stellar’ and ‘Aqueous Transmission’ by Incubus, ‘Bohemian Rapsodhy’ by Queen, ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leone and ‘Sunday Morning’ by maroon 5. ‘Sunday Morning’ has a lot of sentimental value for me because I sang it when I auditioned for X-Factor. I guess I am greatly influenced by these songs. Maroon5, Incubus, Queen and anyone that can inspire me to better myself; which is almost all musicians with a value and understanding of what 'love' for music is” adds Shaun. Shaun also describes how members of these bands have become his role models in the sphere or performance and song. “I respect Brandon Boyd(Incubus), Adam Levine (Maroon5), Freddy mercury(Queen), John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Jason Wade(Life House)”.
The crew of Magic Box Mix-up performs at a host of public and private venues and features Shamin de Silva (Guitar), Robert Jayatunga (Drums), Shamistha de Silva (Keyboards), GV From ‘Battery’ (Sessions for us on Bass) as does Shaleen Shanthikumar from ‘Battery’ (on percussions). While discussing where the growing fan base of the Alternative Rock band could see them perform, the singer seems genuinely surprised, “Fans? If I have any (laughs) they can come see me at Sky Bar, Colombo every Thursday night. I perform at private functions as well, so if you are a fan and you happen to be there, then I guess you'll be able to see us perform. There are [a] few more venues we are working on getting to play at on a weekly basis”.
Shaun Perera is full of passion for life and for all that it offers to the young and the carefree. While he poses an aura of untamed youthfulness as an artist his beliefs are run deep and are attached to feelings of piety and love. “I think no matter what you are the first thing you need to believe in is a higher power. It is important to know that we have all gotten our talents from somewhere, and that somewhere or someone is that higher power we believe in. To me the phrase 'use your God given talent' is more than just a phrase. It means God has given me something valuable and I owe it to him to use it in his name and me embracing what he has given me shows my appreciation towards God. So I am driven by two things: My love for God and the love I have for music”.
But he does admit that ‘making-it’ in the local industry is a tedious task with many obstacles. As an emerging artist trying to establish himself in a field where one struggles to outshine the other, Shaun strives to step beyond the accepted norm and set an example as a less competitive and a more supportive artist to his peers. “It has been a huge task and challenge. More so than it should be I think. Not because I think I should be way higher than I am in the music industry in Sri Lanka, but because I think we as musicians from a small island such as Lanka compete with each other too much. Being in the industry you learn a huge amount about how everything works and instead of trying to help one another there is way too much competing with each other and less appreciation for each other’s music. It is very hard to explain this in a small paragraph. But if I had to say it in one sentence; the biggest obstacle artists’ face in Sri Lanka are each other and nothing else” he stresses.
When asked how he sees or describes himself Shaun was quite candid and unpretentious. “Well this is a tricky one. The more good things you say about yourself the cockier you sound and the humbler you talk the more fake you sound. So let’s see, I would say I am a confident artist and a fun-loving person who loves good company. Every time someone asks me this question I tend to give different answers though. It might be because I am a very seasonal person and how I describe myself depends on how I feel at that time of the year. I’m [also] a bit of a social butterfly” says Shaun laughing.
Shaun although humble of the fact, is also a song writer and has written all lyrics for the original songs performed by Magic Box Mix-up. “But does that make me a song writer?” he asks. “I really don’t think so. Maybe I can say I am trying to become a song writer but I don't believe I am quite there yet. I will get there soon. I hope”.
‘Solitude’, Shaun relates is a release by Magic Box Mix-up and a song that holds great meaning for him. Performed by the artist himself, it was the first song he ever wrote. “It was not about a girl or some heartbreak” he explains. “But it's actually about my life and I think lots of people should be able to relate to it. It’s about how we all yearn for change in life in a positive direction but we don't do anything to achieve that change, instead we sit and wait for life to bring us the change we want. But if we actually work towards that change we will achieve it. Hopefully you’ll like the song too and maybe you will also relate to it”.
Once the constant inquiry of where he would be in 10-15 years was put forward Shaun recalled a time when he was asked the same question a decade ago. “I think I have come far from where I was back then. I would like to continue this exponential journey towards success and hopefully towards an international level. If I don't in the next 10-15 years I’ll be disappointed. But I also know that I will always be satisfied and happy knowing that I never gave up and always tried my best and I will never feel like a failure”.
Shaun has big plans for the future for both his band and himself; the most important of which is to release a single internationally. “I want to make people realize we do have talent in Sri Lanka. I’m not saying I’m very talented but I’m pretty confident that I can convince them all. I have also started up my own company with three others and it is called 'mixALOT Studio'. It specializes in audio recordings and music production but we handle things like video production as well. Other services like event management and graphic designing will be available in the near future. There are a few other plans I have and I am working on getting started but I'll keep them to myself for now” concludes the smiling vocalist.
Visit Shaun’s facebook page (facebook.com/shaunpartist) for updates on new releases, performances and other information.