A Baritone Extraordinaire making Sri Lanka Proud

Sanjeev Niles is a name that ought to` ring a few bells. He is a household name when it comes to music. He is one of the foremost sensations in the classical music sphere, a Bona Fide solo artist with 20+ single releases to his name, an EP and many live and studio performances to his credit. 

Niles is an eclectic songwriter, composer and lyricist, and a powerhouse vocalist whose credentials vary from island wide live performances that range from music festivals and Rock shows to classical concerts and business cocktails to corporate events and cathedrals.

His award winning and award nominated collaborations have paved him as a valuable and unique entertainer who never cuts corners and always delivers a star class performance.

Sanjeev composed the music for a Sinhala language short film “තව මාස දෙකයි” (Two Months) directed by Nilmini Perera. This film won multiple awards both locally and internationally. The music on the film won the award for Best Music at the International Film Festival of Sriganganagar in India.

The music video for the song “Cadence of Your Tears” an original anthem sung in collaboration with Suresh de Silva of Stigmata was nominated in the category of Best Music Video at two international film festivals – the New York F.A.M.E Festival and the Los Angeles Cinefest.

Sanjeev is without shadow or doubt one of the most original sonic storytellers hailing from our island. His authentic and resonating baritone timber is easily identifiable, his dark, brooding and evocative style nuanced, his dynamics unprecedented, and a singer with a vocal prowess that many admire and few could emulate.

We caught up with Mr. Sanjeev Niles and fired some questions at him that have long needed answering by the man, the myth and legend himself. He truly is a class act and a versatile force of originality and star quality to be reckoned with.   

Q)Hello. Thanks for chatting with Good PR. What music have you released thus far?

A)I have released 7 original pieces of music up to date. I have collaborated with leading artists in the country including Suresh de Silva, Pabalu Wijegoonewardene and Tennyson Napoleon. I have also composed music for an original short film. I released an EP with 3 of my early originals in July 2016. The full catalog of my music is available on my YouTube channel youtube.com/sanjeevniles. Some of my original music is also available on all major digital music platforms.

Q)Could you tell us what your music is about? What topics do you touch upon?

A)My music deals with themes which are darker and focus on the more difficult side of life. This includes talking about various personal struggles and extrapolating out into society and how others in my shoes would feel. I have also written music about how people deal with deep loss. This includes a song about how someone that lost their entire family in the 2004 tsunami and how they deal with their loss years later. I try to communicate the theme of the song not just with the lyrics but also with the melodies, arrangements and instruments used. I want to take the listener on a journey with each song.

Q)Why do you write original music?

A)I listen to music ranging from classical to sacred, broadway, pop, rock, metal, film music and many other genres. The music that I hear in my head is not out there. So, I wanted to go out there and create that music and let the world hear the music that I hear and feel in my mind and soul. The music that I create naturally has a seamless blend of the various genres which I enjoy listening to. It is very likely like nothing else people have heard before. I feel if I continue to create music I can speak to people through my work and inspire others to bring out their voice into the world.

Q)Could you tell us some of the challenges you have faced/continue to face?

A)One of the main challenges I face is that since my sound is new and very unique people who are used to mainstream music find it difficult to fit it into a box or genre they have in their mind. While there are many wonderful people who are always open to new things, the larger majority look for what’s trending and don’t want to spend too much time or effort with something different. This is a common challenge someone introducing anything new would face. As a recording artist it has been a challenge to find good producers to work with who understand my music and the various elements involved. However, now I have been working with Thisara Dhananjaya for some time and I feel he understands my work well and we are gradually able to improve the quality of production and the sound with every release. While playing live I have two different categories of performances. One is more classical where I work with an accompanist who will play while I can focus on my singing. The other category is the live performance of more modern music where I play the piano and accompany myself. This has not been easy to do especially with mastering the piano, but I continue to work at it and look to improve with every performance. I challenge myself with each show and try new things to make sure the performance is interesting and engaging for the audience. The year 2022 has been one that has presented massive challenges, with power cuts and fuel queues. It has been extremely difficult to focus on my work in music with all the disruptions and stress. I strive to make things work even with these difficulties and continue on my musical journey.

Q)What are your thoughts on the present situation in Sri Lanka?

A)This time is truly unprecedented. Both the physical and mental toll that this crisis takes on our people is something that cannot be explained. For an independent artist like myself simply finding the time with all the disruptions is difficult as we do full time jobs during the day. Also, with the mental stress bordering on deep depression finding purpose, meaning and the motivation to focus on music is a unique challenge. I continue to try to ride out the storm and focus on the music in whichever way I can. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to play live and have relished the experience. The response from the audience indicates that they are hungry for great live music. Given any opportunity I hope as many artists as possible try to perform live and keep a tiny light shining in these times of dreadful darkness.

Q)What are your thoughts and views on the SL music industry and how could it improve?

A)If you look at the Sinhala music industry in Sri Lanka – it’s very strong. They have many major live shows, a huge captive audience, major media coverage and support etc. The original English music scene in Sri Lanka though really needs to look at pushing boundaries and reach both inside and outside the country. They need to build a stronger connection with their audiences here while looking for opportunities in the region. One of the most important things they need to do is build networks with the music scene in the region. These networks should open doors for our artists to go and perform in those countries and for those artists to come down and perform here in Sri Lanka. This I feel is the main need for real growth in the industry in Sri Lanka.

Q)How do you strike a balance in your personal life?

A)I am married and we have a young son. I also work professionally in the IT field in Sri Lanka. Balancing work and family with music while not being easy has been enjoyable for me. I feel in some way they all complement each other and one cannot survive without the other. The income from my work has helped me maintain my independence as an artist and focus on my original music. My family has always been very supportive of my music and have helped me tremendously along this journey.

Q)What do you have in store for the future?

A)I want to continuously improve my skills musically and be on par with the best global artists. Along with this I want to release a strong body of work which will represent where I am as an artist. I hope to do several concerts both classical and contemporary over the coming months and continuously engage with my audience to help me grow as a musician and help me leave a strong legacy with my work.

Q)How can you be reached?

A)My entire catalog of work including originals and cover performances is available on my official YouTube channel – youtube.com/sanjeevniles . To stay in touch with my plans, what I am working on, or doing as an artist you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram: Facebook: facebook.com/sanjeevniles /Instagram handle – sanjeevnilesofficial

To personally get in touch with me you can inbox me via those pages.

I perform a wide array of music from classical and sacred to a range of contemporary music and am happy to discuss live performance at events.

I have also worked on original film music and would love to work on more film scoring and look forward to working with any film director, screenwriter etc., on one of their projects.

Compiled by Sue


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