Hong Kong, May 19, 2009: The timing couldn't have been more perfect: The Tamil Tigers surrender, Sri Lanka becomes one country again after 38 years of political turmoil and, Sri Lanka singer Natasha Rathnayake sign's an exclusive management deal with Hong Kong-based creative music marketing company, We-Enhance.
The irony is the company's Chief Enhancer is Sri Lankan-born Hans Ebert.
"Sri Lanka has largely been know for three things," say Ebert. "There's the island's cricket team, the island's political turmoil, and, musically, (singer) M.I.A. whose pro-Tamil Tigers-influenced songs have not exactly endeared her to me. She now has to find something new to bitch about."
Ebert also openly criticises TIME magazine for naming her one their "most influential people."
Now add to the list of Sri Lankan news makers is the name Natasha Rathnayake.
A well-known model in Sri Lanka, Natasha, is already making herself heard with the recording titled "Runaway," an original written by the island's leading songwriter and producer Azlan Sherriff.
"Natasha has an amazing voice," says Ebert. "When I first heard her voice and saw the photos of her, I thought it was a con. A girl this gorgeous and with ready-for-prime-time good looks and a great voice plus a good original song with a strong hook? Yes, it was almost too good to be true."
Today Natasha is the latest addition to the growing We-Enhance roster of talent the company is managing.
Natasha Rathnayake
Say Natasha, "I'm just so thrilled and extremely grateful that I've been given the opportunity to represent Sri Lanka on international platform as an artist. I've pretty much dreamt of this for a long time but never thought I'd be heard because I come from this part of the world. I thank Hans Ebert and his team sincerely for seeing my vision in music and having the faith to market and represent me globally."
"We're being careful about the direction Natasha takes," adds Ebert. "She really can sing anything - even a phone book. The thing is that there are so many female singers out there that we need to be sure she delivers something that won't be lost in the shuffle."
There have already been requests for the singer to guest on tracks by International artists, but Ebert, once Executive Director with major music companies Universal and EMI in Asia, remains skeptical of these offers.
"Frankly, none of the names of these International acts have really made me go "Wow," he adds. "They've either been artists whose star is on the wane or else acts trying to make a quick entrance into the Asian market by hooking up with an artist from this region. I've seen too many of these East/West duets and none have succeeded. The key is to have Natasha stand on her own first. The duets - the right duets - can come later."
Right now Ebert has been working with the Singer and Producer Azlan Sheriff on an original song to celebrate Sri Lanka's victory over the Tamil Tigers plus a version of the Jazz classic "Mood Indigo."
"It's a pretty offbeat music selection from Hans," says Sheriff. "But he has a plan for the track and it's coming along well together with a number of originals where we're working on giving the melodies some interesting beats that are not copies of what's already out there."
Ebert who has worked to fuse the sounds of Asia with artists like Robbie Williams, Nelly Furtado, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Gorillaz, admits to trying to give something back - musically - to his former homeland and where his late Father hosted one of the island's first Radio shows.
It was called The Melody Maker and where the Senior Ebert introduced listeners to Radio Ceylon, one of the first radio stations in Asia, to the music of artists like Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and others and also discovered a Sri Lankan singer named Yolande Bavan who was to later replace Jazz great Annie Ross in the trio that came to be known as Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan.
Says Ebert, "Sri Lanka has some unique indigenous music and I'd love to work with Azlan and Ian (Parkinson – the company's Musical Enhancer) to introduce this music to Natasha, but not in some corny 'world music' type of way. Then it becomes some cheap gimmick. Natasha is much more than a gimmick.
"She's the real deal and we're careful that she doesn't become 'Sri Lanka's version' of this one and that one or 'Asia's answer' to anybody. We want her to be somebody who can mix it with the best. Her talent deserves nothing less.
And Sri Lanka now has something else new to be proud about."
What's next?
"We-Enhance Sri Lanka has a nice ring to it," says Ebert.
As the name suggests, We-Enhance is exactly about that: Enhancing the careers of the creative community, enhancing the consumer experience, enhancing companies that need enhancing and, perhaps most important of all, enhancing the creative product in and from Asia - and whatever this product might be.
We are here to work with people and companies we respect and believe CAN be enhanced with what we have to offer.
Yes, We-Enhance.
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For more information, contact:
We-Enhance Inc.