Sri Lankan pop duo Bathiya and Santhush share secret to longevity

The artists have been in the Sri Lankan music industry since 1998


Husain Rizvi

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Bathiya and Santhush of pop duo BNS (Photo: Neeraj Murali)
Bathiya and Santhush of pop duo BNS (Photo: Neeraj Murali)

Published: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 5:08 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 5:36 PM

One thing Sri Lankan pop duo Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman have realised in their 25 years of staying active as musicians is that the only constant is change.

Also known as BNS, the music duo has been one of the most commercially successful music acts in Sri Lanka in the last two decades. Ever since their inception in 1998, Bathiya and Santhush have released over 50 number one hit singles including Roo Sara, Kiri Kodu Hithata and more. They also have six platinum selling mainstream albums, one Hindi album in India, four commercially successful EPs, 10 movie soundtracks and over 500 commercial music productions to their credit.

So when the two popular musicians dropped into the Khaleej Times office on Sunday, we just had to ask about their secret to longevity.

"You need to keep changing," Bathiya says, "And also you need to make an effort. We've had this complete understanding where we know that you're a star today, but if you want to be a star tomorrow, you need to be completely working yourself through this evolutionary cycle today."

Santhush added, "The real reason for that change is because they want to succeed, create a mark, become popular or different. But change should happen after understanding your audience, the consumers of your music and knowing their wants and needs."

Both Bathiya and Santhush's families had ties with music long before they turned pro. While Bathiya's mother is a piano teacher, Santhush's grandfather could play any instrument. But having music run in the family isn't something that inspired the two musicians. The duo grew up in the late 80s and early 90s and while the entire world was going through a massive change, Bathiya says, Sri Lanka didn't undergo a complete evolutionary process at the time.

"As young people, we understood that there was kind of a void that we needed to fill," Bathiya says. "And drawing on the inspiration from what we saw around the world, we thought of creating something that would cater to our own void. We started experimenting, putting new sounds together, and with all the inspiration we drew from the world, we wanted to bring Sri Lanka also on to that bandwagon. So we did something, and it created a blast."

BNS' primary objective was to uncover Sri Lanka's music for the world to see, Santhush said, "We wanted to create a Sri Lankan sound which was international, a global sound with Sri Lankan elements in it for people to connect with."

Over the years, Bathiya and Santhush have performed on many occasions across the country and overseas. The duo also achieved significant success with their own concert tour series Neththara Live with 120 concerts (2005-2008), Shaheena Live 40 concerts (2009-2011), Sarasihina Live 150 concerts (2011-2014), BNS Up Close & Personal 50 Concerts (2015- 2018) and their latest concert series Oba Nisa - Celebrating 20 Years of Music which was launched in 2019.

Mixing Sinhala, Tamil, and English in their originals, they have also mixed Hindi in their hits bringing out their contemporary style. BNS became the only Sri Lankan pop act to feature Indian platinum selling singers Hariharan, Asha Bhosle and Sonu Nigam.

Bathiya and Santhush are no strangers to the crowd in the Middle East. The duo recently concluded two music acts; one in Doha, Qatar on Friday, and the other in Dubai on Saturday. "We simply love it," they said of performing here and in Doha. "It was a wonderful experience to have Sri Lankans as well as locals coming to our shows."

When it comes to their favourite aspects of live performances, Bathiya says nothing tops the live reaction of the audience. "A live performance is really good because that's the one time when you get to see people's reaction on a real-time basis," he said. "That's when you start to connect with people. It brings you the most amount of self satisfaction and self appreciation when you see the person's reaction, whether they turn happy or sad."

"Live performances always bring out the best of us, it keeps us going, and it is a constant reminder of why we are doing what we are doing because that experience and love from the audience is what we take back to the studio. Basically it constantly inspires us to do what we do," he added.

In recent times, especially during and post the pandemic, aspiring musicians have it much easier when it comes to exposure. With the availability of social media platforms, one can share their music, or any creative work, and with the right push, the content gets viral in no time. It is obviously an advantage, Bathiya says, "But you also need to keep in mind the competition is 100 times more than what it used to be. It may be easy for musicians to come to the surface, but to stay there and sustain, that's very hard."

"Back in the day, opportunities were scarce, so was the competition. If you got your equation right, you could keep it for a very long time. Today, the global platform is open for everybody; people who are good and people who are bad, all are competing on the same platform."

And the aspiring musicians, who really want to get into the industry, need to have the love for it, that's Santhush's advice, more so, he says, when there is no second chance to create a first impression on social media. The real challenge, Santhush says, is to make that impression last. "And if you do it with a strong mindset, a proper plan and vision, then you will definitely succeed," he said.

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