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            RITTAY’S RHYTHM             

By Vindya Amaranayake
A familiar drumbeat slowly begins. It is similar to the davul drum that is often associated with temple music in Sri Lanka. In the background is the rhythmic noise of dripping water – deliberate, drop by drop. Then a soulful voice begins to utter the song.

The song has a distinct religious flavour to it – it is Buddhist in particular, especially the light drumbeat that is constantly played in the background, complementing the strong voice of the singer. The song, at certain points, renders a strong resonance of a gatha – especially when the guttural voice of the singer, slows down gradually.

Rishvan Imon – Rittay to his close friends – is the latest Maldivian singing sensation. His powerful voice is capable of rendering music of different genres. Apart from being on the verge of international stardom, why is he of special interest to Sri Lanka?
Rittay’s first international solo album Share My Dreams is ready to be released, and all the melodies and musical arrangements in the album are prepared by none other than Kalasuri Diliup Gabadamudalige.

According to Gabadamudalige, all instruments in the album were performed via MIDI, and the album was recorded, mixed and mastered at his EMorphus Studio in Pelawatte, Battaramulla.

The English album has 13 songs and they were written by Gabadamudalige, Uddaka Tennekoon and Coomerene Rodrigo. The first song in the album, The Queen of My Heart is, more or less, the steppingstone for Rittay’s international music career.

It was performed in his first international show in August 2007 at Centenary Square Bradford, UK. The song is an appreciation of late Lady Diana, and the lyrics were penned by Gabadamudalige. He was then part of a band called The Clove.

“When Rittay played the ballad in Bradford, it was requested five times,” Gabadamudalige said, giving credence to the rising success of the star.

The English album includes music from several different genres – ballads, reggae, R&B and rock. Several reggae songs in the album are close to the music of reggae icon Bob Marley, but also echo the music of the more recent American band, Big Mountain. Yet, it is Rittay’s powerful voice that makes him unique and different than others.

His first solo Divehi (the official language of the Maldives) album is also unique. The lyrics were by Easa Shareef and the music was composed by Gabadamudalige. Although the language is quite unfamiliar to the Sri Lankan ears, the melodies are very much oriental and contain the flavour of Hindustani music genre.

The special feature in the album is the use of Maldivian drum Boduberu, which has added a distinct essence to the songs. There is a sense of strong familiarity of music, beneath the surface of unfamiliar language of the lyrics.

Rittay’s father is also very famous Maldivian singer, particularly in the 1970s and ’80s. Rittay takes his music from his father. Until very recently he has been performing in the island resorts of the Maldives.

Rittay was discovered by the Apollo Entertainment. In a context where the big corporates are reluctant to finance the theatre and artistes, this is a very good example. It was Ahmed Arif (Artay) of Apollo Entertainment who has discovered Rittay.

Referring to Rittay’s voice, Gabadamudalige said, “He has a very good range. Fantastic. When he first walked into my studio, he looked like a slightly built young man. But his strong voice was a total surprise.”
Rittay’s albums, English and Divehi, will be internationally released soon.

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