If you get there early enough, you might be able to treat your taste buds to some legendary Melo cake. A home-baked, decadent chocolate cake that is occasionally sold, by the slice, at the session. And fittingly so. What Melo cake is to your taste buds, is what the Melomanic Sessions is to your soul. Yes, your soul.
Fairy lights, often big cushions, smiles and some fantastic acoustic music at the Melomanic Sessions (fondly referred as Melo now) makes you feel like you’re chilling at an old friend’s place. It’s unpretentious and folksy. Even though the locations of the sessions have changed since the first gig in 2011, it’s the atmosphere created by the founders Asela, CC and Kavya, the fun and delightfully quirky artists, and the ardent Melo following that can make newbies feel at home.
Rewind to 2011
Three years back when the founding trio – each with their own unique musical background – decided to organise an acoustic gig, they never imagined it would gain an eager following that would in fact prod them whenever two months would lapse without their favourite acoustic Melomanic music. “We try to stick to a cycle of one every two months. We’ve had 17 sessions since Nov 2011. I guess that works out to one every two and a half months. This is the longest we can go before our dear followers start to threaten us for not fulfilling their acoustic music craving”, says CC the hard rock fan among them.
Asela, CC and Kavya, realised that Colombo lacked a space for regular acoustic music, which was unfortunate considering the city is nothing short of talented singers and instrumentalists.
“From the very first Melo on the 5th of November 2011, we keep getting surprised at the response and the expanding crowds”, recalls CC. “We knew we were doing something right, but not entirely sure what it was. Melo was contagious. It’s no surprise that Melo has lasted for more than three years, but we are thankful it has”.
What’s kept Melo going?
Over the years, Melo has featured highly talented artists, some with a wonderfully distinctive and even quirky style. From heavy metal acts, rappers, beat boxers to mini-choirs all strip down musically to suit the sessions, describes CC. “We’ve also had music in many languages from English to Sinhalese, Tamil, French and Spanish”, adds Asela. “Diversity and left field performances are something that we thrive on”.
Some of the best performers include, Kei Watanabe who has an amazing singing voice which she pairs up with skilful ukulele strumming. Late last year she performed a charming rendition of Malivan Reynold’s Little Boxes, and a mind-blowingly melo ukulele version of Marilyn Manson’s Dope. For a peek into the remarkable original music performed at Melo, check out founding member Kavya’s Chocolate. Among well-known bands such as Cynosure, Melo features artists who are part of local orchestras with solo performances as well as undiscovered talent diversifying the acts.
Of course, the trio endeavours to maintain a high standard to ensure that the Melo community’s collective ears receive the best music Sri Lanka has to offer. The team screens the performers before putting them onstage. CC explains that the screening process is crucial and is what the success of Melo is founded on. “Usually we invite people who we already have seen, who has potential, or we tell performers to send in demos for screening. As a rule, from 2015, artists need to have at least one original composition in their set-list, to be selected”
“We think the whole Melo family would like to see music coming from the sessions migrated to an international platform” says Asela. “I have a feeling we wouldn’t have to wait for five years more for this. We are encouraging artists to play originals and hope to produce release a compilation CD in 2015 with purely original acoustic music”.
“We feel that now, since Melo has become a family name of sorts, we want to push the limits a bit further by giving back to these artists in some form or manner. A part of that whole focus as CC said would be the completion of an original compilation. I can’t recall how many times we’ve had conversations about making music a sustainable career for local artists that pursue it because it’s their passion and we feel we’re finally managing to encourage them in some form or way, be it the reception from the Melo community towards their music or in terms of helping promote their music”.
The informal setting and original home grown acoustic music is expanding and improving thanks to Melo. If you would like to experience the Melomanic Sessions, and see what it’s all about, check out their Facebook page for information on the next gig and where it will be held. With chocolately Melo-cake tucked away in your tummy, and the sweet sound of good acoustic music filling your senses, you will find it hard to resist indulging in the melomania.