Sri Lanka’s entertainment scene comes of age

Sri Lanka’s entertainment scene comes of age

Despite the economic doom and gloom, power cuts, political uncertainties and external creditors playing hard ball the resilience of Sri Lankans is on full display. Not only do the hotels seem thriving with partying and dining clientele but even world class water parks are being opened in the outskirts of the capital. Such fanfare would not be on display in other countries languishing the similar credit rating index as Sri Lanka.

What is most heartening to see is how the country’s arts and entertainment sector is literally taking centre stage with seemingly not a care in the world. In recent years the boom in reality shows has resulted in an entirely new generation of Lankan talent emerging from every corner of the island. In addition, the digital platforms have seen such talent flaunting their capabilities across the world and into the homes of Sri Lankan diaspora. Not only is the talent astounding but the quality of the productions too has caught up with the rest of the world. The use of high tech equipment has given creative directors huge opportunity to exploit their latent talents. An example of such an initiative is the imminent release of Sri Lanka cinema’s hallmark new 3D animation comedy GAJAMAN a creation by some young Old Peterites and featuring the voices of popular Lankan actors and actresses including the late Sunil Perera- himself an Old Peterite. Most Sydney screenings are completely sold out

While all the TV media organisations are jumping over each other to compete for eyeballs and develop their mass appeal through reality talent shows, one organisation in particular seems to have easily taken the lead. Derena first launched its Derena Dream Star reality talent show in 2008. Today Derena Dream Star Season 11 is about to commence. What a success story in every facet of creativity, vision, production quality, audience attraction and above all unearthing such a plethora of quality talent. Despite there being one ‘Derena Dream Star’ each season, even those in top 12 to 15 finalists have gone on to seek fame and popularity in areas of music, the big screen and the small screen. Their reach has been across the global Sri Lankan diaspora thanks to Youtube and other digital channels. Such has been the contribution of Derena to the development of Sri Lankan entertainment.

With the start of the ‘round of 72’ to commence this weekend, the build up to Derena Dream Star Season 11 – Road to DDS – has been a pleasure to watch. Over four episodes the singing and dancing talent over the last 14 years has been on show. What is most interesting is to observe the transformation of Sri Lankan entertainment over this period. What began as a typical Sinhalese talent show has now morphed into a multi-linguistic and westernised showcase of Sri Lankan talent. Over the years the contestants – and the directors – have brought in Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and of course English songs to augment the traditional Sinhalese offerings. In addition, the genre has also shifted from the traditional sombre style to pop, rap and other variants. The dancing has made leaps and bounds to include Baila, Bollywood, Western and even Broadway musical style. What a seismic shift.

Derena Dreamstar Season 9 can perhaps be identified as the fork in the road – the shift to the next level. This season saw many talented contestants come together. Any of at least the last six could have emerged as the season’s Dream Star. However, one individual prevailed for very good reason. Fallan Andrea Jansen introduced an entirely new energised perspective to the show. Her deep singing voice be it in Sinhalese, or English, in traditional style, modern, pop or baila demonstrated her versatility which could appeal to any global audience. She even belted out a popular Elvis Presley number. Add to that her dance moves and stage personality which makes her the Sri Lankan ‘J Lo’! It is this type of entertainment personality that can project Sri Lankan musical talent to the rest of the world. The season 9 runner-up Nuwandhika Senaratne with an angelic voice too did herself proud and for a village damsel from Narammala, Kurunegala her rendition of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ during the competition was flawless. Her rendition of the Lady Gaga / Bradley Cooper favourite ‘Shallow’ in a recent Road to DDS performance was fantastic. Both of these ladies have now gone on to better and brighter things. The global stage awaits them. Plaudits must also go out to the Derena backup band Shiksha who are also world class.

Fallan has now been catapulted to the compering role for Derena Dreamstar Season 11 – and what a refreshing change this will be. The Producers of the show are really lifting the bar. In the lead up shows Fallan has demonstrated her class and finesse with her bilingual forte. Her grace, poise and elegance will no doubt attract an even wider audience over the months and years.

Therefore, despite the economic woes and misfortunes Sri Lanka faces the performances and aspirations of the next generation of talent is at least in some small way putting a smile on a hungry face. It can really be said that the Sri Lankan entertainment scene has come of age and compares with the best across the world!

Derena Dream Star can be seen on demand on Youtube. Fallan Andrea Jansen performs at the Bowman Hall Blacktown on March 3rd.


Aubrey Joachim FCMA CGMA MBA

Aubrey is a Global Trainer in Strategic Finance Transformation, Asset Management Planning, Strategic Management Accounting, FP&A. Coach & mentor. He was the former Global President of CIMA