A Multifaceted Diamond
Professional singer, lyricist, composer, creative director, fashion model, actress… the list goes on – and she certainly has the world in the palm of her hand! As the words of her songs 100K and Took It To The River say…
‘Built the empire, made the most of me;
Invest in myself, educate what’s left.’
Francesca Mudannayake is always trying to be something more than a line in a song… it’s a way of life for her. Acting, singing and dancing since she was only six, this bold beauty is all about undiluted talent – and a passion that she ‘flames on’ with hard work, dedication and a desire to be different.
A natural performer with a sultry alluring voice, which has charmed and entertained audiences – from a spectrum of stages including Colombo’s grandest events and finest watering holes hotels to the Barbican Theatre in London – Francesca (better known as ‘Q’) has made her mark in the music arena.
Her debut extended play (EP) Hysteria made massive waves and won critical acclaim from Rolling Stone India and radio play on the BBC Asian Network.
When she’s not creating magic on stage, Francesca is crafting it on paper – and in her head, of course! Her secret? A flair for words – and as she admits, a compulsion to write down her swirling thoughts.
Her magic spills over from the stage to the silver screen as well. Having starred in productions such as Funny Boy, The Red Mustang, Midnight’s Children and Water, she has a penchant for storytelling, be it in song, words or body language.
Mudannayake believes in hard work. She never refuses to try something new, making her a multifaceted diamond that shines bright from any angle so to say.
Ruwandi Perera sat down with this talented performer to unravel how she thrives on mass hysteria – both on and offstage!
I think Q is an extension of Francesca. She’s brasher, bolder, sexier and more emotional, and I feel comfortable displaying all those aspects when I’m in ‘Q mode’
DATE OF BIRTH
8 September 1996
Elizabeth Moir School
Royal Holloway – University of London
ALWAYS WANTED TO BE BUT NEVER COULD
“I would love to train as a yoga teacher or counsellor”
Release another EP with accompanying music videos
Do a music residency in another country
Host a solo show
Walking around Independence Square
Fashion and getting dressed up
Discovering new food spots in Colombo
FAVOURITE FASHION BRANDS
MOTTO IN LIFE
When you do things with love and care, everything else falls into place
ADVICE TO BUDDING MUSICIANS
Talent is only 30 percent of the job – the rest of it will be down to hard work
I am in the middle of writing my new EP but I’m not sure when it will be released. It’s shaping up to be more R‘n’B and soul-oriented, with a focus on joy and good energy
Q: You play multiple roles – but are we right in thinking you’re a performer above all else?
A: Definitely! From the age of six, I’ve been acting, dancing and singing.
A reason for getting into music was because I had the opportunity to do all those things on one stage. In general, I’m a bit of a show-off; but I can be acutely shy when there are too many eyeballs on me!
Q: Is the persona of ‘Q’ different to that of Francesca – and how and why, if so?
A: I think Q is an extension of Francesca. She’s brasher, bolder, sexier and more emotional, and I feel comfortable displaying all those aspects when I’m in ‘Q mode.’
Ironically, I’ve been called Q by close friends and family since I was a baby – so when it came to picking a stage name, it felt like a good fit.
Q: How have you evolved as a performer – and what is your ultimate goal?
A: Over the past two years, I’ve been gigging consistently with my band, and that has strengthened my voice and improved my vocal stamina. Yet, I have a lot more to learn in terms of pitch, timing, improvisational skills, audience interaction and so on.
Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where I can manage four hour gigs without it being too much of a strain on my voice.
Q: Last year, you became the woman with a cat on her shoulder when you released the 100K music video. Can you take us back to this experience and how it has helped you grow?
A: 100K was my ode to hardworking women who don’t get the money they deserve in worlds where they’re constantly being told to work for exposure.
After experiencing one such instance, a narrative began formulating in my head, involving a rebellious superhero-like character who goes on a journey to get what is rightfully hers.
I was able to collaborate with talented animator Shenuka Corea to create a music video that took its inspiration from superhero movies and the Kill Bill films. It was also the first time I had rapped in a song – so I’m quite proud of it!
Q: Any new projects we can look forward to…?
A: I am in the middle of writing my new EP but I’m not sure when it will be released. It’s shaping up to be more R‘n’B and soul-oriented, with a focus on joy and good energy.
Hopefully, everyone will enjoy it.
Q: What drives you as a writer?
A: I like the idea of a story and reading about the emotional arc of the subject. It’s there when I watch a movie, write a song or see a friend go through life changes.
Every person has a story and I see myself as a conduit for channelling it to the rest of the world.
Q: You’re known to have a witty and direct writing style. What is your formula when it comes to delivering the final piece?
A: In the case of articles, I tend to ‘word-vomit’ every idea I have and then plan what points will come under whichever paragraph.
I focus on writing the easier stuff first before graduating to the difficult parts that call for more thought. If I hit a block, I take a break and come back to it in half an hour. Usually, the problem will solve itself and I’ll have an idea.
Q: Genes compared to passion – where do you think your love and talent for writing comes from?
A: My parents instilled a love of reading in me when I was a child; and I adored immersing myself in other worlds. As an adult now however, I find myself gravitating more towards short form prose, poetry, interviews and autobiographies – because life is indeed stranger than fiction.
If I feel intensely about something, phrases swirl around in my brain and I have to write them down. I don’t see this as a talent but rather, something that I have to do.
My friends are my North Stars – they keep me grounded when I’m stressing about silly things, and tell me when I’m acting up and need to come down to earth
I Wanna Be Yours – by Arctic Monkeys
Want Your Feeling – by Jessie Ware
Lujon – by Henry Mancini
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China – by Jung Chang
Mansions of the Moon – by Shyam Selvadurai
Girl, Woman, Other – by Bernardine Evaristo
GLOBAL MUSIC ICONS
SRI LANKAN ARTISTES
PLACES TO UNWIND
At home – with Netflix
Anywhere near the sea
In the company of close friends
At the Barbican Theatre in London for an audience of 700 in 2016
Q x The Band performed at a wedding in Lunuganga at the end of 2022 – it was epic
Q: What’s a typical day in your life like?
A: As a freelancer, every day is different. I usually like to use early mornings for yoga or walking. After breakfast, I start working on vocal techniques, and practising new and old songs.
After lunch, I’ll read for a bit and nap. Afternoons are reserved for writing lyrics for my new EP. In the evenings, I’ll probably do another workout (swim or in the gym). If there’s a gig to do however, it’s a mad rush to eat, get dressed, warm up and head out!
Q: As for the work-life balance, you seem to have mastered it! Are there any rules that you live by?
A: The term ‘work-life’ seems to indicate that work is separate from life instead of something that should be harmoniously integrated into it. I’m trying to reach that point, and this has been supported by figuring out my personal and professional goals.
If I feel intensely about something, phrases swirl around in my brain and I have to write them down. I don’t see this as a talent but rather, something that I have to do
I’d like to have a career that fulfils me; but my health, relationships and friendships will always take priority.
Q: Do you ever switch off from what you consider to be work? And what do you do then?
A: I function at opposite ends of the extreme. When I’m in work mode, I have ‘zero chill’ and always come close to burning out.
When I’m on holiday, I love being lazy and slow. I’ll read, watch a lot of movies and hang out with friends. I need to find a balance!
Q: Who or what has the most influence on you?
A: My friends are my North Stars – they keep me grounded when I’m stressing about silly things, and tell me when I’m acting up and need to come down to earth.