Her voice will stop anyone in their tracks. Umara Sinhawansa has always had a big presence and an even bigger personality. When she walks into a room, there’s something about her queenly disposition that makes you want to drop a curtsy.
Umara’s voice is multilayered, and she can effortlessly communicate the nuances of jazz, blues and pop. Possessing a range that spans four and a half octaves with ease personifies her forte.
But having grown up in a home where music was the staple also helps. Music was a constant in the Sinhawansa household with someone always belting out a song, and the others joining in with harmonies and complex vocal arrangements.
An obedient student, Umara liked the arts and would be found painting and sculpting pottery, all the while composing or singing. This passion paid off when at the age of 10, she recorded 21 nursery rhymes with her sister Umaria – and they even got paid for the recording!
Growing up in Europe where her parents were in the music industry certainly helped spark her passion.
Umara has always been a workaholic. When she married and moved to Hong Kong, Umara embarked on mastering the art of jazz from the best in the music industry. She then broke into the Chinese market and established herself as a Sri Lankan vocalist and performer, evidenced by the large crowds she drew when Proteus played.
Winning multiple awards at the Crimea Music Fest in Ukraine was another accolade she accepted gracefully. She’s also audio engineering and was the designated audio engineer when BNS toured.
And there’s more! She trains around 800 students at her vocal academy; and when she wants to relax, Umara listens to music or watches a movie and sometimes chats with Toothsie Timothi Sinhawansa, the family’s pet tortoise.
Umara Sinhawansa has three things on her bucket list: to record an international hit, skydive and visit Africa. Savithri Rodrigo chats with one of Sri Lanka’s leading ladies of song – her likes, loves and dreams for the future follow.
Q: Did you discover anything new about yourself during the pandemic?
A: Yes, I realised that I’m a ‘germaphobe’ and ‘cleanaholic’ on a whole new level.
Q: What new things have you been trying out?
A: Dance – jazz, contemporary and hip-hop.
Q: Your first memory of music...
A: Singing on stage for the very first time when I was seven years old.
Q: Who has been your inspiration from day one?
A: My parents have been my inspiration because of their work ethicand commitment.
Q: Which childhood values have helped you in your career?
A: Punctuality, work ethic, staying focussed, discipline and commitment.
Q: Has your Muslim upbringing hindered your career in any way?
A: Not at all. My family has always been supportive of our careers as long as we gave priority to education and conducted ourselves in a respectable manner so that others would respect us in turn.
Q: What are your sisterly moments like with Umaria?
A: We do get crazy together – because we get to be ourselves away from the limelight. We are also each other’s therapists and can rely on one another.
Q: How would your parents describe you?
A: Hardworking, committed and their favourite daughter! My sister will definitely have concerns about this statement so I’ll await her call.
Q: What is the biggest lesson your son has taught you?
A: To be strong, appreciate the little things in life and face any situation.
Q: How did your husband respond to you being an artiste?
A: He had no clue that I was a well-known singer in Sri Lanka. But after finding out, he has been my biggest supporter and a tower of strength.
Q: What would be your ideal date night with him?
A: A horror movie and home cooked meal together.
Live or recorded
Solo or duet
Miked or unplugged
Piano or guitar
Lounge bar or stage
Jazz or blues
Classical or pop
Facebook or Instagram
Book or magazine
Film or TV
Comedy or romance
Dressed up or casual
High heels or flats
Dress or pants
Earrings or bracelets
Eyeliner or lipstick
Plane or train
Cricket or tennis
Jog or walk
Roses or chocolates
Ice cream or pudding
Rice or pasta
Coffee or tea
Q: What has been your biggest break?
A: Representing Sri Lanka at three international singing competitions and bringing fame to my country.
Q: Are there differences between audiences in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong?
A: Sri Lankan audiences are interactive and give the performer an adrenaline rush. However, even though Hong Kong audiences are interactive, they are calm and pay attention to the performance, appreciating every detail.
Q: What is the one thing you wish for to further your career?
A: To be signed up by an international label.
Q: If you weren’t a singer, what would you have been?
A: A fashion designer or an interior designer.
Q: What’s your dream performance venue?
A: Madison Square Garden in New York.
Q: If you could front line one band in the world, which would it be?
A: Destiny’s Child – Umaria and I used to love their songs.
Q: And who in the whole world would you like to sing a duet with?
A: I would have loved to sing a duet with Whitney Houston (my all-time favourite female vocalist) because she was pure magic.
Q: If you could change one thing in your industry, what would it be?
A: The mindset of a few people.
Brothers (Harthono and Subandrio)
Muslim Ladies’ College
Those who don’t say ‘thank you,’ ‘sorry’ and ‘please’
ALWAYS WANTED TO BE
A versatile vocalist
People who are empathetic, hardworking and reliable
Husband and son
Q: Your fantasy date night would be…
A: With my amazing husband Rifky.
Q: A crazy habit…
A: I laugh at my own jokes even if they don’t make senseto other people!
Q: Any phobias?
A: I’m pyrophobic and afraid of gas cookers. I lost a dear friend due to an explosion from a gas leak and had to escape the flames when I was stuck in a building that was catching fire.
Q: What causes move you?
A: Autism and children with special needs. I’m an advocate formental health awareness and depression.
Q: What is the legacy you’d like to leave for your son?
A: I want him to be kind, trustworthy and trusting; have a mindset of abundance and the freedom to enjoy his passions; respect others and be a good person. Most importantly, I want him to remember how much I love him.
Pants or jeans
Oversized T-shirts and tops
CAN’T DO WITHOUT
Boyz II Men
LOCAL HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
OVERSEAS HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS