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INSIDE STORY

UMARA SINHAWANSA

PRESENCE AND PERSONALITY


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.

LIFE

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.

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"My parents have been my inspiration because of their work ethic and commitment"

Quick-fire round

Live or recorded
Live

Solo or duet
Solo

Miked or unplugged
Unplugged

Piano or guitar
Piano

Lounge bar or stage
Stage

Jazz or blues
Jazz

Classical or pop
Classical

Facebook or Instagram
Instagram

Book or magazine
Magazine

Film or TV
Film

Comedy or romance
Romance

Dressed up or casual
Dressed up

High heels or flats
High heels

Dress or pants
Pants

Earrings or bracelets
Earrings

Eyeliner or lipstick
Eyeliner

Plane or train
Plane

Cricket or tennis
Cricket

Jog or walk
Walk

Roses or chocolates
Chocolates

Ice cream or pudding
Pudding

Rice or pasta
Pasta

Coffee or tea
Coffee

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I would have loved to sing a duet with Whitney Houston because she was pure magic

CAREER

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.

About Umara

LIFESTYLE

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.

Umara’s Favourites

BRANDS
Kate Spade
FILA
Dior

CLOTHES
Pants or jeans
Blazer
Oversized T-shirts and tops

ACCESSORIES
Rings
Earrings
Chains

CAN’T DO WITHOUT
Her family
Mobile phone
Food

FOOD
Spaghetti
Sushi
Sweets

ENTERTAINERS
Jimmy Fallon
James Corden
Ellen DeGeneres

SINGERS
Whitney Houston
Mariah Carey
Michael Jackson

MUSICIANS
Stevie Wonder
Michael Jackson
Bob Marley

BANDS
Destiny’s Child
Boyz II Men
BTS

INSTRUMENTS
Piano
Violin
Cello

ENTERTAINMENT CAPITALS
Los Angeles
Las Vegas
Paris

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