“Just be yourself. That’s the only thing what matters, Dad said.” Talk with GaaPiNk
7 October 2020 01:37 pm
Sri Lanka is facing a potential second wave of Coronavirus. Let us never forget that. As a country, we once suffered from the global pandemic compromising the most treasured moments of our lives. It is high time we stick to the health directives once again, whilst contributing to the duty of eradicating this global contagion.
Despite the obstacles, the digital space has been a haven for newcomers to the music industry in recent times. The lockdown diaries may have barred the physical space for them to show off their talents, skills and abilities, but the digital space welcomed them with opened arms, and we have come across a number of gallant artists in the recent past who have portrayed their true colours.
But the star we meet today is not a newcomer to the music industry at all. They opened their small gypsy-fashioned tent in the realm of music a few years ago. But their music has been keenly heard among the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka, for it gave breath to reawaken the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community as well as showcases the return of the Sri Lankan Queer Culture.
Their name is GaaPiNk. Only days ago, GaaPiNk’s debut Sinhala song "Aale Obata Ma" was released on YouTube. There was a lot of talk about this song on Social Media. The approach may have been positive, or negative, but with the eye-catching music video for "Aale Obata Ma" alongside its beautiful lyrics and vocals, GaaPiNk manages to convey a higher social message that transcends the traditional barriers of Gender. So, we, LNW, decided to have a friendly chat with GaaPiNk.
Below is the discussion we had with GaaPiNk.
How do you describe GaaPiNk?
Aye, simply the definition would be more than a Carousel. Because a Carousel might be beautiful at first sight and it goes up and down when everything is good, but when the things are bad it crashes, but GaaPiNk is not.
Is the name GaaPiNk just a stage name you came up with, or does it have any deeper meaning?
Well it's not only a stage name, it is the life that I have created for myself. GaaPiNk gives me life. I would say that the part "Gaa" came up with Lady Gaga, because she inspired me to be myself, and I chose "PiNk" because it symbolizes harmony & inner peace.
'Aale Obata Ma' is quite an emotional song. What is this song actually about?
'Aale Obata Ma' is all about love and the beautiful feeling of falling in queer love. There are many unheard and untold love stories around the world and this song is dedicated to all the lost souls who have found heaven so soon. For some people, love can be used to describe almost anything. Love may feel messy and complicated, but love means totality, commitment, space, respect and also being independent. But still there are queer people who are afraid of love most often because of how the concept of love in so heteronormatively constructed, and for some the emotional bond is intact and strong even after death. And Run (Aale Obata Ma) depicts that feeling.
Your music is the most original material of its kind we have seen so far. But at the same time, we feel that it has always been amongst us, lying dormant, waiting to blossom one day. How well do you think the Queer Culture of Sri Lanka evolved throughout the years?
Challenging. But since the beginning of time, the Queer Culture has always been there. The Queer Representation is everywhere. Happy to see many local artists have engaged in public and also, I’m grateful to all the people for their continuous support.
Through your art, you express your Gender outside the binary norm of being a man and a woman. Have you ever felt that this was challenging, given that the society could be hostile to Queer Visibility?
Well, Queer is not a label but the struggle is real. It wasn't too long ago when queerness onscreen was considered risky, controversial, or even career-ending. And still the queer community is thus frequently subjected to associated with social stigma. About social attitudes towards visibility, it depends on person to person. It’s all about negative and positive factors, so what I believe is keep faith, just be yourself.
Before ‘Aale Obata Ma’, you have done a number of songs in English, which are quite famous in the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community. Tell us what drove you to take a different approach this time?
First, I would like to thank my friend Isuru Parakrama for the beautiful lyrics. My initial plan was to release this song in both languages, but I got the opportunity to represent my country for Global Youth Online Pride Festival 2020 and I decided to release the Sinhala version as my debut Sinhala song.
At what point in your life you decided to become an artist? Do you have any role models, or any inspiration whom you value?
I was in love once, I always loved the vibe of Lana Del Rey, she is my biggest inspiration. Her music is an outlet for queer people to feel their fantasies. And there is so much of healing, medication in her songs. It makes me strong when I was struggling after I broke up, and it led me to writing my first song “Rainbow”, and then my debut single "precious" was released.
Have you studied music prior to building up a career?
No, well at school yes.
What was your family’s (and your friends’) take on your visibility as a queer artist?
My father was the only person from my family who actually knew me better. Once he told me "Just be yourself that's the only thing what matters," and I did it. So, I don't have anything to regret even after he was gone. I just miss him. And like always I'm so grateful to my friends.
Your music is an inspiration to upcoming young queer artists who may be looking for a sign for ignition. Any advice?
Work hard babies. The world won't change, but people change it.
How do you describe love? Have you been in love?
Love is so precious and Yes, I have been in love. I’m in love.
Being queer in Sri Lanka is undoubtedly a challenge. You share the knowledge on the struggle the Queer Community faces on a daily basis. Growing up, how did you tackle these challenges?
Throughout my musical journey I’ve met with a lot of obstacles: opposition from my family, pressures from labels, however these things never stopped me. They just encouraged and challenged me and pushed me to work harder and to find new ways to contribute better meaningful music for future generations.
LGBTIQ people in Sri Lanka are often subject to discrimination and harassment by various means at various degrees. Among them is Cyber Bullying, which is trending in the present context. Have you ever faced Cyber Bullying at any point of your life due to your Gender Identity, and / or Sexual Orientation?
There may have been an instance or two where I was harassed online for my appearance. But at most I’m in the safe zone because I have a strong friend circle. But I know a lot of community people out there may not be as privileged as I am for that matter. I feel for them and share their pain. Cyber Bullying is happening every part of the country. According to my point of view, internal homophobia is at works in most of the cases where LGBTIQ people are discriminated in the online platform.
How do you think Cyber Bullying in Sri Lanka can be prevented?
Strong laws against Cyber Bullying should be introduced and implemented.
How strong do you think the LGBTIQ movement is in Sri Lanka?
Oh, [smiling] you know about this better than me. I don't want to comment on this.
Just when Sri Lanka was being recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we were threatened with a second wave of the contagion. Last time, it did have a negative effect on marginalised groups upon receiving services and concessions due to instigated racism, stigma on underlying medical conditions, homophobia etc. How hard do you think the COVID-19 crisis was for the LGBTIQ Community to deal with?
Had there been an extent of discrimination and harassment against LGBTIQ people in Sri Lanka, I can say that it doubled due to lockdown. Of course, the COVID-19 Pandemic affected their visibility because the public began to take extra precaution with whom they interact on almost every platform, increasing judgement. In fact, there were situations where their identities were forcibly outed.
LGBTIQ people with underlying medical conditions (HIV for example) refrained themselves from reaching out to clinics, because almost every hospital facility was converted into a COVID-19 treatment unit. They were afraid that they will be highlighted for who they are and thrown out, hence the fear of contracting the virus.
I think our friends in the LGBTIQ community who were doing casual/temporary jobs and earning a daily income lost their jobs due to lockdown. Many of those who were living in rented places were unable to pay their rents due to losing income. This was a serious problem to the community. I’ve seen a lot of community organisations stepped forward and helped them. But I think this should also be the responsibility of the government. We are part of this society.
In this second wave of Coronavirus, I call upon all my friends to stay at home and follow the health directives to the letter. We’re in this together, we have to battle it. Stay strong. Let’s hope that this time it will be not as difficult as the last time.
Do you consider yourself a leader to the apprentices of your generation and the generations to follow?
I'm not a leader I'm just a human, and I am independent artist, who writes songs with the intention that people will have an emotional response to them and connect it with whatever the journey they are on.
What would be your message to the Queer Community out there who may still find visibility a challenge to face with?
Back in the day, Lady Gaga’s sexuality became a hot topic on the internet because of a rumour suggesting that the singer might be a hermaphrodite, having genitals of both sexes. At the same time a lot of people believed that and I remember Gaga was asked by Anderson Cooper about the rumour that she had “a male appendage, that [she was] a hermaphrodite”. She promptly replied with: “Why the hell am I going to waste my time and give a press release about whether or not I have a penis? My fans don’t care and neither do I.” See, sometimes people are different sometimes when you hear things like that simply it motivates you or you'll feel disappointed. So, what I think is, Visibility can be changed but all it matters is your capacity, so create a life, where you feel free. Respect others, and respect yourself. Your life belongs to you. You alone decide what should be done with it.
Beethoven said Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. What would be the philosophy you deliver to society through your music?
"It doesn't matter if you falling from multiple skies, just keep faith on earth, coz only you can change your own world."
By any chance will we get to hear about an upcoming GaaPiNk album?
Probably by December, 2021, or January, 2022. Thank you