Sweetie is an electronic musician based in Colombo. It was upon attending a series of electronic music workshops at the Goethe-Institut in 2019 that his interest in live electronic music production was piqued. He was soon picked up and platformed by local electronic imprint Jambutek Recordings on their 2019 release “JBTKVA004” featuring his debut track “Junk”. Since then, he has explored genres such as microhouse, with some hip hop, jazz, funk and break-beat flair. Having just begun his journey when the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon Sri Lanka, he has yet to have the opportunity to perform live — a moment he is eagerly looking forward to.
Photography by Shehan Obeysekara
A young Sri Lankan man stands behind a table covered with electronic music performance equipment, his face obscured by shadows. In the foreground of the screen, he’s framed by the lush foliage of potted plants. As his hands move nimbly across a Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer, a half-time kick and abstracted field recording snippets drift out of the speakers. A spotlight illuminates the performer’s face, syncopated percussion unfolds around the kick, and the song explodes into full-flight, complex 2-step/garage house rhythms accentuated by sampledelic textures. Welcome to the world of Sweetie, an emerging 22-year-old electronic musician from Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Surprisingly, given his sleek and stylish sonics, Sweetie only started making electronic music three years ago after attending a community production workshop and networking with his mentor Asvajit, the founder and curator of the local electronic music imprint and artist collective Jambutek Recordings, and a central figure in the country’s post-civil war house/techno scenes. Over the last fifteen years, he’s seen local interest grow from small gatherings into festival-sized extravaganzas.
When Sweetie began producing electronic music in 2019, he arrived with a musical skill set honed through spending his teenage years playing folkloric Sinhala songs on guitar and participating in his school cadet band as a trumpet player. Working on an old laptop with Ableton Live, Sweetie discovered a passion for deep house, minimal techno and the more jazzy/funky strands of modern club music. His reference points include Sweely, Brac, Sepp and Alci key figures from the European minimal house and techno scene.
In a dynamic contrast with the Progressive House scene that defines the upper-tiers of Sri Lanka’s underground dance scene, Sweetie’s musical concerns are more subtle. Unlike the long trance melodies and drops favoured in that camp, he focuses on interlocking rhythms, clipped samples and unexpected sounds. While preparing for his Thattu Pattu video, he went out on the street to make field recordings of cats, roadside noises and distant conversations before textually manipulating them into the song. Throughout the video, Sweetie’s small sonic details are complemented by intricate light and shadow manipulation courtesy of the Colombo-based experimental visual artist Lalindra Amarasekara.
Halfway through, Sweetie drops the beat into a half-time lurch and plays a haunting one-handed melody on a Korg Minilogue Polyphonic Analog Synthesizer before flipping back into double-time for the track’s coda. In the process, he reveals himself as an electronic artist who can effortlessly slide from house/techno mode into the emotional expression of ambient and the lilt of the lower-tempos.
Later this year, Sweetie will release his first solo EP through Jambutek Recordings. Looking forward, he hopes to incorporate traditional Sri Lankan drums, in particular, thammattama, yakbera and bummadiya, into his productions, as he splits the difference between his local cultural background and his European musical inspirations. Given the quality of his existing work, it feels inevitable that he’ll find a way to bridge the gap.
By Martyn Pepperell
Nigel Perera & Asvajit - Paw (Original Mix)
Curio - Plonk (Original Mix)
Geve and In The Company of Clowns - In Linear Motion
Dinelka - Weakness (Original Mix)
Tomcat and Magnum - Microwave Safety
Cue Matic - Yakutza (Original Mix)
Nigel Perera - Double Trouble (Curio Remix)
We asked Sweetie to curate a playlist that would situate his work in his local context. He chose to highlight songs by musicians he has collaborated with, as well as songs by his contemporaries. he has found these works to be inspiring and influential to his own explorations.
The audio recordings contained in this playlist have been used for non-commercial, educational purposes in compliance with the fair use provisions of the Intellectual Property Act, No. 36 of 2003.