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Q is a Jazz/Soul/RnB singer/songwriter who has been performing since she was 6. After honing her skills at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in the UK and singing at the Barbican Theatre, Q returned home to Sri Lanka and began collaborating with notable musicians like Bo Sedkid and Imaad Majeed on tracks such as Quota [Remix], and, Control. Taking her cues from musicians like Jessie Ware, SZA, and Princess Nokia she started experimenting with alt-R&B and rap as a vehicle for her raw, impassioned lyrics. With the success of her lead single, Took it to the River and its Solange-inspired music video, Q ventured further into uncharted territory in the Sri Lanka music industry and released her debut EP, ”Hysteria”.  Blending alt-R&B with lyrics on female sexuality and independence, Rolling Stone India described it as everything you want to hear in the music of empowerment.

Here is Q in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.

1) When did your journey as a musician begin?

Growing up, music was always somewhat in the background as I loved dancing, singing, acting, etc. I feel like the turning point was hearing Billie Holiday’s ”Am I Blue” which made me want to dive a bit deeper into the world of jazz/blues.  

At university in the UK, I started listening to more albums by alt R&B artists like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Miguel, SZA, Kehlani. Going for gigs I learned so much just by seeing how artists incorporated choreography into their shows or what lighting setups they had.  This coincided with me attending free vocal workshops at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra which helped build my confidence when it came to singing. All of this created a solid foundation to start making music.

2) Tell us more about your singing at the Barbican Theatre.

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (where Amy Winehouse got her start) was an incredible place to learn about jazz and practice performing with big bands. One of the opportunities that came up was a collaborative performance with the Jazz at the Lincoln Centre Orchestra (started by legend, Wynton Marsalis) at the prestigious Barbican Theatre. My friend and I weaseled our way into it and we ended up performing for 700 people – an exhilarating and fantastic learning experience!

3) Which has been your first track?

”Control” was the first song I ever released back in 2017. A Sri Lankan poet/rapper Imaad Majeed connected me with a producer called Bo Sedkid who sent on a lo-fi/electronic Rnb beat. It immediately set off a spark. The song talks about crushing on someone and the limbo you can find yourself in when you’re waiting for the other person to make a move. I cringe when I hear it now but I think it was a good start.

4) Who has been your inspiration?

Too many to name! But definitely, my biggest inspiration has been Jessie Ware and Beyonce, both artists inhabit different spaces in the industry but their music is brilliant and so well executed – from production right down to the music videos. Other than that I adore artists like Rosie Lowe, FKA Twigs, SZA, Kali Uchis, Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Arctic Monkeys, Lorde, Janelle Monae.  

5) Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

My main goal is to keep creating and keep getting better at making music. I want to grow as a lyricist and singer and I hope to be directing my own music videos by then.  

6) Which has been your most memorable project or song?

My debut EP, Hysteria, has definitely been the most memorable project given that it took 4 years for it comes together! I had absolutely no idea what the EP was going to sound like and actually midway through I felt like discarding it entirely. However, meeting the right collaborators and giving myself a hardcore reality check was just what I needed to go into beast mode. It was a tough journey trying to figure out which songs were suitable, what needed to be refined, whether the lyrics could be more concise at certain points, or whether certain vocals needed to be re-done. But we got there in the end!  

7) Tell us more about blending alt-R&B with lyrics on female sexuality and independence.

I looked at the Sri Lankan music industry and realized no one was actually experimenting with alt-R&B nor were they talking about female sexuality and empowerment. Personally, these themes have been so central to my life for the past couple of years so they naturally wormed their way into my writing. There’s a little bit of everything on this EP – from neo-soul to rap, to 80s synths. With ”Took it to the River”, I was channeling my inner SZA, and writing about how to navigate my way through a friends-with-benefits situation. ”100K” (my Cardi B moment) was a way to celebrate women and pull the middle finger on dodgy men.

8) Share some of your achievements with the magazine.

I think Rolling Stone India describing my EP is everything you want to hear in the music of empowerment, was an absolute moment! But beyond music I work as a model and being featured in magazines like L’Officiel Italia and Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka was definitely a highlight. I’ve also managed to act in three Deepa Mehta films, the most recent of which was ”Funny Boy.

9) How was life in quarantine?

I’m fortunate I had a safe place to shelter during the lockdown. I used a lot of the time to do some Masterclasses as well as some online courses on feminism.  I actually started developing the promo strategy for the EP then (even though it only came out a year later) and I also took time to learn new songs for when gigs eventually started up again.

Q’s debut EP “HYSTERIA” is out now. Listen here :


INSTAGRAM : @musicby_q



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About The Author

Rhythm Arya

"You never know how amazing you can be." Editor-in-chief | Traveler | Writer | Artist

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