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INTERVIEW – ANNE RANI: Danish Superstar of Lankan descent

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BY Tharishi Hewavithanagamage

Music transcends time and borders. The variety of genres available today caters to everyone’s tastes in music, from classical music to rock, R&B, rap and more. Accessibility to songs today comes at the touch of a button, all provided by streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music. But the 90s era was very different and produced many songs that are considered timeless classics today. Apart from hip-hop and rap, genres like R&B and urban music became extremely popular in the 90s. Ground-breaking and eclectic most songs from the era were outcomes of bold experimentation and creative fusions.

Trends picked up with teen-pop and dance-pop music from boy bands and girl bands such as ‘NSync, The Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, TLC and Destiny’s Child to name a few. They topped charts around the world and their releases continue to transcend generations of avid listeners. Anne Rani— a successful singer, songwriter, producer and budding actress— spawned from the trendy 90s era. Sri Lankan by birth Anne was adopted by Danish parents in 1976, from an orphanage in Panadura at just eight months old. She was too young to have any recollection of her childhood and birth in Sri Lanka, she was fortunate enough to start her life in Denmark. Shooting to fame at a young age, Anne has seen and experienced it all. The Island was fortunate enough to speak to the Danish pop star who had very valuable insights to share based on her many experiences, especially as a female POC (person of color) making it big in the music industry. Her reputation in her native Denmark is based on her phenomenal success as a member of R&B trio “JUICE”.

Q. How did you get into the music scene?

From a very young age she was already gifted with the art of music. She started taking piano lessons at the age of six and looking back she says, “I loved music, and I was able to play by ear, so I often had trouble remembering notes.” She continues, “I was also part of the choir and I remember the teacher telling my parents that I should take singing classes”, which became the foundation for her career. Anne also went to America for eight months as an exchange student, which is where she was able to develop her English language skills. In the time she spent in America, she recalls the most amazing experiences that expanded her taste for music. She goes on, “In those eight months I had an amazing choir teacher. She was truly an inspiration and I still remember her to this day. She runs the most amazing choirs even today. To experience music like that, it was simply beautiful. I learned a lot about singing in harmony.”

She returned to Denmark to complete her education, but on the side, she would continue to make music. “After school I used to meet up with music producers, I would play in bands and go out performing too. I also used to make demo tapes with my producer back then”, Anne says. Her hard work paid off when, unbeknownst to her, one of her friends played her demo tapes for a producer from the leading record label in Denmark – EMI-Medley. “After hearing my demo, the producer contacted me, and that magical phone call completely changed my life”, Anne recalls.

The record label was already working on putting together a girl group and invited Anne to join. “I was only 19 years old at the time and I went to meet the team and the other girl who was chosen to join the project. I took the opportunity and my life changed in a flash.” Anne became a member of the Danish girl band JUICE alongside Lena Tahara and Maria Hamer. The group became very popular with their debut album and were instant chart toppers, both domestically and internationally. “We toured all over the world and performed at big venues like the Wembley arena in the UK. We also went on tour with the British boy band Five,” Anne says.

The group lasted for five years and released two albums in their active years. The trio also collaborated with songwriter Remee, S.O.A.P and Christina Undhjem on the song ‘Let Love Be Love’, which Anne says is ‘the biggest Christmas song in Denmark to this day’.

Q. What were your experiences like as a female artist and POC in the music industry?

While Anne considers herself very lucky to have received the opportunity to enter the music industry so early on in life, but also shared the less glamorous side to having so much fame at a very young age. “We were very young, and we didn’t know much about the industry. We were constantly traveling and promoting, and the experience was unique, but it was also hard. Not everyone gets to see the more difficult days we go through,” she says.

Going further, we discussed her experience as a female artist in the music industry and the difficulties she faced. “When I was young, I definitely had to prove that I was more than just a pretty face. Having a pretty face is said to be a good thing in showbiz, but sometimes you need to prove that there is more to you than just that. You need to carve out an identity for yourself and show that you are talented and capable of putting in the hard work and effort that goes into creating music. Regardless of gender people will always be quick to judge and question your abilities, so it’s important to prove yourself.” She was often told that as a female artist she had to work harder to ensure she could leave her mark in the industry.

The music industry has always wrestled with inclusion, diversity and gender disparity. Many POC musicians have been subject to marginalization, despite being highly talented and widely popular among listeners. In addition, female artists in particular have been treated differently in comparison to their male counterparts.

From big names like Missy Elliot and J-LO, to popular boy and girl bands, the music industry in the 90s saw an insane influx of music and a variety of artists. “In the 90s when R&B music broke through, artists like Missy Elliott and Jennifer Lopez, were thrust into the limelight. There was this explosion of Black and Latin music culture, All of a sudden, it became ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ to be someone of color and people became swept up in it. This worked to my advantage as I actually had some skin color,” Anne says. Diversity played a key role in their group as well, seeing as the JUICE trio came from mixed cultures and backgrounds. “None of us looked Danish and we sort of became part of the trend. At the time we were truly fortunate as female artists from varying backgrounds to get our foot in the door,” Anne adds.

The changing times and ensuing digitalization has pushed topics of discrimination, gender disparity and lack of diversity in the industry to the forefront. Fans and critics have been vocal about such injustices via social media platforms. Anne agrees that people today are very socially aware and are having more open discussions about such subject matters, that would not have seen the light of day in the past.

Q. After bidding goodbye to your days as a group, was it difficult to find your footing as a soloist?

Although she had already formed an identity for herself and a reputation in the industry, as she embarked on her solo career, she found herself being too dependent on finding a producer to help construct her visions. “It is wonderful to work with others and as a team. But as an artist, being able to pen out what’s on your mind is important. Nobody can ever really understand what you mean until you show it yourself. Producers cannot read minds and how everyone experiences music is very different,” she says. “I grew up listening to artists like the late Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna. I grew up dreaming of achieving such success. Artists like Prince were really inspirational, because he could play instruments, write and produce too. To be an artist capable of doing many things is exciting,” Anne adds.

With help from her friends in the industry and tons of YouTube tutorials she felt liberated as she was now able to create and manifest her own sketches before handing them to a producer who could fine-tune her work. Anne released her first debut single in 2009 called ‘Fall’. Since then, Anne has collaborated with various artists such as Andy Taylor (Duran Duran), performed at famous venues like Pacha Ibiza and even released five singles.

The music industry today has expanded, and the market has expanded greatly in comparison to the 90s. Bigger labels have more money involved and are taking on more chances of discovering talented individuals who can create unique pieces of music that will stick around for a long time. The digital age has also given people more access and options to create music and express themselves freely. Anne believes that it is a great opportunity for budding young talent to make their way into the industry

“Music can be enjoyed in many different ways, despite the changing times”, Anne concludes.

Q. Have you visited Sri Lanka? How have you approached the idea of reconnecting with your roots?

“To me everything Sri Lankan is interesting as I didn’t grow up there. I haven’t been able to make frequent visits, but I aim to do so in the future. I’m always looking to meet more Sri Lankans and experience the culture and learn more about its history as well,” Anne says. She also hopes to connect with her fans in Sri Lanka and welcomes the idea of working and collaborating with Sri Lankan musicians in the future.

Q. What are you up to these days?

While she isn’t currently working on any music, she is exploring the world of film and acting. “I played a small role in a Danish TV series and since then my curiosity has piqued. I’m enthusiastic about exploring the world of acting and I hope to see where it will take me. It’s refreshing to do something else,” Anne says.



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Fashion

For modern day power woman

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The traditional soft and sensual label Anaya aesthetic was transformed into a sophisticated, strong, bold and powerful fashion reflecting the modern day power women.

Paying homage to the postwar era of the 1950’s glamour and drawing inspiration from the fashion muses by the likes of Dovima, Audrey Hepburn and the works of Richard Avedon with his strong black and white contrast of austere sophistication. Our mood is not only visual yet musical with retro music inspired by Frankie Valli and the flamingos taking us all back to romanticism and pure pleasure of the times when everything was slow and dreamy.

The brand broke boundaries of its traditional soft pastel aesthetic to a monochromatic palette with all blacks, shades of off-white ,nudes, botanical greens, and clashing reds. The Fall wardrobe was revitalised with uniquely constructed silhouettes, handmade three-dimensional botanical motifs, beading, figure hugging corsets and delicate embroidered laces and sparkling sequins. The collection with its uniquely deconstructed fabric manipulations with micro velvet, shiny satin, silk taffeta, mecado, and laces with a modern twist of liquid organza, sequins and double-sided silk satins made a fashion statement.

Chathuri, the creative director’s vision for this collection was the transformation of the modern-day women to a powerhouse of strength and independence, fusing the signature Anaya silhouettes with strong elements of high pressure corsets, over exaggerated sleeves and elongated capes and 3D draping.

“This collection was was inspired by the 1950s, the time when the darkest nights were passed with a touch of hope for a beautiful future of women transitioning from a more submissive role to powerful role being able to express themselves through Fashion”.

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Life style

Create unforgettable moments…

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GM Elton Hurtis with sales and marketing team

The much-anticipated Wedding Show 2024 at the Courtyard by Marriott Colombo unfolded on recently, leaving an unforgettable mark on the landscape of the Sri Lankan wedding industry. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, in collaboration with Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd, successfully orchestrated a two-day celebration that transcended the traditional boundaries of a bridal expo.

The festivities commenced with an inaugural ceremony graced by key figures in the local wedding industry, vendors, and potential clients. The hotel, adorned in wedding-themed splendour, served as the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Elton Hurtis, General Manager at Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, expressed his delight at the turnout, stating, “The Wedding Show is not just an event; it’s a celebration of unity within the wedding industry. We’re thrilled to witness the coming together of vendors and clients in this vibrant community.”

The exhibition hall buzzed with activity as visitors explored a diverse array of offerings from the finest wedding vendors in Colombo. From exquisite bridal wear to innovative event decor, the show showcased the rich tapestry of talent within the local wedding industry. Attendees had the opportunity to engage directly with vendors, fostering connections that extend beyond the event itself.

One of the highlights of The Wedding Show was the inclusive atmosphere that permeated the venue. Vendors, irrespective of their scale or specialization, collaborated to create an environment where diversity and creativity flourished. This collaborative spirit echoed the sentiments of Courtyard by Marriott Colombo’s commitment to building a more supportive community within the wedding industry.

In addition to the vendor stalls, The Wedding Show featured insightful panel discussions and workshops led by industry experts. Topics ranged from the latest trends in wedding planning to sustainable practices within the industry. The interactive sessions provided attendees with valuable insights and inspired meaningful conversations about the future of weddings in Colombo.

Imran Noordeen, Director of Sales & Marketing , reflected on the success of the event, saying, “The positive response from both vendors and attendees affirms the need for platforms like The Wedding Show. It’s clear that our community values the opportunity to come together, share ideas, and contribute to the growth of the wedding industry.”

As The Wedding Show 2024 drew to a close, the echoes of joyous conversations, newfound connections, and shared enthusiasm lingered in the air. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo and Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd succeeded in not just hosting an exhibition but creating an experience that celebrated the spirit of unity and collaboration within Colombo’s wedding industry. As the event concluded, it left participants eagerly anticipating the continued growth and success of the local wedding community, inspired by the bonds forged at The Wedding Show 2024.


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Life style

latest cancer treatments give families hope

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Dr Tanujaa Rajasekeran

T anujaa Rajasekeran, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist Parkway Cancer Centre was in Sri Lanka recently to take part in an exclusive medical workshop with CanHope Colombo.

In an interview Dr Tanujaa revealed the latest developments in cancer treatments. She explained how Cancer slowly becomes less of a catastropic moment in families as new research and clinical trials reduce its physiological effects to something more chronic, While some get cancer from the toll of thier risky lifestyles,while others have it in thier genes.

Some families are more genetically pre-disposed to develop cancer. Cancer treatment doesn’t mean eliminating the cancer. It also means helping the patient adjust to thier new lifestyle, especially when they take on these treatments reveals Dr Tanujaa.She also said when you are diagnosed with cancer, it is not immediately a death sentence, there is always hope for patients now with advanced technology. New clinical trials and studies are revealing ones that are more targeted and less debilitating.

She also spoke about cutting edge cancer treatments now available for . patients

A pretty and petite medical oncologist, of Indian origin based in Singapore. In most caes of cancer usually we treat with chemotherapy

The side -effects people often report when they recieve chemotherapy is because the treatment is designed to target cells that have a protein that causes them to constantly multipy, We have other good cells in our hair,stomach etc which is why they report vomitting,hair loss,nausea and others.

Receiving news about cancer has always devastated families. It usually spells certain and slow death; it also foreshadows the heavy financial burden that comes along with it. These are what uproot families from their usual lives, requiring them to make thier lives around among those afflicted with the disease.

Because of the latest advancements,families no longer need to fear the grim future of the long C fight against cancer.

She said cancer has always devastated families. In addition, the heavy financial burden upset families, thier lifestyles are changed. There are multiple tests and treatments to give hope for patients Dr Tanjuaa adds She also said “During palliative care, we want families and people to maintain their quality of life, this is why we have different kinds of therapies to treat. Car T-Cell therapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted therapy, hormone therapy are some treatments depending on the hope of cancers and thier structure,some of these therapies can be more optimal than othes she pointed out

The Car T-Cell Therapy will help fight the cancer but with less obvious signs of the battle,” shares Dr. Tanujaa. “We now have the technology that can enhance the patient’s T-Cells with antigen receptors that can immediately recognize these cancer cells to eliminate them. There will be a low dose chemotherapy to help the body adjust to these new cells. But, once the body adjusts, the therapy will take over the fight.”

Immunotherapy for cancer is also becoming more popular because of its less macabre side effects. “This kind of therapy customizes the cell to make sure that the cancer cells don’t stop our body from fighting against the cancer. Cancer cells are smart. They release a protein that stops our body from fighting against it,” explains the oncologist. “Immuno- therapy fights against that mechanism.”

But when the cancers are more hormone-related like breast or prostate cancer, there are tests that can discover which hormone is causing the cancer. “Once we discover the hormone that is causing these cells to grow, we often give patients medicine that reduces the production of this hormone to prevent these cells from growing.”

Cancer is a terrifying, time consuming ,expensive disease With these new advancements cancer may eventally become chronic instead of something catastrophic.. But Dr Tanujaa Rajasekeran and her team at parkway Centre in Singapore are offering hope. And hope for the critically ill could result in miracles too.

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