Nietzsche was right, “Without music, life would be a mistake!”

By: Samadhi Tennakoon

A couple of weeks ago, when browsing through our Group Intranet for the latest JKH news, I saw it – an announcement – “Auditions! ‘Seeking exceptional stage performers within JKH, with amazing vocal skills for group and solo performances at Chairman’s Awards 2018!” Yes!! It was that time of the year! In fact, it was just the other day, while at home, strumming my guitar, I realised how much I missed hanging out after work, with the other singers and musicians from within the Group, rehearsing for Chairman’s Awards last year.

I’ve always loved signing, listening to music and playing an instrument. During school, I was part of the senior special choir, and took part in many musical productions as well. When I joined the Ceylon Cold Stores (Elephant House) brand marketing team in 2013 after a brief internship there, I was thrilled to find out that John Keells offered regular opportunities to showcase our musical and vocal abilities! Not only did the Group have a Year End Get-Together (“JYG”) which included a segment of Carols, but also organized talent shows and gave staff the opportunity to perform at other internal events, such as Chairman’s Awards.

I put my name down for ‘Talent Night 2013’ and made it to the Finals held at The Oak Room of Cinnamon Grand, Colombo. I had deliberated on my song choice for days and thought through as to how I would perform it. I still remember the rush as I sat on a stool on stage, with just a spotlight on me, with a keyboardist accompanying me off stage, as I sang “Titanium”. I’m assuming it was a memorable performance, because later that year, the team from Corp Comms and HR organizing JKH Chairman’s Awards asked if I could perform the same song for the event, and of course I said yes!

In 2017, I was selected once again to perform at Chairman’s Awards and this time with 4 other singers – Russel, Jerusha, Andrew and Mevantha. The four of us, together with Kumudu, Sushithma and Imani who were organizing the event, met regularly to select songs and musical arrangements. The eight of us worked well as a team and our practices on weekends and sometimes late into week nights (fuelled by ‘Fit-O’) was so much fun! Starting from struggling to sing to a Karoake version of “Go the distance” as a group, in the main boardroom at head office, to surprising Kumudu and Imani with our accapella version of few songs a month later (after getting an ultimatum – because they thought we were having too much fun and didn’t understand the gravity of the occasion we were to perform at!), everything was an absolute joy.

We made the bold move to do a mash-up of ‘the World’s greatest’, ‘Fight Song’, ‘Girl on Fire’, and ‘Hall of Fame’! We had Shan, Joel and Hashan backing us up on box guitar, Cajun and bass guitar. Our team-work and commitment paid off as not only was our performance at Chairman’s Awards a success ( we also received a team BRAVO award for going the extra mile! While busy work schedules have not allowed the 11 of us to meet as frequently as during rehearsals, a WhatsApp group that keeps us close in the hope of getting together for another fun filled night of Karaoke!

John Keells Group really is ‘More than just a workplace’, creating opportunities to form friendships with those we wouldn’t meet if it was only work!