By Dan Kimpel
Ruwanga Samath: Electronic Ambassador
With “How We Roll,” the end title for the summer blockbuster Fast 5 recorded by Busta Rhymes featuring Don Omar, songwriter/producer Ruwanga “Ru” Samath is experiencing a season of remarkable ascension. In addition to his contribution to the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise, he also configured “CameraBuggin’” a Matt and Kim/Big Boi mash-up for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Additionally, he penned and produced “OutBack,” the theme song for the History Channel’s Mounted in Alaska and contributed a song to “The Agency,” a Sony video game.
The Sri Lanka-born, Los Angeles-based songwriter/producer and recording artist works under the umbrella of The Bird Call Productions, an independent label and production company he founded in 2003 at age 18. “I’ve been doing music full time ever since I graduated from high school,” he notes.
High profile remixes for Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Kelly Rowland, Flo Rida, Ke$ha, Norah Jones and The Virgins have earned Samath a resounding résumé of marquee artists. “The object is to reach another kind of audience,” he says. “If it’s hip-hop track for example, they might want a house remix. You can never try to outdo the original.”
To craft songs and tracks for films and television shows, Samath says the viewer’s expectations are critical. “Fast 5 is an example. The audience wants action: it’s ‘bam, bam, bam,’ from the get go. For the History Channel show, it’s a female audience – late twenties to thirties – and they need more rock, maybe with some fiddles mixed in.” Of course understanding the vision of a director or producer is another essential key. “You’ve got to have your A&R skills high for TV and film and really know exactly what they are looking for. If you’re able to do it, you become the go-to guy.”
Samath, who came to the U.S. at age 12, was born into family of professional musicians, including his mother, a recording and touring artist, and his uncle, an accomplished drummer. “My punishment growing up was having to carry his drums,” Samath laughs. “Then I’d have to put up his set – but I loved it.”
In addition to his studio and songwriting endeavors, Samath also plays keyboards and creates electronic percussion loops with Mind the Gap, an adventurous indie rock quartet. The Bird Call website introduces the band as “…a Korean, a Sri Lankan, a Mexican, and a Jew from Cleveland.” Samath says this diversity is what defines the band. “We try to meet in the middle and our sound is the result. We bring our influences out every time.” While concentrating on writing and recording music for film and television projects, the four are also touring to support their debut, The Good Fight.
Samath was a student when he first encountered SESAC. “I was in a music business class and (SESAC executive) James Leach came as our guest speaker. We became friends: I know him as someone who will always have my back.”
For Samath, who now lives a world away from where he was born, the Golden State is a beacon for multiple musical opportunities. “I feel blessed to be in Southern California, especially in Los Angeles, where all of the film and television projects happen,” he confirms. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do anywhere else.”
What’s On My iPod?
“I’ve been listening to Lil’ Wayne, James Brown, Parliament and Rick Ross a lot for the last two weeks, and of course our band, Mind the Gap.”