Onstage was conceived when the local music scene consisted of bands playing the same old covers. The audience craved for the light of original Lankan music. Enter on stage Independent Square. With their unique spin on grungy-pop rock, the band went on to win the inaugural competition before going on to become the first Sri Lankan band to release an album brimming with original songwriting.
Best Band: Independent Square
A year down the line, Onstage had already started making waves among Sri Lankan musicians. In a competition that was typified by increasingly original songwriting, it was the efforts of Krebs Cycle and De Ja Vu that stood out. But in the end, it was the post-grunge sound and enigmatic lyrics of the former that stood out.
Best Band: Krebs Cycle
Best Band Runners-Up: De ja Vu
After a brief hiatus, Onstage came roaring back in 2002. This time the field was overflowing with not one, but multiple artists from a diverse array of genres - most of whom would go on to change the landscape of local music. Ezra, Iraj and Stigmata would go on to redefine the sound of local Christian rock, hip hop and heavy metal respectively. Season 3 was also the first time Onstage introduced its Soloist category, an award won for the first time by Chathurika Fernando.
Best Band: Ezra
Best Soloist: Chathurika Fernando
Best Musician: Billy Fernando
Notable Performances: Stigmata, Iraj, and Ill Noize
With season 4, Onstage had firmly established itself as the most prestigious platform for showcasing local musical talent. Hi-Octane, a heavy metal band with a decidedly blues bent, and singer songwriter Dilan Jayakody walked away with the respective Band and Soloist awards.
Best Band: Hi-Octane
Best Soloist: Dilan Jayakody
Onstage season 5 saw the introduction of special awards that recognised musical chops and songwriting. With Soul Skinner and Jada earning the Band Awards and Amanda winning the soloist category, the judges deemed Swinly Perera of The Brass Monkey Band and Akash’s Wanna Rock You as the best musician and song respectively.
Best Band: Soul Skinner
Best Band Runners-Up: Jada
Best Soloist: Amanda
Best Musician: Swinly (The Brass Monkey Band)
Best Original Song: Wanna Rock You, Akash
2006 saw a wide field of talented bands and soloists, all vying for Sri Lanka’s premier platform for musical talent. The Fuzz Mechnx, Flake and Magic Box Mixup led the competition for the band award while Sheranga Perera and Ryan stormed through the preliminary rounds to arrive at the finals as firm favourites. By the end of an epic night, it was The Fuzz Mechnx and Sheranga Perera who walked away with the two big awards.
Best Band: The Fuzz Mechnx
Best Band Runners-Up: Flake
Best Soloist: Sheranga Perera
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Ryan
Best Musician: Shaun (Magic Box Mixup)
By its eighth season, TNL Onstage’s impact on the local music scene was starting to manifest in the sheer breadth and quality of the musicians. Heavy metal band Hollow and songwriter CC were adjudged best band and soloist respectively.
Best Band: Hollow
Best Soloist: CC
Best Original Song: Sweet Betrayal, Hollow
A new year, a new season of Onstage, same old brilliance. 5 Minutes Apart, Helter Skelter, Sam Dayaratne and Nadisha Wickramatileke underscored how far the competition had come in its first decade.
Best Band: 5 Minutes Apart
Best Band Runners-Up: Helter Skelter
Best Soloist: Sam Dayaratne
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Nadisha Wickramatileke
TNL Onstage kicked off the finals with the very first 'Party in the Park', at the Vihara Maha Devi Amphitheatre, a venue that would soon become the go-to Onstage venue. Roadkill and Dilini dominated the night, with Crywolf and Shevon Rajasekera taking home the prizes as Runners Up.
Best Band: Roadkill
Best Band Runners-Up: Crywolf
Best Soloist: Dilini Perera
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Shevon Rajasekera
Best Musician: Heshan Dassanayake (White Living Grave)
Best Original Song: Roadkill
Voice Your Choice Award: Ethereal
KIK Cola Theme Song: Ethereal
In 2012, Onstage returned to the park and this time debuted its super band, comprising generations of rock legends from the local music industry with Kamal, Andrew, Harshan and Thilak Dias of Mirage, Flame, Rattlesnake and Stigmata fame. The season also included a TNL band comprising a few radio jocks from TNL Rocks taking on covers of the Black Keys.
Best Band: Magician’s Toolbox
Best Band Runners-Up: Rivera
Best Soloist: Melissa Pereira
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Prabodhya Fernando
Best Musician: Shamin Kumarasinghe (Magician’s Toolbox)
Best Original Song: Hotshot, Magician’s Toolbox
Voice Your Choice Award: Chalitha Weerakkody
KIK Cola Theme Song: Twisted Minit
TNL Onstage had increasingly started to mirror the transformation happening in the global music landscape. With that in mind season 13 included a special award that pit up and coming DJs to battle it out in a spin off.
Best Band: Audacity
Best Band Runners-Up: Symphony Experiment X-rays (S.E.X)
Best Soloist: Nathan Eardly
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Chithru de Silva
Best Musician: Mike de Zylva (S.E.X.)
Best Original Song: Area 51
TNL Spin Off: Ramindu Ranasingha
TNL Spin Off Runner-Up: Ravi Perera
Voice Your Choice Award: Area 51
KIK Cola Theme Song: M.A.S.H.
In 2014, TNL Onstage celebrated with a party in the park hosted by TNL SpinOff winners Hiranya and DJ Elixir. Season 14 introduced the first ever TNL Onstage Hack’n Roll, a hack-a-thon concept that saw a roomful of techies build their own music-based apps to support and bolster local talent.
Best Band: Constellation
Best Band Runners-Up: Revolt
Best Soloist: Nikhil D'Almeida
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Joel Fernando
TNL Spin Off: Hiranya Rahul
TNL Spin Off Runner-Up: Gayan Welihinda
2015 brought the rains, but that didn’t stop the crowds from flocking to the Water’s Edge Lawn to catch a Puddle of Mudd guest performance on a night that saw Kamishka Morais and Cosmogyral come out on top as the big winners of the night.
Best Band: Cosmogyral
Best Band Runners-Up: Chain
Best Soloist: Kamishka Morais
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Tharani Welihinda
In 2016, TNL Onstage returned to its roots and signature event venue - the amphitheatre. Explosive performances by past Onstage heavyweights The Slipping Chairs, Stigmata and Magic Box Mix Up had the crowds on their feet, singing along to their favourite tunes (both well loved covers and inspiring local originals!) in what turned out to be one of the best TNL Onstage finals in history.
Best Band: Kingdom Life
Best Band Runners-Up: Scintillate
Best Soloist: Thiysuri Perera
Best Soloist Runner-Up: Dilrukshan Perera
TNL Spin Off Best Commercial DJ: Neco Fernandez
TNL Spin Off Best Commercial DJ Runner-Up: Lakshan Amarasinghe
TNL Spin Off Best Electronic DJ: Pubudu Chathuranga
TNL Spin Off Best Electronic DJ Runner-Up: Nigel Perera
Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.
– Jimi Hendrix
If music be the food of love, play on.
– William Shakespeare
Before they embarked on their journeys to stardom, these musicians were ONSTAGE. Listen as their raw talent finds voice in TNL’s recording studios.
ONSTAGE has become a focal point for these artists spreading their wings and finding their distinct voices.