Weeraratne is Sri Lanka’s maestro of hip-hop and the island’s new generation star. Going where no local star has gone before, Iraj has amazed Sri Lanka’s music moguls through his unprecedented climb to the helm of the island’s entertainment industry. His amazing track record of No.1 singles, a consecutive series of top 10 hits, and last year’s No.1 debut album “Iraj” has made him go beyond a local household name, into an internationally recognized and celebrated icon. In modern Sri Lanka, the phenomenal growth of hip hop culture, and the ability of this music to blend into the island’s cultural and social context, have been catapulted by Iraj’s iconic influence in shaping the interests of this tiny nation’s music tastes.
What amazes Sri Lanka’s entertainment analysts most is not how his debut album managed to break the island’s record for the ‘All time fastest-selling’ and ‘Fastest – selling debut’ after it surpassed the all important 100,000 mark in just 4 weeks, but how he was able to sell his "gangsta" beats from the urban to the rural, across age, racial and gender barriers, in this country once known for its ethnic strife, and eternal love for "cheesy" Sinhala and Tamil pop and a local blend of Portuguese music known as Baila. Iraj was just no new comer to the music industry. He has been hitting it out on the keyboards for as long as anyone can remember.
After winning the Best Keyboardist title in Sri Lanka at 16, he launched into the local music scene by collaborating with up and coming stars Ranidu Lankage and Yauwana Wigneswaran in 1998 and later with Ruki and hip hop band Urban Sound. But his biggest break was to come following the release of “Roots”, in collaboration with Krishan and Ruki, which turned out to be 2002’s biggest single after ruling the top of the Sri Lankan charts for an amazing 4 weeks and also gaining air-play in BBC’s Radio 1.
By keeping massive international acts from Celine Dione to Britney Spears out of the top spot in one of the most highly competitive weeks of 2002’s chart history, this new local blend of Hip Hop/R n B was certainly raising a few eyebrows – not because people didn’t approve, but because people liked it just too much they couldn’t believe it! The massive success of “Roots”, produced by Iraj himself, also raised interest of the record company Sony, which rushed to seal a deal with what was certainly going to become a major money spinner. Before Sri Lanka knew it, Iraj was spurning hit after hit, totalling a set of 7 number one hits out of 12 single releases. His interesting mix of the island’s all three languages of English, Sinhala and Tamil managed to capture the market as a whole. Previously an untested ground with artistes focusing on either one of the markets rather than the entire industry, this new ethnic and international mix managed to get Iraj air-play in all radio stations and therefore unprecedented chart success.
The international attention paid to “Roots” meant that Iraj and his music were now being focused on beyond the shores of his tiny island home. Following the success of his singles “Ill Noize” and “Ahankara Nagare” both in Sri Lanka and in European Asian charts, his next smash hit “J Town Story”, about the hopes and despair of a young boy from the war-torn city of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, cracked the neighbouring South Indian Tamil market. His increasing popularity in gigantic India meant that his music was to soon go beyond the South Indian market, capturing the attention of India’s HOM Records and getting his No.1 smash hit with Ranidu - “Ahankara Nagare” featured in their Asian Flava Vol: 01 album and video play on both MTV India and Channel V.