Nilusha Dassenaike

Award-winning artist & composer


My world is centered around

An endless passion for music, for voices,
for discovery, for people, for life.

Nilusha Dassenaike, vocalist extraordinaire...
Warrick McFayden THE AGE

Dassenaike’s ethereal voice floats over the top like an ocean wave…


Nilusha’s voice has to heard to be believed...

Nilusha Dassenaike is a New York City based, award-winning vocalist/composer who has the unique distinction of graduating from both the School of Music and the School of Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne where she obtained a Bachelor Degree in Music (Improvisation – Voice) and a Bachelor of Fine Art (Printmaking). She has also completed a Graduate Diploma of Education (Music) at the University of Melbourne and completed a Master of Philosophy at the Australian National University the dissertation titled ‘Traditional Sinhala Folk Music: Its Vocal Traditions and Stylistic Nuances’. Nilusha is an Honorary Fellow of the Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne.

Nilusha’s musical scope incorporates performances as a vocalist, composer, arranger and improviser. These elements can be heard through the original recording projects she is engaged in which includes projects for solo voice, duos, small and large ensembles.

Nilusha’s solo debut release The Lotus Verses, features original compositions that reflect the rare cultural coupling of Sri Lankan folk music and contemporary jazz. She received a Creative Victoria grant to record, mix and master the album and through its release, Nilusha has had the opportunity to bring Sri Lankan folk music to the forefront of jazz communities and educational institutions, exposing audiences and students alike to the capabilities that lie within music that embraces the fusion between eastern and western disciplines.

Her first co-led ensemble recording Moments In Time with percussionist Alex Pertout received critical acclaim (The Australian, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Jazz Planet, Drum Scene) and was feature album of the week on ABC Jazz (Australia). The album was also voted as one of the Top 5 jazz album releases of 2012 by Ivan Lloyd on Jazz Notes, ABC Jazz.

The duo’s second album Tales To Tell was released in 2014 and received the Premio Internacional  award at the Cuban Music Awards (Grammy equivalent) in Havana, Cuba in 2015. In addition to winning this prestigious award, Alex & Nilusha were also the first Australians to be nominated. Tales To Tell features legendary guitarist Mike Stern (USA), Allan Placta (Argentina), Miroslav Bukovsky and Craig Newman among others.

Their third album Afterglow was launched in Cuba, Mexico and Melbourne in 2016 and saw the return of distinguished artists Mike Stern, Paul Grabowski, Cuban master drummer Pelladito and Pancho Amat. Nilusha has received invitations to perform nationally and internationally at festivals and concerts and has supported artists such as jazz heavy weights Christian McBride, Larry Carlton and bass and voice virtuoso Richard Bona.

Nilusha’s first rate musicianship has found her taking part in a wide range of artistic activities from jazz to pop, including performances with internationally renowned stage and screen star Hugh Jackman, Rita Ora, Renee Geyer, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Jessica Mauboy, ‘80s icon Kim Wilde (UK), Guy Sebastian master drummer David Jones, Dave Valentin (USA), James Morrison, Kate Ceberano, Jon Stevens, Tom E. Lewis, Don Burrows, Shane Howard, Joe Geia, Kutcha Edwards, Australian rock legend Stevie Wright (Easy Beats), John Paul Young, Wendy Matthews, Glenn Shorrock (LRB), Ross Wilson (Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock), Grace Knight and Daryl Braithwaite among others. Since relocating to New York City, Nilusha was a guest artist for Ellen Fisher (choreographer and long time collaborator with Meredith Monk) in her production of  Time Don’t  Stop For Nobody  and regularly performs in New York with the Resistance Revival Chorus.

Nilusha has vast studio recording experience in sessions for albums, television and jingles recording with Renee Geyer, David Campbell, Bob Sedergreen, Monique diMattina, Andrew De Silva, Ross McLennan, Dami Im among many others. She was the featured  vocalist in the opening theme song for the drama series Canal Road, has taken part in the television orchestras for X-FactorAustralia’s Got TalentCarols By Candlelight, The Footy Show and has sang lead on jingles for O’Brien’s Glass, Mitre 10, Kayser Lingerie and Myer. She has also been a featured vocalist and resident vocal arranger for television variety shows such as Singing Bee, Celebrity Singing Bee, X Factor, Australia’s Got Talent, It Takes Two and Hey, Hey It’s Saturday. As a featured soloist Nilusha has been invited to perform the national anthem at numerous sporting events and ceremonies including the prestigious Box Day Test Match (MCG), 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Independence Day for the The US Consulate, One Day Series Cricket Finals (MCG), Super V8 Cars (Sandown Racecourse) and Rugby Union (Etihad Stadium).

Nilusha also has extensive teaching experience tutoring in principal studies, directing small ensembles, choirs and world music ensembles, thesis supervision and assessment in the undergraduate, honours, masters and foundation programs at VCA and MCM, the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Polytechnic. She currently resides in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and conducts private tuition from her home studio.




The Lotus Verses

Primed with a pure velvet voice that crosses two languages and composing and arranging skills that weave together a rare synthesis of contemporary jazz and Sri Lankan folk music, Nilusha Dassenaike has crafted a debut album that takes an entirely fresh approach to contemporary vocal improvisation by integrating elements of soul and pop with the rich traditions of jazz, world music and so much more. The album also features performances by a selection of Australia’s finest creative musicians, Alex Pertout, Luke Howard, Andrea Keller, Peter Petrucci, Miroslav Bukovsky, Christopher Hale and Craig Newman.
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