Q: The Feminist Feline | Sunday Observer

Q: The Feminist Feline

16 July, 2022

Q aka Francesca Mudannayake 25, the emerging queen of R&B recently released ‘100K’ the music video of her most popular debut alt-R&B EP ‘Hysteria’. The super cool animated music video that was inspired by the superhero movie genre she portraits herself as a fearless feminist accompanied with a black cat on her shoulder who journeys to find her nemesis and get back what is rightfully hers.

A woman with a cat on shoulder is an overrated metaphor that has always been used to reflect the mysterious desire of a woman. The metaphor used in many art pieces had many guises over many decades, as a super-villain, an anti-hero, a crime-fighting partner, a lover or an enemy. “100K sheds light on harassment and the importance of uplifting women that I think is crucial because misogyny rears its head in many ways,” in an e-interview with Sunday Observer Q said.

In 2019 Q went on a soul-searching journey and was struck by a storm of swirling thoughts about independence, working hard and the impact of legacy on her career. She immediately wrote down some phrases and it turned into something that felt like a rap. This is one of the few songs where Q wrote the lyrics before having a beat and luckily Murandu, her producer came through with some sick making production.

Making of 100K

Speaking about the preparation of making 100K she recalls that before she went into recording, she literally Googled “How to Rap” and listened to a lot of Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Princess Nokia.

She was quite interested in vocalists who also incorporate rap into their music so seamlessly like Lizzo, Janelle Monae and Beyonce as a lot of these artists’ songs are trying to channel that fierce female energy.

When she finished the EP, Q knew that she wanted to make three types of music videos to accompany it – one live action, one live performance, and the final one an animated video. Q achieved the former with her videos ‘Took it to the River’ and ‘Nicky (Outro)’ so all that was left to do was animate ‘100K’. As she says it was a happy coincidence because whilst recording the song, she started imagining the story and thought it would lend itself well to being an animated visual.

“As a freelancer in Colombo, I’ve been told relentlessly that there is sometimes no budget to pay me but the job will be good for exposure which I think is just bull****. The narrative that started formulating inside my head involved a badass superhero-like character who goes on a journey to find her nemesis to get what is rightfully hers.

“I feel like we’re just starting to see Asian women in superhero movies so I wanted to create a piece of art that could add to this,” Q said with confidence.

Fantastic teamwork

100K is all down to the hard work of Shenuka Corea, a fantastic animator who took Q’s weird PowerPoint storyboard and turned it into a fully-fledged music video. Shenuka has been single-handedly working on the video for a year and half - from conception to storyboards to animatics to final edits and Eshana Ranasinghe worked on some of the background painting and Murandu on sound design. Q says Shenuka is the beating heart of the 100K project who worked tirelessly to make it what it is.

“The fun fact is we also went to Sunday school together as kids,” she said.

The Feminist Feline

Being true to the character she portrays in 100K, Q defines herself as a feminist as she identifies as one. She believes that misogyny rears its head in many ways. “Some men speak over me or don’t consider what I have to say. In other aspects, I continue to get harassed on several modes of transport.

However, I am fortunate to be in a privileged position that has allowed me to pursue things and be in spaces other women may not have had the benefit of being in. I see it as my duty to help out wherever possible and one area that I’m particularly interested in is female sexual and reproductive health,” Q said.

Taboos, lack of knowledge, and limited access to resources sometimes mean women cannot make informed decisions over their own bodies. Q works with a sexual and reproductive health organization called The Arka Initiative whose aim is to provide support to underserved women in communities in Sri Lanka.

“Arka Initiative believes that one of the paths to independence is education -- empowering women through knowledge on sexual and reproductive health is just one of the many ways to do this.” Q explained.

‘100K’ is all about a rebellious journey of a woman accompanied by a black cat that has a coherence with Olly – Q’s pet in real life whom she loves dearly and sees as her son. “We’ve done photoshoots together and I have him tattooed on my arm! This was just one more way of immortalizing him. In retrospect, I think the cat really does represent what a great friendship can do for a woman,” Q said thoughtfully.

As an artist Q considers art as a medium to spread a message as well as a tool for sheer entertainment.

Quoting Nina Simone, Q says that an artist’s duty is to reflect the times. Q passionately believes in making music so that people’s troubles can be heard and understood. She also believes in it being a safe place to enjoy oneself and be distracted from what’s going on outside. “The most successful artists strike a balance between both these things,” she stated.

Jazz and R&B

“A lot of why I like Jazz and R&B is because of the voices behind them - Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, Beyoncé. All of them have such distinct vocals and I’ve spent my career trying to imitate them.

I can’t put my finger on why I enjoy these genres so much but if I had to take a guess, it’s because there’s so much emotion and information packed into the melodies - it’s hard not to be beguiled,” Q said.

Q has enhanced her skills as a jazz, soul, and R&B singer at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in the UK and singing at the Barbican Theatre. Sharing her one-of-a-kind experience at NYJO Q said, “I credit NYJO with teaching me a lot about jazz and performance. It was also a very humbling experience as you’re amongst musicians who study at the best music schools in London.

This is literally the place Amy Winehouse started so there’s no room for ego! In partnership with Jazz at the Lincoln Centre, I got to sing to 700 people at the Barbican Theatre in London, a renowned stage. It almost didn’t happen but my fellow vocalist kicked up such a fuss and made sure we both got our foot in the door,” she said.

Rolling Stone India

Q’s debut EP Hysteria was recognized by internationally renowned and outstanding publication Rolling Stone India last year. “I was honoured and completely humbled to have got a shout out from such a publication - it definitely meant I got more bragging rights! I was also fortunate enough to have my songs play on the BBC Asian Network and be given a mention on Homegrown India, another prestigious arts publication.

All in all, the EP was a great learning curve in terms of what songs worked, what didn’t, what I needed to work on. Getting to say I made a piece of art that I love is one of my greatest achievements,”


Her debut EP ‘Hysteria’ was a snapshot of her experiences living as a young woman in this day and age - navigating her way through things like sex, hookups, self-doubt, and being independent. Over the course of 4 years, she weaved together 5 tracks that captured the confusion, the learning curves, and the lessons of that particular period.

Doctors, philosophers, psychoanalysts defined Hysteria as a mental disorder and a disease exclusively affecting women who broke away from their “normal functions” such as marriage, giving birth, raising children. Displaying any emotion other than what was acceptable could get you committed. Explaining her reasons to have such an indifferent name for her debut work she said, “It’s such a fascinating topic to delve into and I thought it would be pretty tongue in cheek name for my EP – am I being hysterical or are these just plain human emotions?”

Uncertain time

Making art in this uncertain time is challenging. However, Q believes it’s always been rewarding and risky to work in the arts, regardless of where you’re based. “Working just as a musician won’t give you enough of a cushion to live comfortably so diversifying your income stream is always a good idea.

I’ve tried to adapt by working in many industries (marketing, modeling, writing) and though it can be stressful, it’s given me the finances, networks and knowledge to carry my music career forward,” she said.

Q wanted to use this year to perform more and get better as a vocalist. As currently she sings weekly at 1864, the fine dining restaurant at Galle Face Hotel. Q also has two more videos in the pipeline which she will be releasing over the next couple of months.

With the release of 100K she truly says that the Hysteria era is done and she will need to start work on her next EP soon!