Monday, September 17, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 7

Arnold is the name of an excellent singer in Colombo. His rendition of ‘Wind beneath my wings’ at the popular Karaoke Bar called ‘Sopranos’ keeps ringing in my ears. But, Arnold is tired…tired and bored of Sri Lanka. He says that nothing ever happens in Sri Lanka….everybody just goes to the nightclubs on Wednesdays and Weekends like a ritual…that’s all that they do and will keep doing. With my 3 weeks of stay in the Isle, I can see some truth in his statement. That night, while leaving the Karaoke bar, I felt a little sad for Arnold. I still do.

The musical landscape of Sri Lanka has different types. Type one is what they call as ‘Baaila’ and has its origins in Portugul, hence it has similar melodies, rhythm and structure as the Goan music. Happy, dance-worthy and easy! This sort of music is equally popular at the up-market night-clubs as well as a street side shop in the upcountry.

Type two is the film songs from old Sri Lankan movies and interestingly, most of them are set on the tunes of old and popular Hindi film songs. If you are into old hindi film songs, you can hear the familiar melody of a ‘Teri Aankhon Ke Siva Duniya Mein’ or a ‘Koi Saaghar Dil Ko Behlaata Nahin’ to the unfamiliar Sinhalese lyrics. In fact, when I started humming the Hindi lyrics of the song playing at a local restaurant, my Sri Lankan colleagues got very fascinated.

Type three is what plays in the cool night-clubs of Colombo. Mostly English and can be a mix of retro as well as contemporary. Due to Thiyagi’s connections, I managed to witness a local band selection competition and I heard some talented guys. Of course they were playing the harder stuff.

Type four is of the Classical variety and is a mix of North Indian and Carnatic style of classical music. Frankly, I'm yet to hear anything from this genre anywhere in Sri Lanka, but I’m told that its there.

Type five would be the current songs from Bollywood. SRK, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan are popular and young kids download this material on their mobile phones. These kids, usually aren’t the western night-clubs sorts.

The Japanese muse, Karaoke is big in Colombo and almost everybody who visits a Karaoke Bar is a decent singer. But, to my extreme discomfort they all invariably end up singing the great MUSH tracks. MLTR, Air Supply, Elton John etc are some of the frequently attempted artistes. AS one 'Neil Diamond' loving (to my happiness) Sri Lankan explained, ‘Sri Lankans are a mushy race.’

More on the famous Ceylon tea in the coming pages of the Diaries.

The photograph here is from the insides of Sopranos. The singers shown here are Menuka and Sasha. Good singers but once again, they sing MUSH!

11 comments:

alien said...

this post broke teh mirage that i carved of the lankan music...thanks a lot for such an awesome tour that you are taking us without being there. what genre is lankan music?

Cheers!!!

Anonymous said...

I see where you are heading for your honeymoon now :P

POOJA NAIR said...

Nice analysis...

I wonder why karaoke bars are so rare in India... I love the idea of it and have never been to one...

People love to sing here too, what with antakshari being an integral part of our culture...

meraj said...

alien,

it has these many genres, depending on the geography, location and context. there's a small presence of Western Classical too, the way its in India.

the traditional SL music is based around the basics of Indian/Carnatic classical music.

am glad you are appreciating my effort and finding it worthwhile.

meraj said...

you are right, Pooja. it may be an interesting opportunity to explore. one may make a few bucks there.

Anonymous said...

shoms , this is a nice series indeed , well done ! will wait for the tea stuff , should be good...and thanks for the comments , watch out for more !! :-)

meraj said...

am glad that people like reading what i write. its a great feeling. will be looking out!

phish said...

these diaries are fascinating. are you still staying away from the cancer stick?

meraj said...

still, away from the 'cancers'! thanks for the appreciation.

Vikas said...

SL is also the birth country of michael ondaatje and the current residence of arthur c clarke. guess you might not want to meet the former :-) but wud be a nice experience to meet the latter. cud discuss his master script and collaboration with a great director.

meraj said...

inquired about the ol' Clarke and apparently, he has become too old and somewhat senile.

Ondaatje is settled in Canada and out with another book. was reading about it this morning in a local newspaper so interesting that you mention it. and i can recall our conversation on my views on 'The English Patient'

theres a third guy called Romesh Gunasekara. try reading something by him. actually a collection of simple short stories called 'Monkfish Moon'. i have it with me so next time you are in Bombay, you can borrow it.

was happy to see your comment :)

cheers!