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Rock music and rubber stamps

21 August 2015 07:10 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Rock music was born before I was, and it certainly will outlast me. Remembering any number of rock concerts in Colombo over the years, I felt like taking a look at TNL’s talent contest held at Water’s Edge last Saturday.

Rock music is a sub-culture in this country. A sub culture has to be vital to last inside a conservative main culture for several decades. Rock with its high-octane, high octave screams, staccato drumming and snarling electric guitars is totally unlike any homegrown acoustic-percussive experience – unless you think of an exorcism speeded up to an unrelenting 4/4 beat.

I’m a TNL fan, but I was nonplussed by one thing. To begin with, entering Water’s Edge is like getting into a fortress. This was Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s idea, and gives a clear insight into how he thinks people should relax. Going there today, it’s easy to see that old habits and attitudes die hard. The hawkish security was already bad enough. But I had a real surprise at the Boardwalk, the concert venue. When I showed my ticket to the security guard at the entrance, he insisted on stamping a rubber seal on my left wrist.

When I asked him why, he said (and the guy was totally humourless) it was to prevent people without tickets from getting in. While this logic is straight out of Catch-22, I wonder if whoever thought this up has heard of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. The only difference is that those entering there carried tattoos, not rubber stamps seals. It may be that the ‘Gotabhaya Sanniya’ feeling had a negative effect on my imagination, but I’m definitely against tattoos and rubber seals forced on me as identification marks. People, think a little before you do this again. Best, don’t do it at all.

The venue was cramped and the event looked more like a house party. Don’t take that in bad faith since it was cosy, even intimate, even though the whirring lights always getting into your eyes were  a bother. The talent was young and some of it very good. Sri Lanka has always had surprisingly good depth in its rock talent. I remember pre-television (and pre-internet) era concerts at various Colombo venues including the Galle Face Green (with no rubber stamp ordeals). Many such bands are now completely forgotten. Even now, television doesn’t seem to be aware that there is such a thing is as local rock music talent. So, thumbs up to TNL for doing this contest but let’s hope no rubber seals will prevail.

One bespectacled contestant sang ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ in a totally credible manner. It’s a difficult song. One outfit named Synthesis (not to be confused with the band Syntheziz known for their instrumentals of soulful Sinhala song melodies on You Tube) turned out to be a singing foursome backed by one keyboardist.  Not everyone shone, though. One vocalist tried hard with ‘No Woman No Cry’ but it turned out be lackluster technical exercise with no feeling. My own favourites that evening was the band Karma, displaying good karma all around – in vocals, guitar riffs, drums and keyboards. But the final accolades went to another outfit. I suppose that was bad karma. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, though.
 
Rock music is a sub-culture in this country. A sub culture has to be  vital to last inside a conservative main culture for several decades.  Rock with its high-octane, high octave screams, staccato drumming and  snarling electric guitars is totally unlike any homegrown  acoustic-percussive experience – unless you think of an exorcism speeded  up to an unrelenting 4/4 beat




 
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