On a balmy evening, as the Galle Fort was basked in the golden glow of the setting sun, traditional, electro, rock, folk and other types of music from all over the world came together at the Galle Music Festival 2014.
On Saturday, March 15, The Moon Bastion was thronging with local and foreign music enthusiasts while music, dance and theatre groups from all over Sri Lanka and around the globe thrilled an audience with spectacular performances.
The Galle Music Festival 2014, the sister event of the Jaffna Music Festival, was organised by the Sevlanka Foundation in collaboration with the Rikskoncerten, Aru Sri Art Theatre and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.
Perspectives of Freedom – a classical fusion group featuring well known local musicians Kolitha Bhanu Dissanayake, V. Jambunadan, Ravibandu Vidyapathi, Gayanath Dahanayake, M.G. Dharshana Tharanga, Chamila Sangeeth, Vajira Gomez, Kumara Liyanawaththe, Isuru Kondasinghe, K. Nalaka, Sajee Jayasinghe and Ashvin Bhanu - opened the stage with their traditional beats. They were followed by Nondi Nadagam, an ancient Tamil play amongst the Tamils, performed by a folk group from Batticaloa.
With an enthusiastic welcome, next up was Thriloka, a classical fusion band, extremely popular amongst the youth of Sri Lanka. They mesmerised the audience with their unique music influenced by traditional Sri Lankan music, psychedelic and progressive rock. The real crowd-pleaser was the improvisations which as always spiced up their performance. In stark contrast to Thriloka, Sri Lanka’s first multi-ethnic Oriental Music Orchestra lulled the audience with their melodic and soothing sounds of their violins, sitars and drums. While the night was still young, the first international band to make an appearance at Saturday’s festival took the stage. Teng Sing, a youth group from Norway had the audience swaying and clapping to the catchy songs sung in both English and Norwegian. In the style of a show choir, the talented youngsters delighted the audience with pop songs, acapella and ballads.
Founded in 1968 by the YMCA and YWCA, Teng Sing is a youth group engaging teenagers in creative performing arts. This group, comprising 20 young adults between the ages of 19-21 years from various parts of Norway, were on their first foreign tour travelling to Sri Lanka to perform at the GMF 2014 and conduct workshops with Sri Lankan children. I caught two of their members, Sigurd Meisfjord and Elise Howzow for a quick chat backstage.
“We are very excited to be performing in Sri Lanka,” the enthusiastic youngsters said. “We have been travelling all around Sri Lanka from Colombo to Galle, Negombo, Kandy, Batticaloa and Jaffana. We love Sri Lanka; the warm weather, gorgeous landscapes and friendly people. Another great thing is that we have been able to experience so many different cultures in the same country.”
Meanwhile, a group from Dambulla presented Sokari – a dramatic cultural performance accompanied by Kandyan instruments such as Getabera, Udakki and Horanaa. A type of performance unique to the upcountry of Sri Lanka, it traditionally is performed at the ‘Kamatha’ (threshing floor) as a ritual offering to goddess Paththini.
This was followed by a jamming session by Shironamhin, one of the most popular contemporary groups from Bangladesh and then by Tony Hassan and Orchestra, a performance of Malay music and songs. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the one and only Mr. Tony Hassan – a remarkable playback singer who has been performing for the last half-a-century, said he was glad for the opportunity to perform at the GMF 2014 and showcase the Malay culture to a wide audience through song, dance and music. His daughter, Zemmira Hassan, added, “it is easy for the young generation to forget their culture, traditions and their roots. But through performances like these, we can transport them back to their origins and teach them to appreciate the cultural legacy left behind for them.”
The father-daughter duo, along with their dance troupe led by Mr. Ruffin Saladeen, said they were very excited to be at the GMF 2014 and were hoping to also perform at the Jaffna Music Festival, the following year.
Next up was Sabreen Association from Palestine who were performing in Sri Lanka for the fourth consecutive time. It was evident that live performances are second-nature to Sabreen who performed a selection of folk songs as well as their originals. The group who were in high spirits told me that it felt great to be back in Sri Lanka and performing inside the Fort was a unique and an amazing experience to them. Their performance was followed by Thenmodi Koothu, a Hindu drama centring around the theme that ‘truth always wins.’ It was presented through dialog and vocal music by a folk group from Jaffna.
Roda Viva, a Brazilian band set on reviving traditional Latino music genres such as samba and choro, inspired some members of the audience to spontaneously break out in dance and the others to clap along and tap their feet in time to the music, when they came up on stage. It was truly a magical performance which was enjoyed by everyone, proving that music was indeed the ‘universal language.’ The excitement of the performance was accelerated when fireworks exploded over the Galle Fort.
Under the twinkling stars, Naadro appeared on stage, entrancing the audience with their electrifying rhythms. Local masters of percussion, they blended percussion instruments from Sri Lanka and a range of other cultures with breathtaking talent and precision. While Naadro took a break, NATANDA, a modern dance company and the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, mesmerised the audience with a flawless performance. Afterward, Naadro and NATANDA put on a joint performance, in perfect harmony.
The final international group to light up the GMF 2014 stage was Donn Bhat and Passenger Revelator, an upcoming vibrant band from Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, India.
(Pix courtesy of Thushini de Silva –GMF 2014 photographer)