ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Touching a chord in the east and west, Pradeep plays on

By Esther Williams

“Pradeep Ratnayake is the most exciting musician to emerge in the Sri Lankan music scene during the last decade,” distinguished author and film director Tissa Abeysekera says, pointing out Pradeep’s brilliant skill and mastery of the instrument whose origins he traced back to the Persian Zither /Sehtar that in the Moghul period was taken to the courts of India.

“Pradeep is unique because he has pushed the sitar beyond its traditional limits,” said Mr. Abeysekera addressing a media conference to announce details of the forthcoming concert, Pradeepanjalee XI by the Sri Lankan sitar virtuoso to be held at the Bishop’s College auditorium on March 27th at 7.00 p.m.

The gifted young man, he declares, has resurrected the link with the Sehtar that was known for its vibrant and sensuous notes and opened a new chapter in sitar without violating the basic principles of sitar music. In his repertoire, Pradeep draws from Indian, Sri Lankan and Western traditions and thus plays the sitar on its own terms. His music apparently has touched a chord in the west, his innovative methods appealing to musicians of various genres.


The US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission, a bi-national entity that administers the mutual educational exchange programme between the US and Sri Lanka, is sponsoring the event. Pradeep will present a programme in music in collaboration with Sri Lankan and American Fulbright scholars.

Chairman of the US Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission who is also the Press and Cultural Attache of the US Embassy, Terry White said that in keeping with Senator Fulbright’s theme of strengthening understanding between people, there is no better way to bridge the gaps that exist between people of different cultures than through the performing arts.

When Pradeep performed on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Centre in Washington, it was a cultural coup from the embassy point of view, according to Director General, Public Communication, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ravinatha Ariyasinghe who was then the Deputy Chief of Mission at Washington. “It was a glorious moment for Sri Lanka,” he said adding that in a sense Pradeep was reaching out to both the east and the west - for equally large numbers of non-Sri Lankans and Americans were among the audience.

Mr. Ariyasinghe also recalls that the Pakistanis and Indians at that time were organizing a fundraiser for quake victims. When they heard of Pradeep they wanted him to participate. “It was significant that a Sri Lankan was able to help out. It also reveals that our artist has reached a standard that can be marketed on an international stage. It is a tremendous opportunity for presenting Sri Lanka to a global audience,” he says.

The University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) that has been helped by Pradeep several times has now created a well designed website for him. “We want to increase the visibility of his work,” Director UCSC, Dr. Ruwan Weerasinghe said. Visva, a CD containing music Pradeep played at his concerts in the US in 2005 will be released and the website launched during this 11th concert in Sri Lanka.

Dance teacher Niloufer Pieris commended the artist whom former Indian High Commissioner Nirupam Sen referred to as ‘the soon to become Ravi Shankar of Sri Lanka’, for his new age music built upon the ancient melodies of an island culture. “He has helped us find our roots through his music,” she said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.