The last time I watched Thriloka it was deep, deep underground, when they played with Powercut Circus and Hollow Point Hallow at the Taj's newly reincarnated discotheque Nuovo. This time around, they chose to stage it at Barefoot, and not only was the sound dramatically better, the band was in top form and, you could see the stars.
Of course, Dhyan Yathra, offered plenty in the way of ear candy. The event featured no less than four acts – Dr. Karunaratne Kiriwattuduwe and A.M Chandralal Amarakoon, Mistake, the Harsha Makalande Quintet and Thriloka itself.
Dr. Kiriwattuduwe's instrument of choice was the santoor. Placing the trapezoid shaped, many-stringed instrument on his lap, he proceeded to use small metal hammers to coax these clear ringing notes out, allowing them to flow and cascade over each other in a meticulously controlled piece. Even to my untrained ear, this one time disciple of Pundit Sivakumar Sharma was clearly a maestro in his own right. Accompanying him on the tabla was Chandralala Amarakoon and the instruments melded together and challenged each other wonderfully.
The duo was followed by the evening's debutantes – Mistake. The group comprised Chamil Janith on flute, Chamley Dayan on piano, Guyrika Weerasinghe on percussion, Janidu Wanigasuriya on guitar, Kasun Herath on drums and Nigel Aaron on Bass. They played one single, smooth fusion track, titled "Floating Tears," and instantly injected some foot tapping energy into the evening.
The Harsha Makalande Quintet, featuring as it does some of the giants of the local music scene, followed, serving up some truly gorgeous jazz. Harsha Makalande approaches divinity when seated at a piano, as do Ravinbandhu Vidyapathi (percussion), Alston Joachim (bass), Shiraz Noor Amith (drums), and Sachin Keyt (sitar). We had a taste of why the Quintet have already won much acclaim both here and abroad – their original arrangements of standard swing, funk and jazz numbers are taut and multi-layered. That night they opened with just the bass, piano and drums, running through two numbers before inviting Ravibandhu and Sachin to join them on stage. The resulting set had the audience clapping tumultuously even before they had finished.
Thriloka were last. They played exactly four numbers, and I wish they had stuck around for a fifth. Thriloka is a group made up of young people – an oriental percussionist (Pabalu Wijegoonawardane), jazz/ classical pianist (Eshantha Peiris), ragadari/ rock guitarist (Sarani Perera), jazz/ progressive drummer (Harshan Gallage), and electric bassist (Uvindu Perera) make up its members. The thing that strikes me about Thriloka is always their intense synergy – they have such an appreciation for each others' music.
When you listen to Thriloka you are assured of their technical expertise, the mastery of their instruments, but what I enjoyed most about their performance that night was the evocativeness of their music. They switched moods, and genre-hopped, leaping from the lushly romantic "Thunderblast" to the frenetic pace of "Raga De Latino," without missing a beat.
I do have a confession to make, though. By the end of the evening, I was somewhat overwhelmed by all this intense, technically superlative, instrumental music. My ears got tired, and I'm sure that many of the subtleties were totally lost on me.
But that is also partly why I think we need more events like these – often you don't know better until you hear better, and part of cultivating a taste for say, classical music, must lie in simply immersing yourself in it. Which is why I'm glad to hear that more such events are planned in the future, and that people like Eshantha and Pabulu are particularly determined to share the spotlight with new and upcoming bands. This can only be a good thing, particularly if they continue to keep their standards as high as they did this time around.
Dhyan Yathra held at the Barefoot Gallery on October 3, was presented by Rockapalooza Productions, in association with the Fusion Dhyan Arts Circle.
The radio partner for the event was E-FM, while the print media partner was The Sunday Times.