Caring for our canine communityView(s):
Strains of rock music, and act by Circus Uncle and his canine friends all contributed to make Rag N Rock an entertaining evening while highlighting issues related to the stray dog population in the country
By Duvindi Illankoon
Circus Uncle has been doing this for over half a century. Watching him call out to his two beloved canines Rani and Rex, it’s impossible not to feel warmth towards this generous man who has made it a life’s mission to salvage street dogs and give them a loving home. At last Saturday’s Ragnarok Circus Uncle was in his element, bounding across the halls of the British School Auditorium with his two performer dogs and assistant (and son) J.A.Sumathipala.
Mr. J. Somapala (67)-or Circus Uncle as he is more commonly known hails from a long line of circus performers. In 1956 he ventured into the trade himself, finding it impossible to stay away from the vocation so beloved to his parents.
Circus Uncle soon made a name for himself as an exceptional dog trainer, respected for his trained and cross bred Sri Lankan dogs. Rani and Rex, the current pair, can be found in locations all over Sri Lanka performing for the public and even on television! At Saturday’s show they jumped through high hoops and pushed each other around on carts, drawing plenty of ‘awws’ from the audience.
“Sri Lanka’s circus culture is dying,” he laments, speaking to us before the show. “No one wants to put up a good circus anymore. In my day, circuses were the height of entertainment. Nowadays we make our living on the streets with impromptu performances.” It’s for this reason that they’re thrilled to be part of the concert.
“It’s been a long time since these two have performed for such an audience,” he grins his toothy grin. “They’re going to put up an amazing show!”
Ragnarok itself was an initiative by the pioneers of metal in Sri Lanka, the charming gentlemen of the band Stigmata. Speaking to front man Suresh De Silva we were struck by the band’s commitment to their cause-raising funds for the Blue Paw Trust in Sri Lanka. Suresh, a self professed canine lover (four and counting in his care) and his band mates are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first metal album to be released in Sri Lanka and 13 years of revolutionizing the country’s music industry.
It seemed apt to do so with a concert raising funds for a cause close to their hearts. “As everyone knows there is a huge stray dog issue in Sri Lanka,” says Suresh. “I think the work the Blue Paw Trust does in vaccinating, neutering and adopting these dogs is exemplary.”
Organizing this event was certainly not a bed of roses, he says wryly. “It’s easy to do something charitable for humans. As soon as we said it’s for the stray dog population there were people who lost interest.”
But the crowd they pulled in at Saturday’s show seemed to defy such pessimism, with the auditorium almost filled to comfortable capacity. Headlining the event was of course Stigmata, along with Wildfire (the last time the two bands performed together was a whooping 10 years ago!).
Soloist and TNL Onstage winner Shehara was another major name at the show, along with jazz musician Shehan, bands Rage, Hollow and Magician’s Toolbox.
The crowd loved the theatrics, laughing along to Wildfire front man Derek’s quip about him being the ‘daddy’ of the band (he handles the pay) and revelling in a hardcore performance of ‘Lady Anti-Venom’ (Antebellum)’s hit ‘Need You Now’. Dr. Dynatra Subasinghe of the Blue Paw Trust extended her appreciation to Stigmata and the other organizers of the show.
The money raised will be directed towards rabies eradication in Colombo. They’ll definitely do it again, says Suresh. “The plan is to make it an annual thing.” As for this show, he’s just happy with the support they’ve received.
“I’m just really, really glad that such a talented crop of artists and people have come together in support of this cause.”
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