23rd January 2000
Khemadasa in concert
Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa is back in action! He is ready with a concert for the new millennium which he will present at the Elphinstone Theatre on January 31.
On Tuesday, Khemadasa will be 64. The concert is, in a way, a celebration and will feature new compositions along with the highly acclaimed 'Pirinivan Mangallaya' which he created a few years ago and excerpts from a few of his operas.
Preceding the concert will be the launch of a book on his philosophy of music. Titled 'Khemadasa Nyaya, Bhavitaya Ha Aragalaya' (Khemadasa - *Theory, Practice and Struggle) it is bound to create much discussion especially because he focuses on the need for a change in music education. "What happens today in the name of music education is children learn some archaic theories about music. What is more important is applied music - how music is creatively used in opera, ballet, theatre and film. Those are the living aspects of music rather than the age-old theories," Khemadasa insists.
During his short stint at the National Institute of Education about five years back, he tried hard to get these into the school syllabus. He demonstrated certain methods through a workshop using Year 7 & 8 students. Some educationists including Professor A. J. Gunawardena were impressed. In fact, Gunawardena submitted a document suggesting changes in the syllabus. "But there was resistance and I quit in disgust," Khemadasa says.
A cassette titled 'Dambaranvellen Doramandalata' , featuring some new compositions will also be released on January 31.
The concert will be free of charge and he expects to draw in many young people, interested in music. Get there early if you want to get a glimpse of Khemadasa's latest creations.
Originals are back
It's comforting to hear that many original Sinhala plays are vying for a place in the State Drama Festival this year. Last year there wasn't a single original play at the festival - all were adaptations. This created quite a stir in theatre circles and this time many have tried their hand at originals.
There is also a good mix of young dramatists and seasoned ones competing. Among the youngsters whose plays have been selected for the second round are Janapriya Jayasinghe with 'Ada Sanda Rathriya', Thumindu Dodantenna ('Arundathi') and Antony Jayalath ('Uru Meeya'). These plays have earlier been presented at the Youth Drama Festival. Among other originals are 'Kanthoruva', Brian Jones, Kundalakeshi' by Upali Tilanka Hewage, Bandula Jayawardena's 'Swaranamali Natakaya' and K. B. Herath's ' Vasudeva'.
Among translations/adaptations chosen for the second round are R.M.S. Bandara's 'Cheri Watta', Dharmasiri Bandaranayake's ' Trojan Kanthawo', Buddhika Damayantha's 'Bandi Merila Ne', Sunil Chandrasiri's 'Bheema Bhumi' and Lalith Sarachchandra's 'Yerma'.
Over 30 dramas staged in 1999 faced the first round and 12 have been selected for the second round which is scheduled to be held in March. The Drama Panel is planning to hold the festival in August.
Wednesday, January 5 was a red letter day in the musical life of Chinthamani Fernando when a concert was held at the Russian Cultural Centre to celebrate her 50 years of teaching music.
In true oriental style the programme began with a thanksgiving to God, in the form of music. Members of her family sang while Chinthamani accompanied them at the piano.
In fact this concert brought together other branches of her family as well, namely Dhilanthi Premawardhana and her son Charith and Maheshini Perera and her daughters Rashika and Savindri. Also other families including the sister and brother combination Priyanthi and Dilip Seneviratne, the mother and son combination, Ganjalee and Rohan de Lanerolle etc.
Therefore, Chinthamani, in this concert, in a sense demonstrated the good and the wonderful, in family life. In fact when she spoke before the national anthem was sung she told the headmaster of her former school that during the ten years she taught music at S. Thomas' Prep School, Kollupitiya, she had not only taught music, but also advised her charges to marry women who would help them develop their music.
The music that was sung and played was a good mixture of vocal and instrumental, classical and semi-classical.
Amongst those who sang and played were Sri Lanka's stars Ramya de Livera Perera - piano, Dushyanthi Perera - cello and Ananda Dabare - violin. Sanjeev Niles sang Old Man River with his former teacher Chinthamani at the piano. Aresha Keerthisinghe, the two Seneviratnes, young Tharanga Goonathilleke, Soprano, who sang Love Changes Everything, with Dhilanthi Fernando Premawardhana, at the piano, and "Revelation" a group of young old Thomians also entertained the audience.
It was appropriate that the concert closed with the singing of the national anthem, for January 5 was yet another black day in the history of our island.
The concert was certainly a solace for some of us, for music and certainly the music that we had was a healer of wounds. May more Chinthamanies touch the minds and hearts of our people.
Rev. Fr. Sydney Knight
Chingulays and the Chingulay language
By Prof. J.B. Disanayaka
Early English writers used to spell the word 'Sinhala' in other ways. Robert Knox, who was a prisoner in the court of King Rajasinha II for 20 years in the 17th century uses the word 'Chingulay' in his book 'An Historical Relation of Ceylon'.
In his fascinating description of the land and the peoples of this island, Knox, refers to the people as "the Chingulayes" and the language as "the Chingulay language". Of this language, Knox says:
"To speak now a little of their language" it is a language peculiar to that Island: and I know not any Indian Nations that speak it but themselves. There are a few words that are common to the Chingulays and the Malabars, which they might borrow of one another, by Intercourse and Commerce, but the words are so few, that a Malabar cannot understand a Chingulay, nor on the contrary.
"Their language is copious, smooth, elegant, courtly, according as the people that speak it are. Who are full of words, titles, and complements. They have no less than twelve or more titles that they use when they speak to women according to their ranks and qualities".
Indian dancer Vanaja Uday and her troupe will be seen in a series of Kuchipudi performances in Colombo, Matara and Kandy. The performances have been organised by the High Commission of India and the Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka.
Ms. Varma will also conduct a workshop on Kuchipudi at the Indian Cultural Centre, during her stay. Her visit which is being sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi under the Indo-Sri Lanka Cultural Exchange Programme is organised as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of India's Republic.
She will perform on January 25 at John de Silva Theatre, Colombo, on the 27th at St. Thomas' Boys' College, Matara and on January 29 at the Hindu Cultural Hall, Kandy.
The workshop on Kuchipudi will be at the Indian Cultural Centre on January 24.
Vanaja Uday, an empanelled artiste of the ICCR, has been teaching Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi at the P.S. Telugu University since 1992. Since her Arangetram in 1981, she has performed many times for the Dept. of Culture of the Government of Andhra Pradesh and at numerous festivals around India. She has toured USA extensively, performing and conducting lecture-demonstrations, and also performed in London, Singapore, Germany, and Holland.
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