our dance and music live on
By Niloufer Pieris
Against a rather depressing landscape of endless
bickering and violence our local artistes continue to be beacons
of light. Nrithanjali- Dances of Drums of Sri Lanka presented by
the Chitrasena - Vajira Dance Foundation in December was inspiring
any performance is a logistic nightmare and a constant battle to
get performers to attend classes and rehearsals together. Over the
years I have watched with sympathy the struggles Chitrasena and
his family have experienced in rented spaces. This particular performance
was to raise funds for their proposed centre-cum-theatre.
evening coincided with Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan and his co-stars
performing a short distance away. The violence at that event can
only make us hang our heads in shame.
beautifully presented with excellent dancing and drumming did us
proud as did the tasteful costumes highlighted by subtle lighting
and chants from the Kohomba Kankariya, masks, kolam and a stick
dance all contributing to a dramatic performance. It was a pleasure
to see the meticulous training/schooling achieved over years of
footwork was counter balanced by elegantly controlled arms especially
in Gajaga Vannama (the majestic elephant) and the boys’ warrior
dance. Upeka, Anjali and Janaki danced with great style. It is vital
the younger generation experience these mature artistes.
and dance have always played an important part in human development
connecting us to the divine and the eternal continuity of life.
However alluring foreign imports may be we should not forget our
own traditions; copying T.V. videos are not creative.
the public can pay Rs. 10,000, 5000, 2500 and Rs. 1500 we can also
afford to support Chitrasena to establish his own centre. Unfortunately
Sri Lankans have difficulty getting together for a common cause,
hence our domination by foreigners. Has much changed?
and his company have represented Sri Lanka far and wide and have
won international recognition. Chitrasena celebrates his 84th b'day
this month. Contributing to their centre would be a mark of respect
from us all which he so richly deserves. He has served the cause
of dance for more than 60 years.
mia, what a show!
By Ruhanie Perera
A young girl on the brink of marriage
thinks about something that has been at the back of her mind for
years... Who is her father? "I have a dream, a song to sing."
She has three options - and thus, she invites three men from her
mother's past to her wedding. "Honey, Honey, How He Thrills
Me, Aha!" She wants to know who he is. "Gimme! Gimme!
Gimme! A Man..." And where she stands. "What's The Name
Of The Game?" Now all she has to do is, tell her mother...
those ABBA tunes! And there I was experiencing them first hand as
I sat back in my comfy seat at Singapore's world class performing
arts centre Esplanade - Theatre on the Bay where theatre, art and
music meet, as the ABBA songs that inspired the story filled the
theatre and the story that re-energized the songs, Mamma Mia, took
Mia, the British musical based on the songs of legendary Swedish
pop-group ABBA, which opened on March 23, 1999 to London audiences
has today become a world-wide success gaining rave reviews, and
performing to sell-out audiences. Since then it has gone on to become
the world's number one show, with more productions playing simultaneously
around the world than any other musical. And there, in Singapore,
the Australasian Touring Company were treating Singaporean audiences
to that oh so, infectious musical.
infectious it was. In fact that was the keyword that worked in producer
Judy Cramer's mind when she was tossing up the idea of writing an
original musical integrating the existing ABBA songs. Here was a
classic case where the songs came first- and were met by the creative
Cramer mind that recognised the theatrical potential in the songs.
And yet, for her, Mamma Mia had to be more than just a compilation
of ABBA songs or even a tribute... the storyline had to be as "infectious"
as the music - and had to have that "feel-good" factor
that comes to anyone caught humming an ABBA tune.
conceptualise a story through the songs, writer Catherine Johnson
was called on and she writes in her 'secret' diary on January 3,
from Bash (my beloved agent). Would I like to write the ABBA musical?
ABBA!!!! They've got to be the most successful pop group ever -
certainly the most enduring - 350 million record sales worldwide,
9 U.K. number ones, still in the charts twenty years on and Dancing
Queen still filling dance floors. Lift jaw from floor and say, "Yes!"
Ring the producer, Judy Craymer, whose brain-child this is. It's
NOT the ABBA story but a new musical based around the songs: "Contemporary,
ironic, comedy-romance," she says. I make notes."
on a tiny, tucked-away, mythical Greek island, the storyline interweaves
22 of ABBA's songs, including favourites such as "Money, Money,
Money", "Dancing Queen", "Super Trouper"
and "Mamma Mia" into a funny story of a single mother,
Donna, who remembers carefree days and careless nights of the 'Dynamo'
times and her soon-to-be wed daughter, Sophie, who dreams of traditions
and a big white wedding. It's a story that, as it spans the evolving
ABBA career, brings together two generations of women and their
perceptions of relationships, within a whole gamut of hysterical,
absurd, touching and very, very delightfully complex human relationships.
And the musical was explosive, as Johnson notes in her last Mamma
Mia diary entry on the eve of Valentine's Day 2003...
thought there'd be no more excitement after Broadway, but was I
wrong! Tony Nominations in 2002 and then two new MAMMA MIA!s - both
in translation. We opened in Hamburg, in November 2002 and Tokyo
in December. Amazing to hear the songs and story in other languages,
lucky I know the show so well, else I wouldn't understand a word.
now I'm fishing out my glad-rags again, 'cos we're heading for the
Entertainment Capital of the World - Viva Las Vegas! First night
at the Mandalay Bay is tonight, so that practically counts as a
Valentine's present; how lovely to share it with all my favourite
people - the MAMMA MIA! creative team and the wonderful Las Vegas
cast. That's an unbelievable nine productions worldwide and (fingers
crossed) more to come?"
its beginnings in the April 6, 1974, ABBA win at the Eurovision
Song Contest with "Waterloo", a ball of adrenaline pumping
energy was created which today bounces back and forth between storyline
and song, and actor and audience. In a touching story of heartbreak,
happy-endings and ordinary human beings, ABBA comes alive.
the dazzling 70s costumes, the glitter, the sequins, the hippy,
casual Mediterranean blue hues that seem to find their way into
set and costumes, set up another world where you just want to jump
out of your seat and shake a leg to the beat. And then, bonus of
bonuses, in the finale the audience is invited to do just that as
the chorus belts out "Waterloo". Excuse me, I have some
memories to relive! Anything left to say? Well maybe just..."Thank
You For The Music!"
touch and local flavour to a Christmas story
The Joseph Vaz Children's Home, Nainamadama presents 'The Pearl
of Great Price', a musical by Haig Karunaratne, co-directed by Rev.
Sr. Benette A.C. at The Lionel Wendt Theatre on Sunday, January
16 at 6 p.m. The musical is based on the birth of Christ and the
shepherds who came to witness the nativity.
shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night. They protest about
their difficult life which contrasts with the life of the rich in
Bethlehem who are snug in bed. A man Mak requests that he be given
a place by the fire because he has lost his way. Just when the shepherds
are about to chase him away, suspecting that he is a sheep thief,
Gabrielle and his angels come their way leading Mary and Joseph
who are searching for the Inn in Bethlehem. When the Innkeeper refuses
Mary and Joseph a room in the Inn, the shepherds give their stable
which is cleaned by the angels before the travellers enter it.
scene shifts to the site of a pyramid being built in the presence
of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Two wise men from Sri Lanka and China with
whom he shares a common interest astronomy, meet him because he
had contacted them about a giant star which told them about the
birth of a King of Kings. Pharoah is persuaded to follow the star
by the two wise men who also succeed in granting both his and their
on the musical Haig Karunaratne says, “The music is drawn
mostly from my compositions for Brecht's three great plays- 'The
Caucasian Chalk Circle', 'Mother Courage' and 'Galileo'.
are also fragments of music taken from the other operattas I've
composed-'Rainbow Man', 'The Pearl and the Swine herd', 'Christmas
Opera', and 'East Side Story'. My Sinhala and Tamil compositions
'Thuthimal and Rajavin' inspired the late Jayanatha Premachandra
and Mrs. Thurairatnam respectively to write the words.
words of this musical reflect Brechtian influences particularly
because I have seen close parallels between some of his great characters
like Grusha, Mother Courage and characters in my play."
play within a play inspired by the storyline of The Second Shepherd's Play
(from the Wakefield Cycle) was written by me in an attempt
to give the shepherds at least one individualized character
in depth. " He adds, "When we fixed January 16 for our
performance at the Lionel Wendt the tsunami had not yet struck.”
better gesture than the children of the Joseph Vaz Home extending
a hand to their brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka whose predicament
they understand so well.
doors to new sounds
By Priyanwada Ranawaka
Three internationally reputed artistes pooled their
creative talents to provide the audience a feast of music and improvisation
at the 'Innovative Music Meeting', concert held on December 22 at
the Galle Face Hotel.
cellist Rohan de Saram, the Berlin-based experimental composer Rajesh
Mehta and famous drummer Piyasara Shilpadhipathi had dubbed this
project, as a "purely improvisational session". "The
concert opens doors to new possibilities in creative music,"
said the three artistes at an interview a few hours before the performance.
together the sounds of the cello, trumpet and oriental drums, they
integrated contemporary and Carnatic music. "This project was
aimed at broadening the avenues in joining together different musical
traditions and experiences to generate new musical forms, and ultimately
to create new musical languages," Rohan de Saram said.
in Sheffield of Sri Lankan parents, Rohan de Saram has as a soloist
played throughout Asia, Australia, and the Soviet Union with world-renowned
orchestras. He has also worked with famous composers researching
and experimenting with music.
in Calcutta and raised in the US Rajesh Mehta has been active as
a professional musician in Europe since 1991. Experimenting with
the music of different cultures, he says "innovative music
has a much more broader basis than fusion." As a composer his
latest project "Sounding Buildings" combines music and
and Mehta have been collaborating on stage over the past six years.
Mehta's first acquaintance with Piyasara Shilpadhipathi was on stage
when they performed for a workshop a few days before the concert.
" We communicated through music," said Kalasoori Shilpadhipathi.
lecturer in the Department of Aesthetic Studies of the University
of Kelaniya, Piyasara Shilpadhipathi spoke of the fulfilment in
working with artists of such calibre to create something new. According
to de Saram, this will kick-start a continuing project aimed at
demonstrating deeper strategies for dealing with innovative aspects
of traditional music.
the importance of thorough research into traditional music in and
around the country, he spoke of the need for a music research centre
that would facilitate musicians getting together and studying music
in depth. The consulate of Belgium in Sri Lanka sponsored the event.
: Thought-provoking on themes of love and hope
By Sirohmi Gunesekera
Come with me into a world where a man and a woman
spend a lifetime living upto each other's dreams even if it means
that they are parted without hope for 22 long years. Come with me
into a world where old and young men and women live by a code of
honour to their family and to their country. Come with me into a
world where elders and youngsters in different countries share the
same values of respect and caring. Come with me into a world where
there is hope for the future of mankind because there are those
who are willing to give up or fight for their principles and ideals
even if it means breaking out of the comfortable everyday world
of looking after and satisfying oneself.
film can be just a couple of hours' light entertainment or it can
be a story across a broad canvas where big and little people can
be inspired to lead a more meaningful existence. "Veer-Zaara"
operates powerfully at several different levels and it has special
meaning for us in Sri Lanka for we share the same culture spanning
an old feudal world and the modern.
girl from a rich and powerful family who takes a bus ride from Pakistan
to India to fulfill the dying wish of the servant who brought her
up is just the beginning. Then comes an Indian officer who risks
his life on a daily basis for the little people caught in accidents
in the mountains. Include a father who is a politician and has to
fulfill his family's commitment to serving his country.
the old Hindi formula films, in this film, all the characters are
humanized and they represent ideals that you and I can aspire to
and live by. Shahrukh Khan in prison still had the compassion to
help other prisoners.
is not given to all of us to be blessed with the kind of love that
transcends self. Still more rare is the great love that one man
can inspire in a woman and for the woman too to respond with the
same fullness of love and sacrifice. The hero in the film humbly
asks the heroine for a day to build memories to keep him contented
over a lifetime. When her mother appealed to him to save the life
of her husband by giving up the love of his life, he respected her
today's greedy world where practically everyone wants everything
and feels justified in taking it out on everyone if he or she is
thwarted, this film carries a powerful message of being satisfied
and grateful for the little that the gods offer both the great and
India that was divided into two countries but whose people share
a common heritage is the setting for this film, which is more than
just a love story.
the Hindi film "Devdas" was much advertised, this film
is far more inspiring and rich in themes and can be considered a
modern equivalent of the Hindi film "Asoka". There is
much to provoke thought and the rich man in his mansion and the
poor man in the bus can all identify with the different strains
as the story unfolds.
good film can take you out of your humdrum existence and create
another dimension for you to live by and it need not matter whether
the film comes from the East or the West.