‘Country Roads’: On a correct track
A concert for children
The sixteenth annual Country Roads Concert will come alive on Sunday, March 16 at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Featured country bands this year will be the Mavericks from Germany, folk singer Astrid Brooke from U.K., and local artistes - the Country Revival Band with mainstays Feizal on 6-string ukulele/guitar/vocals and Ranjit on banjo/vocals. Other local artistes performing that night include Anno Domino and the Cosmic Rays. 'Country Roads' is a presentation of Country Music Foundation (CMF). For the past 20 years, the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka has hosted a concert of Country & Western and Folk music. Through their widely renowned Country Roads concert, audiences come together one night a year to raise funds in aid of needy children.
This year, the CMF is working with Save the Children, UK and Periyaporativupattu Pradeshya Development Rehabilitation Organization (PPDRO), a community building organization in Batticaloa. Save the Children will be responsible for the infrastructure while CMF will provide the books and furniture.
It was a simple question that donors posed to the children and elders in the village of Vellaveli in eastern Batticaloa: "What is the biggest need in your village today?" The answer was immediate: "A library!" Thus, local not-for-profit organization, country Music Foundation (CMF), will be using the 16th installment of its famed Country Roads concert to raise the funds to make their wish come true.
This year's event, the 16th annual concert , is dedicated to raise funds to better the lives of 14,000 children in Vellaveli, who will see their dreams turn into a reality with the gift of a new library. According to Feizal Samath, the President of CMF, the Foundation will provide funds to continue their ongoing programme (with Save the Children) of support for the village of Kudagama in the North Central Region.
'We plan to fund health clinics and a birth-certification registration clinic. For all this we need to raise funds, most of which would come our annual concert and additional contributions' he said.
The not-for-profit foundation has raised millions of rupees over the years from these concerts and has worked in partnership with UNICEF, Save the Children U.K. and other well established Governmental and Non Governmental Organizations to ensure the better distribution of required funds. Monies raised to date have been used to build pre-schools, main school buildings, provide leaning and teaching material, school building material, libraries, books, drinking water facilities, mosquito nets to 1,500 children and their families, and a range of other supportive services to benefit needy children. Among the featured musicians 'the Mavericks' is the veteran group of Country musicians, who had performed thirteen times at the Country Roads Concerts.
This German band is led by Dirk Maverick Glassner who is the lead singer and plays acoustic guitar. On the current tour to Sri Lanka, the band comprises Dirk (vocals/guitar), Steve Bohn (vocals/bass guitar), Dietmar Waechtler, one of Germany's best-known steel guitar players and Stefan Sperling on lead guitar/vocals.
The band has made many friends during their numerous visits to Sri Lanka and helped promote Sri Lanka overseas through TV, newspaper and radio interviews and also worked on UNICEF projects in Sri Lanka. They will be joined by drummer Chris Prins, a veteran Sri Lankan musician. Folk singer Astrid Brooke has held audiences captive with her strong, hypnotic voice and her songs of beauty and heartbreak. And now this London-based singer is travelling to Colombo for her second appearance at the Country Music Foundation's concert to sing for local audiences at Country Roads XVI.
Country Revival Band (CRB) is a mixed combination of the founders of the Country Music Foundation (CMF) - Feizal Samath and Jury Majid and a few friends who love to play for a cause. The band has been assembled every year for this charity concert and their forte is good-old traditional country music. The band was a hit last year with veteran musician Noel Brian Ranasinghe on banjo and vocals with one of the songs being an improvised version of the perennial hit 'Tom Dooley'.
Anno is well known for their blues, folk, country and rock music repertoire, this group comprising Shehan Perera (Leader - Vocals/Guitar), Senaka Pereira (Drums/Percussion/Vocals), Timal Jayamanne (Bass/Vocals), Ashan de Silva (Guitar/Vocals), and Kanchana Wickremenayake (Keyboards/Vocals) are a popular fixture at Colombo hot spots such as Waters Edge, Zanziba and Deli Market as a "fused" or predominantly acoustic group.
Cosmic Rays is Sri Lanka's only country band, formed primarily as a country/rock band in the 1980's by Tyronne Peiris, now a veteran entertainer. The band has played at every Country Roads concert and now plays a range of western pop, country and ballads.