Master, the music you left us speaks for itself

Premasiri Khemadasa

There is no need for you to be valourised,
That is for lesser mortals.
You have left us your music
That speaks for itself and renders all words redundant.

But can there be silence in the face of such loss?

We have lost a man
Who dared us to dream
Who saw no lines among clearly defined things
So that we ceased to see them either
And the world became seamless. One.

You were the colossus yoking earth and sky together
In a world of sound, and the young people who you
Bred there and set forth on the more mundane plane of this world
Carry your magic with them.

I have seen the dwarfing of the piano under your hands,
The rising up of cities with a flick of your wrist
As a hundred-worker- choir sang of a classless world
Under your baton.

The creation of gods, of heaven, of hell –
Nothing was sacred to you, and yet everything was.

You laughed at everyone.
You laughed at ordinariness and all you seemed to be saying sometimes was: “Just get off your a-- and DO!”
and then throw in some comment about Verdi or Beethoven.

You laughed at the illness that was killing you.
Rest, they said, and you composed an opera;
Stay in bed, they said and you carried your music
To all corners of the island, like a devotee.

You carried buns and rolls in brown paper bags
for hungry musicians, lunch packets, water.
You shouted at them. For them.

I have seen you order an orchestra off the stage
When the light-man had the audacity to say, “Hurry up.”
“Music cannot be hurried!” you shouted.
Master of grand gestures.

I have seen the contradictions in you.
I have known you from my childhood, so how could I have not?
Yours was the arm my school best-friend hung upon as she went home.
Your daughter's cello banged against my legs,
My violin case clutched in my hands,

I have swung inside a crazily teetering car you drove
on the wrong side of the roundabout,
swearing at the docile cars that correctly came towards us.
Five minutes to show time
– we had to play the prelude.

My friend has your humour,
She laughs at the world too.
So I know you live, Master, in
The two wondrous souls that are your daughters
Who carry your power in their blood –
quiet as you were loud,
self-effacing as you were not,
Following their own paths
With a polite unconcern about a world
That might suggest to them what they should do.

In that, and the music within them, they are your inheritors.

I hope we would be worthy of
Them. And the hundred others from
All corners of the country whom you trained and
Cast in the mould of true musicians.

The earth beneath their feet is gone.
May we have the foresight to spread our land before them,
To make this the soil upon which they would grow
The seeds you have gifted.

You have never rested before, Master.
But do so now, in peace.

Madhubhashini Ratnayake

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