22 May, 2024

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Ayyo Saami

By Jagath Asoka

Dr. Jagath Asoka

I wanted to try something new today. I’m too lazy to write. It’s not that I don’t like writing, but I’m too lazy to type because I’m not very good at typing. So, I thought I would dictate this article to the computer, and the computer would act as my stenographer. So far, it is amazing!

As I am highly opinionated, I am going to express my views about this song, Ayyo Saami, its significance, and its impact. Please feel free to correct my facts, but not my opinions.

Is it the melody of the song, the mellifluous voice, the voluptuous nubility, or the soulful dewy eyes of Windy Goonatillake, expressing failure of love that made this song famous? This song has its Sinhalese version, but I think the Tamil version achieved the worldwide fame. It is both cool and emotional, both Apollonian and Dionysian, inspired by the gods. I also think the omniscient gods Google and YouTube also play a big role in this phenomenon. 

I use the word art to denote the products of man’s creative activities; works of art collectively, the visual arts, music, drama, dance, and literature. Art in general unites us by evoking the mystic feeling of oneness. Life without art would be vapid and bleak.

What is the cultural significance of this song? I think it is a watershed moment in our country. Did Amaradeva, Nanda Malini, Victor, TM, Sunil Edirisinghe, Gunadasa Kapuge, and, of course, Jothipala sing any Tamil songs to promote harmony among various ethnic groups in Sri Lanka? Most of them were trained in India as musicians and revered and promoted meditative, melodious Hindustani music based on ancient ragas. Even today many in Sri Lanka would sing Hindi songs even though they do not know a single Hindi letter, let alone a single Hindi word. Many Sri Lankans usually do not behave the same way toward English and Tamil songs. On the other hand, Manoharan, a Tamil musician and actor, sang Surangani—I am not aware of a Tamil version of Surangani—which became very popular both in Sri Lanka and India even before gods Google and YouTube came into being.

Artists as individuals through their creative work, improve social and psychological life and create harmony, especially among fractious and disgruntled nations, races, and ethnic groups. Art’s joy unites disgruntled nations, races, and ethnic groups as one living being. In Sri Lanka, did our artists make a conscious attempt to unite Sinhalese and Tamils? I would say most of them promoted Sinhala-Buddhist bellicose feelings toward minorities, involving the idea that Sinhala-Buddhists are superior and have the right to dominate Tamils and Muslims who were inferior. Even now when most Sinhala-Buddhists say that they believe that they are not racists, it means that they do not believe that they believe that they are not racists.

When I was watching and listening to Windy’s Ayyo Saami, I wondered why our artists could not envision and use their artistic creations to promote harmony among various fractious ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. I think the answer to my question was given by Nihal Silva, who was a Sri Lankan comedian and actor. He was very popular because he played sergeant Nallathambi in an eponymous play. The character was making fun of a stereotypical bald headed Tamil Hindu policeman with a razor thin moustache, wearing three horizontal lines of white ash with a dot on his forehead. This play’s joy did not unite our fractious ethnic groups in Sri Lanka as one living being, celebrating and affirming life and art in a wide sense. I wondered how Tamils in Sri Lanka felt about this play. The three horizontal lines connote and denote various spiritual concepts. Was the holy Trinity of Hinduism ridiculed and violated by this play? For Hindus, Brahma Creates the world, Vishnu maintains it, and Shiva destroys it. These three lines also mean Shiva’s threefold power: will, knowledge, and action. Nowadays, in Sri Lanka one can end up in prison for an unspecified time without a trial for calling the sacred tooth relic “labba.” 

It seems like nowadays there is more unity among various ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. I do not know for how long this ostensible harmony will last. So, most Sri Lankan politicians are constantly looking for ways to divide ethnic groups. Sri Lankan politicians can be very creative at destroying ethnic harmony. I wonder, after getting our independence in 1948 if our artists had a vision of promoting harmony among ethnic groups, what would have happened to our country? Where would we be today?

Did our dramatists and poets—Sir John de Silva, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Chitrasena, Henry Jayasena, and Mahagama Sekara—try to alleviate ethnic tension through their creative art?

So, I cannot think of any examples from the visual arts, drama, dance, and literature that tried to promote harmony among ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Please let me know if you know any examples. An artist through his creative work can instruct and transform societies and make them more refined, civilized, and courteous.

As far as I can remember, in 1979, Sarungale (The Kite), a Sinhala movie directed by Sunil Ariyaratne with Gamini Fonseka and Farina Lai in leading roles portrayed the inter-ethnic, communal violence between Sinhalese and Tamils.

I surely do not know how this song is going to impact our society. First, without knowing who Windy is, I thought she was a Tamil musician. This can be a trend. This can be extended to other areas of art. The only other Tamil song that I can remember is Adi Ennadi Rakkamma because Jothipala used its melody.

In Sri Lanka, this is the beginning of what Dostoevsky said: At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art. Then life will find its very existence from the arts.”

When you are done reading this article, please watch Windy on YouTube singing Ayyo Saami. 

I am sad to say that soon the stenographers are going to be like the ancient scribes who copied books. 

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Latest comments

  • 13
    0

    Hats off to Jagath Asoka.
    A very refined article with a hope – however faint – of redefining ourselves.
    (I have been critical of you in the past, but today your effort deserves praise.)

  • 9
    0

    Thank you, Dr Jagath Asoka, for both the article and the song.
    .
    I enjoyed both, although not in the order envisaged by you. When I came to the link, I played the song, and then returned to the article. I didn’t know Windy, but you can get all the facts you can possibly (legitimately!) need from the web:
    .
    https://www.trendceylon.com/celebrities/windy-goonatillake/#google_vignette
    .
    Plenty more on all aspects of her life.
    .
    https://srilankamirror.com/entertainment/windy-ties-knot-with-sanuka/
    .
    All of which is her business; but all of us have our country to worry about. Windy can soothe and inspire, but it is good that we have this article by Dr Ameer Ali to force reality on us:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/saffron-army-rws-political-calculations/
    .
    I still remember vividly how Jagath really set the cat among the pigeons when he recounted his personal experiences in two articles eleven months ago:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sending-putin-to-america/comment-page-1/#comments
    .
    For now, I hope that somebody provides us with links and commentary to other Windy songs.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe in Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

    • 8
      1

      “Did our dramatists and poets—Sir John de Silva, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Chitrasena, Henry Jayasena, and Mahagama Sekara—try to alleviate ethnic tension through their creative art?”
      Good question, and the answer is definitely not. Early Sinhala plays like Sarathchandra’s “Maname” were based on Mahavamsa tales. Probably that was inevitable, because Sinhala till the 20th century had no corpus of secular literature , or even music for that matter. Even if much Sinhala “music” was based eventually on Tamil roots, the Tamil civilization was viewed with Mahavamsa-inspired suspicion .
      The tradition continues, with charlatans like Jackson Anthony spinning cinematic blockbusters about “Sinhala ” exploits in 200 BC.
      Even more ironic is the fact that the man is a descendant of recent immigrants, and is not even a Buddhist.

      • 9
        2

        old codger

        ” Even if much Sinhala “music” was based eventually on Tamil roots, ….. “

        Is this what SJ foolishly calls the Indian expansion?

      • 3
        0

        OC
        It was Sinhabahu that was based on Mahavansa.
        Maname was based on a Jataka tale I thought.
        But the point is what he made of the two stories. His theatre drew on many sources, notably Tamil folk tradition. He drew on Japanese theatre style too. He made no secret of it.
        What was remarkable was that what he built with alien material came to define a key aspect Sinhala theatre to this day.
        *
        Do you seriously think that Sarachchandra was pushing the Mahavamsa narrative?
        He saw in the narrative an excellent theme.
        Some of the best Left and secular theatre in India have drawn on Mahabharata themes and even mythology. The see in the tales a means to carry their message.
        Comparison with fake ‘historicals’ by JA is an insult to a sensitive dramatist.

        • 2
          0

          S.J,
          Perhaps I confused the targets. But, Sinhala artists seem more willing to fall in with popular opinion and not raise the hackles of the clergy.
          We don’t have anyone of the calibre of, say, Joan Baez in the Vietnam-era US.
          But then, if someone actually tried, they would end up like Sepal Amarasinghe.

          • 3
            1

            OC
            That is show business.
            But the author was targetting people whose conduct was impeccable in that respect.
            There have been several courageous artistes who spoke out against war and racism.
            Remember the McCarthy era in the same US less than two decades before JB. It is hard to survive as a conscientious artiste in the US today. JB was fortunate to live in era of protests for civil rights etc. She was a product of that era.
            Look at what goes on there now. The media have brainwashed the whole nation.

        • 3
          0

          Yes, SJ.
          .
          It’s time we grew up.
          .
          We object to political parties having the name of a community embedded in it; the reality is that the two major “National” groups are dominated by Sinhalese racist thinking. If responding, please don’t split hairs, dear readers. When dealing with the current demographics of Lanka, especially where it affects people’s normal day to day lives, it is very important that we grant that 90% of individuals in our country are neither idealists not intellectuals. They think of themselves as belonging to one of three groups: Sinhalese, Tamils, or Muslims.
          .
          At a quite different level, there would be individuals (I think that I’m one) who would like to think of themselves as primarily human beings.
          .
          But why do you seem to insult poor Jagath Asoka, dear SJ?

          • 3
            0

            I know that some of you are not able to follow all that AKD is saying because he speaks only in Sinhalese.
            .
            Please recognise how hard Anura Kumara Dissanayake is trying to get the National People’s Power party to overcome racial differences.
            .
            Responses are open to many articles at this moment. Please do what you can to help him achieve that noble objective.
            .
            If, owing to past nasty experiences with the JVP, you decide to vote for some other party, at least have the decency, courage and honesty, to tell the candidates whom you vote for, when they visit you, that you want each of them – these aspiring politicians – that you want them to emulate AKD in that respect.
            .
            Contrary to what idiots assert, you cannot run a country without politicians.
            .
            Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

  • 7
    0

    Freddie Silvas Kundumani is one such song about Tamil culture .This became very popular in seventies and must play song in papare bands and school big matches .
    Gunadasa Kapuge, Deepika Priyadarshani sang some meaningful songs about the plight of Tamils and importance of harmony.But they were all Sinhala songs.
    But take your point. Artists could have done more to to promote ethnic harmony.
    In that sense this young trio have taken a big leap and I hope others follow their pursuits.All the best to them.Good article Jagath Ashoka.

  • 9
    1

    “Did our dramatists and poets—Sir John de Silva, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Chitrasena, Henry Jayasena, and Mahagama Sekara—try to alleviate ethnic tension through their creative art?”
    Did they do anything to whip up hatred?
    *
    Their monumental creations which related to the society that they belonged could have inspired Lankan Tamil art and theatre.
    Why did that not happen. May we ask why?
    *
    BTW, Nanda Malini took considerable interest in the struggle against untouchability in the north.
    Some of the best Lankan Tamil movies were directed by Sinhalese like Dharmasena Pathiraja.
    *
    Has the author heard of remarkable movies like Saroja and පුරහඳ කළුවර among several more?
    Sensitive Sinhalese artistes have contributed much to communal harmony.
    We should not dismiss them lightly to score political points.

    • 3
      0

      Also, there cannot be much of any performing art that functions outside linguistic boundaries. Most of the time any performing art can invariably addresses only a section of the population.
      What happened to the once thriving progressive Tamil creative writing once Tamil nationalism took hold?
      Is there a successful Tamil writer who addresses all Tamil nationalities, let alone the whole country since the 1970s?

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