29 October, 2020

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The Evocative Minor Chords Of ‘Dunno Budunge’ & The Current Discord

By Arun Dias-Bandaranaike

Arun Dias-Bandaranaike

Arun Dias-Bandaranaike

One month ago, a bit of musical whimsy staged a century ago was extracted and extrapolated upon a set of circumstances, which, in turn, fostered an outpouring of comment and diatribes. This should be a cause for surprise and it certainly was worrying in that this needless controversy illustrates a fragmented Lankan community and underscores the already existing lines of societal fracture.

On reflection over these recent eruptions of public distaste, poor taste and sullied decorum, one feels a sober analysis is apt. Discussing merits and demerits is outside of my province, but understanding the flow of the tide (and of what is revealed in the times past) would help. There may well be vultures that prey on culture, but that should hardly interest a nation of sentient beings whose real interest, as always, is about getting on and going on.

pic. John de Silva, as always, dapper in his ‘Western’ (!?) three -piece suit and tie, who, with all his affinity with the Sinhala renaissance, never sought to follow the lead of his cohort in adopting a ‘national’ dress or costume

pic. John de Silva, as always, dapper in his ‘Western’ (!?) three -piece suit and tie, who, with all his affinity with the Sinhala renaissance, never sought to follow the lead of his cohort in adopting a ‘national’ dress or costume

The simple trigger happened to be a song that has the accepted title, “Dunno Budunge”. Context is EVERYTHING in connection with this song! As it stands, the title makes no sense at all. It forms an incomplete thought within Sinhala syntactical norms. These two words are the first in the opening line of verse of the first stanza of the lyric of a song that, by rights, should bear the title “Anurādha Nagaraya“. The subject and content in the lyric is just an idealized evocation of the idyllic grandeur of the capital city of Anuradhapura; and the song (yes, a mere song, not an oratorio, an incantation nor a profound sacred pronouncement nor extract from a philosophical treatise) was included in the stage play “Siri Sangabo“, popular in the first years of the 20th century (c. 1903) after its being staged at the Public Hall in Colombo.[i]

The paean starts with these two words, and continues “Dunno Budunge sri dharma skundha.” [literally: “Those that possess knowledge (dunno) of the weight and value (skundha=Mass/weight) of the Buddha’s teaching …..”]. Beyond these words, the remainder of the song refers not to the Teaching, nor the person of the Teacher, nor alludes to any aspect of the acts of devotion; but it does reveal a ‘pious’ sentiment as generated by seeing the beauteous aspect of the ancient capital city (kingdom) of Anuradhapura, which at the time the play was staged, lay in ruins and almost completely submerged under the jungle tide, save for the initial restorations affected by the Department of Archaeology established by writ of Her Majesty’s Government under Queen Victoria. The setting for the play is what takes matters back to the grandeur lost, when Lanka’s (Sinhala) kings ruled from the north central province.

Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn

The dramatist was John de Silva (who was both a teacher at Wesley College and also a proctor of the Supreme Court) who composed the lyric. His collaborator in the work was an Indian, Vishwanath Lawjee from Bombay.

In his monumental thesis “The Folk Drama of Ceylon”[ii] Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra discusses in his eighth chapter, the emergence of the “nurthya” [also written as nruthya] style, emanating from the earlier nādagam theatrical oeuvre, and, also mentions John de Silva’s disquiet as regards that earlier established tradition. De Silva wished to usher change. Ediriweera’s text dwells on the influences prevalent at the time and of the Parsee, Baliwallah Theatrical Company who set up the Elphinstone Dramatic Company of Bombay, and later also established a place in Maradana in Colombo. In the 1880s[iii] Balliwallah’s troupe performed in Colombo. Ediriweera says, “Balliwallah is said to have performed for over three months to packed audiences in the Floral Hall, a wooden structure in the old Raquet Court in the Pettah”.[iv] He then quotes from The Ceylon Observer, July 9, 1944, and refers to an article reviewing the trends of that time in the previous century.

The writer of that Observer review, Wilmot Wijetunge, is referred to as being “intelligent and knowledgeable”, and is quoted verbatim: “Gorgeous and scintillating costumes, colourful and artistic sceneries before brilliant kerosene-oil footlights, breathtaking spectacular mechanical devices (of marble palaces floating up into thin air, and of wondrous magic treasure caves), rapid dramatic sequences grasped in spite of a foreign language and, above all, the haunting airs of the music of North India –all these fascinated and captivated the onlooker accustomed to the slow- moving, bald, and unsophisticated Nadagama. Henceforth it was destined to yield precedence to this new dramatic form born in such fortuitous circumstances –to the Nurtiya (sic).”[v]

 Alexander Johnston

Alexander Johnston

Nruthya then, was the ‘new’ theatrical experience and was popularized within the crowded space of The Tower Hall, Maradana. It was in this locale that John de Silva exerted his considerable influence, indeed, as did several others of his ilk.

De Silva’s “Siri Sangabowas repeatedly performed at this venue after its premiere in 1903. The drama was composed, created and staged in a milieu that is described by Sarachchandra thus: “[de Silva’s] aim was to rescue the Nurtiya from the position it had descended to, as the vehicle of a hybrid Anglo-Oriental culture, and to make it a medium for the propagation of national and religious sentiments among the people. He drew this themes, therefore, largely from episodes in Sinhalese history and legend, and with the help of these he tried to recreate something of the splendour of the past, and to set before the people the example of kings like Siri Sangabo and Dutugamunu, and thereby evoke emotions of piety and of respect for the ideals of our forefathers.”[vi]

Commenting on the prevalent styles of musical-theatre in Lanka in the immediate post-Balliwallah period, Sarathchandra writes: “The songs that follow (the introductory interventions of a narrator-jester) have tunes drawn from a variety of sources, Hindustani, Tamil and even English. In the text of the play, the first line of an existing song is given at the beginning of each song, to indicate the tune to which it is to be sung, and, it is interesting to note that one song has to be sung to the tune of “Jack and Jill went up the Hill”. This custom of prefixing the first line of an existing song to indicate the tune began with the adoption of Hindustani airs, and continued up to the time of John de Silva…”.[vii]

Siri Sangabo

The story line of this musical-play refers to a fantastic account of a ‘saintly king’ of that name, who lived and reigned amidst much palace intrigue in the early centuries of the Common Era, and who is reported to have decapitated himself and handed over his severed head to his humble benefactor, in order that such a grisly ‘sacrifice’ would accrue monetary benefit to this impoverished subjects in his Kingdom at Anuradhapura. The claimed ‘nobility’ of this self-destructive act is held up as an ideal worthy of imitation. Attanagalla in the Anuradhapura district, is a monument to this king. [Ref: Mahawamsa 58-97].

Now, more than a century after the play’s composition, a London based, Lankan born singer was the subject of a rallying call for a figurative artistic decapitation to be pronounced upon her. Her name is Kishani Jayasinghe. She had been a Senior Prefect in a well-known school, Visakha Vidyalaya in Colombo and had decided to pursue a career employing her considerable gifts as an actress and singer. Today, after much training and the acquisition of skills at the highest levels before her debut in the UK, Kishani has been warmly accepted in the verity of the world of European classical Opera. Her reputation has been discussed elsewhere.

Kishani Jayasinghe, however, was recently reviled in public and ‘convicted’ of singing the song “Anuradha Nagaraya” (a.k.a. “Dunno Budunge”) in a vocal rendition that was considered inappropriate and destructive of the values that that particular song is said to be imbued with. The Internet social media was alive with the hubbub of jeering and insults against her bel canto interpretation of this century old staple of the Tower Hall theatre era.Kishani Jayasinghe

Kishani is certainly not the first person to deliver the lyric of this same song in the Italian bel canto style. In the 1920s and 1930s another versatile singer was the tenor Hubert Rajapakse. His world straddled both the ‘western’ and the ‘oriental’, although his performances in public were usually modeled on the bel canto, and included lyrics in English, Italian and also in his native tongue, Sinhala. Rajapakse has even an acetate record of his rendition, and there are likely a handful of persons in Colombo who may have access to that rare gem. Curiously, Rajapakse has either erroneously or deliberately pronounced the opening two words as “Dharma Budunge”, which, of course, does not make much sense. The rest of his rendition is of the lyric as they were written. His transcriber may well have to take the blame for the error!

It is by pure chance that I am acquainted with Hubert Rajapakse’s work. That is because my father’s youngest sibling was a trained tenor in the bel canto tradition, and his first voice teacher was Rajapakse.

Quite apart from this singer, there were many others who have also been heard in performance singing the same song and the same lyric, obeying the same tempi and identical intonation as associated with the classical Italian style. None of them, perhaps, sang it thus at an open-air event, before a wide audience at such a venue and extended via the electronic media, to include even larger numbers than were gathered at the celebratory event on February 4th, 2016 on Galle Face in Colombo. It was Kishani who had to suffer the consequence.

However, murmurs against ‘tampering’ with this perennial actually were heard in 2013, when the Symphony Orchestra was in public performance during the CHOGM 2013 celebrations in Colombo. HRH Prince Charles was in attendance along with heads-of-state of the Commonwealth and they were treated to a concert. A close friend of mine, and erstwhile conductor of the of the Symphony Orchestra, and former principle French Horn player in the same orchestra, was commissioned to arrange for this concert an orchestral version of “Anurādha Nagaraya” (Dunno Budunge).

The CHOGM concert was conducted by the guest from London, maestro James Ross . Conductor Rose rendered justice to the score, which was projected in the lush imaginatively arranged style of a full instrumental version, akin to an interlude as may have been composed by, say, a Ralph Vaughn Williams. The audience obviously relished the concert performance. For some it meant nothing. For the few from Lanka who may have graced the concert, it was an interesting interpretation with breadth and scope hitherto unheard in a rendition that was purely instrumental, with no voice. On the other hand, there were a few, including some players, who chose to attack the arranger of the score, and condemned him viciously for having ‘baptized Dunno Budunge’!!! A rather telling employment of phrase, this – a criticism which indicates the displeasure of the detractors who considered that a piece that was a ‘nationalist’ vehicle of ‘religious’ significance was now coopted in a different ‘mould’ alien to its culture.

This unexpected response set off an informal, albeit feverish, bit of research by a friend of the commissioned arranger of the piece. This inquiry into the origins of the tune was initiated by Udaya Siriwardhana (son of the late, revered Principal of Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo, Mrs. Eileen Siriwardhana, and of the doyen among the civil servants of yesteryear, the late Mr. D.B.I.P.S. Siriwardhana).

European elements

As noted above, John de Silva’s collaborator was the Indian Vishwanath Lawjee, and he was chosen because de Silva wished to bring in a varied ethos into his work, given his disenchantment with the prevailing custom. As Sarachchandra notes: “he eschewed Nadagam tunes completely and attempted to make Nurtiya music more systematic…..[In earlier examples] The tunes were more or less haphazardly chosen, and, if at all, only in accordance with lay notions of their suitability for the various situations in the story.   John de Silva decided to apply the Sanskrit theory of rasa or dramatic sentiment to his plays.”[viii] However, as we have also established above, there is the insight offered us into the practice of employing introductory bits of other established tunes from different sources, and incorporating them in the body of the melodic content of the plays of John de Silva and his cohort. Lawjee, notably, came from Bombay, and was acquainted with a variety of sophisticated musical traditions, including the northern Indian traditions and formal arrangements of melody and rhythm.

Was the borrowed bit of the melody for Dunno Budunge from such an extraneous source? This was an interesting question, and Udaya Siriwardhana chose to chase after the available evidence.

In the 1820s a former member of Ceylon’s Judiciary, one Johnston, was now holding a senior position in the Colonial Office in London. In 1829, in connection with what is deemed to be an edict for “the abolition of slavery” [not to be confused with such attempts later in the United States of America], there was to be an event in Ceylon for which it was decided to do something original.

Johnston was on good terms with Felix Mendelssohn the composer. Mendelssohn was equally at home in England as he was in Leipzig, and was known to be a very winsome conversationalist, fluent in English as much as in his own language. Since such camaraderie existed between them, Johnston had, in a ‘by the way’ fashion, asked if Mendlessohn would write a work. As Udaya and his contacts have found, this is borne out by the records at the Mendelssohn archives and entries in the composer’s diary as well as in a letter or two. There is a record of the letter of thanks from Johnston, saying that the piece was good and was well received at its performance. This was an orchestral piece, it may be noted. Sadly, even though published, not a scrap exists of that orchestral work!!!! The Mendelssohn archivists admit to that lack.

However, following the ‘popularity’ of the piece for Ceylon, Mendelssohn had later written a shorter work for solo piano. That was not a reproduction of the whole orchestral in a fresh setting. Rather, it was a completely new piece, but it is surmised that he did employ thematic elements from the earlier composition. Those thematic elements were identical with the tune that was used by Lawjee and John de Silva as a vehicle for his paean. In the turn of the century period, at the end of the 19th, that tune had currency and acceptance.

John de Silva and Lawjee’s work does not pretend to be anything outside the mould of the European structure of musical theme and development, using a minor mode and then modulating into a major theme for the more ‘valorous’ subsections of the song. This kind of stylized or formalised musical structure was and is completely alien in the South Asian traditions in musical composition of any sort.

When Rev. W. S. Senior of Trinity College Kandy composed the English “Hymn for Ceylon”, his collaborator in Ceylon was none other than Devar Suriya Sena. In the early 1950s (and not long since the Independence of Ceylon from British governance), Suriya Sena borrowed the tune associated with de Silva and Lawjee, save for the opening mode being a major scale rather than the minor mode as employed by Lawjee. There does not appear to be any ‘murmurs’ against that adoption and adaptation in the literature available on this topic, until now.

It is yet to be indubitably established that Dunno Budunge aka Anurādha Nagaraya was, in fact, extracted from Mendelssohn’s composition for piano. Scholars are even now working to determine this. The Mendelssohn Archives in Europe are also keen to trace these links, since the correspondence does allude to the composer obliging a friend in the Colonial HQ in Victorian London.

Therefore, … Dunno Budunge has had a mixed musical provenance, but primarily it is a song of the Lankan stage, no more, no less. It could be measured as being on par with the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.


[i] Published by The Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Ceylon- 2nd Ed. April 1966.

[ii] The Folk Drama of Ceylon- Sarathchandra. p.130.

[iv] 3 Ibid pp. 130,131

[v] 4 Ibid p.131.

[vi] Ibid p.133

[vii] Ibid p.131

[viii] Ibid p.134

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Latest comments

  • 11
    7

    “Dunno Budunge” is a national anthem. Its sung is family gatherings with much veneration.

    I think few eye brows will be raised if someone sang “Waltzing Matilda”, one of Australia unofficial anthems in European classical Opera.

    Not to take away anything, but Kishani has a superb voice. What many do not know is that she has to sing upto 2 hours without the aid of a microphone or digital voice amplification. Her voice needs to fill a hall with upto 4000 people in her natural voice.

    Being a Soprano is not easy. She is also a lawyer specializing in commercial litigation and an accomplished athlete.

    • 13
      4

      Vibhushana Do not be pedantic but celebrate the fact that his beautiful song, composed with contributions from several, some of whom happened to be non-Buddhists although the lyrics had Buddhist sentiments, was chosen to be sung by a renowned artist in a different style, not far removed from the original. It is not an anthem, national or otherwise, by any stretch of your imagination.

    • 4
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      ““Dunno Budunge” is a national anthem. Its sung is family gatherings with much veneration.”

      Can’t decide if you’re being sarcastic or just a plain idiot who’s making up things to win an argument.

    • 4
      4

      We are not bothered about her qualifications and skills. But whose stupid idea is to put this lady to the forefront to bastardize a much venerated Sinhala Buddhist an almost devotional song with an Italian slant. Especially on the National Day when peoples feelings are running high. It is a political disaster. Thumbs down from me!

    • 0
      0

      Arun, thanks for the informative article .

      Vibushana, I do think any eyebrows were raised in this concert in Melbourne – including the very prominent pair :-) -belonging to then PM John Howard who can be seen in the audience. In fact, the crowd seemed to have loved it !

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGAoCkwKqjU

  • 1
    1

    Hey….you are man [Edited out]

  • 9
    4

    Sylvia,

    I used to organise the yearly X’mas BBQ in my neighborhood. I have the tree and the whole works. The evening ends with christian songs. Some of the songs are truly national anthems being a christian country. I just chill and join in. Does not make difference one iota its not my faith.

    I suspect you live in a Buddhist majority country. Given its a majority Buddhist country the customs will dictate certain anthems to have Buddhist outlook. You should join in and sing. No one is forcing to worship another God.

    Its you who are being pedantic I feel.

    • 4
      0

      vibhushana,
      You must be living south of the equator. Because Christmas BBQs are a rarity in the christian west.
      Anyway, when you say “Christian songs”, are you referring to Christmas carols/hymns? Also, why do you call these hymns/songs/carols “national anthems”? My understanding is every country has one national anthem. And also why do you call “Dunno Budunge” a national anthem when it’s origin is not purely national. If you read the article it depicts beauteous aspect of the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura and therefore does not have a religious tone to it either.

      • 1
        0

        Eusense,

        An anthem is something that inspires a collective. The collective may be your own family. A family can have an anthem sung by Mariah Carey. They will sing it before they enter into competitions etc.

        Usually every country has one official song. Then there many other non-official ones too.

        You may call them carols/hymns but they are much more than that. They are songs that brings a collective together and inspire to be in the image of Jesus. The Carols are anthems that do just that I feel.

        • 1
          1

          Vibu
          Though I don’t fully agree with your explanations, I will let it go.

  • 1
    1

    [Edited out]

  • 4
    3

    The low level of the appreciation of classical music is the reason that the rendition of the song was criticised as bitches howling.It is sad that Srilanka has a very elementary standard compared to the european genera of music. I don’t want to get into a argument who’s music is better, reminds me of what Jesus said “If pearls are cast amongst swine they will trample and eat you”.If one listens to the American anthem being sung at football games the rendition varies widely and there is no critisism.

  • 10
    2

    Have the critics who made a hue and cry over the singing of the song “Danno Budunge” by Kishani on February 4th 2016, ever listened to the original sung by Hubert Rajapakse? For your information it is in the possession of SLBC. Please listen to it. You will not blame Kishani. I admire her for the excellent way she added little more COLOUR to the original style of singing.

    • 2
      0

      oh! I agree Douglas. Her Soprano Voice, did a fine performance on the old classic.
      The salty language she was dished out is unfair, then she must be used to it. Her mother, an executive at ALCS, was known to be quite liberal in using similar language addressing her subordinates.
      Well done Kishani. You have also Internationalized our classic, through your efforts.

  • 1
    0

    “Danno Budunge” is one of most beautiful songs. Enjoy it.

  • 0
    11

    As there is no evidence that the tune came from Mendelsohn, it is more probable that it came from the heart of Sinhala folksong.

    That style of music (as with the Lankan National Anthem), is not of the general South Asian Indian style. This might be used by scholars investigating this, as a determining factor to place Danno Budunge’s musical origination as belonging to European culture.

    The truth is, Lankan music(mostly Sinhala music), has identifiable tunes. Just take any Sinhala song- from Buddhist temple songs to the Sinhala classics : they might attempt to imbue them with Indian sectional scores (thinking that Indian music is of higher form), and then dress it up after that in Indian style with all kinds of undulating embellishments. But Sinhala music has identifiable tunes that have a story line, even without the lyrics.

    Take the National Anthem for example. The initial beginning might be of what Rabindranath Tagore might have composed…..or he might have learned from Samarakoon (i.e. Namo namo mataha part…..e-ee-e-dd-b-d-ccccc). The Indian national anthem also contains that particular musical score, but it just doesn’t take off after that. It attempts to rise, but eventually falls flat, and then moves into all kinds of vague abstractness. It does not give a continuous story line like the Lankan National Anthem. In spite of the amorphous melody, Indian national anthem comes together with all the embellishments, rather the way jazz-music does.

    Danno Budunge I believe, comes directly from the heart of Sinhala folk music. If Mendelsohn had anything to do with it, it must have been an interest he showed when Johnson discussed Sinhala music with the composer. He probably then proceeded to write into European musical notation, the Sinhalese music that Johnson hummed or keyed to him, – previously it was handed down through the generations from mother to child; father to son, as “tunes-of-mouth.” From that musical score Mendelsohn wrote, were the Christians then able to create “Hymn-for-Ceylon, on the church organ.

    • 5
      2

      Ramona
      A good speculative post wich has no value!

      • 2
        7

        Has more merit than speculative scholars who will come up with nothing other than a mean attempt to place Anglicism on our very own cultural songs.

        And mine is far more than mere speculation – evidence that can be used by simply listening to the ordinary masses and their ability to create tunes, and then comparing it vis-à-vis the ability of Indian masses to create tune…….can be done in scientific statistical style.

        • 5
          0

          ramona
          Do some research before your write.

          • 0
            2

            Eusense,

            The article and ensuing comments give most of the research there is available. There’s also plenty on the internet to look up on. Yet again, there’s a lot of tradition that goes with the song. Don’t attempt to deny the Sinhalese the right of their heritage.

    • 4
      0

      Ramona Therese,
      “Take the National Anthem for example. The initial beginning might be of what Rabindranath Tagore might have composed…..or he might have learned from Samarakoon (i.e. Namo namo mataha part…..e-ee-e-dd-b-d-ccccc).”

      Tagore was born in 1862, and Samarakoon in 1911. Do you really think that what you speculate could have happened? Have you been drinking over the weekend? I am sure you will come back with one of your erudite replies.
      “Just take any Sinhala song- from Buddhist temple songs to the Sinhala classics : they might attempt to imbue them with Indian”
      What Sinhala musical classics are you talking about? Please, please would you name one that is more than 300 years old?
      Have you heard of Joseph Vaz?

      • 0
        1

        Old Coger,

        In the absence of evidence, we can only look at the creativity of the people and their ability to form tune.

    • 2
      1

      Ramona Therese Fernando

      Did I not prove through the use of statistics, in a different post, that you are closer to a common ancestor (the chimpanzee) than the human?

      What is this nonsense you are talking this time? The Sinhala ‘music’ culture to be honest has a rich and complex tradition of drumming, but a very basic and cyclical tradition when it comes to music written for instrumental and vocal performance. That too is mostly (if not copied outright) influenced by Indian music. Further, most Sri Lankan music is of very simplistic form occupies the same notes along the Western scale as Blues music, which itself is not complex in any way shape or form. Therefore, if you are hoping to win an argument for Sinhala music based on some sort of musical superiority, you are on your way to losing. Since you have mentioned some “Sinhala Classics” let me give you just two examples of “classics” that are wholesale ripoffs of Indian/Hindi music:

      https://youtu.be/70hHVhrqv48?t=11s

      Successfully ripped off by HR Jothipala (who rarely if ever wrote his own songs, and whose tunes were almost wholly based on Indian songs) as ‘mahada namathi wana bambara’ several years later (you can look up the origin dates of each in case you suddenly claim this occurred in the reverse): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpeByymRlx8

      And since we are in papare season now, let us not forget this old ‘classic’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG6f5dKzVxA

      Stick to what you know, Therese (which I suspect is very little about anything) and let the rest of us get on with it.

      On another note, Arun Dias B. has shamelessly plagiarised all the above content from another more detailed article that I read published on the same topic a few weeks ago. If you are interested in knowing more about the song I recommend you listen to this recent interview with the prime minister https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulIuYso2PxQ where he goes in to much more detail and with several other old recordings. The information was provided by Harsha Makalande, John De Silva’s great grandson.

      • 0
        0

        Bagehot,

        All that drumming came down from India (especially when the Nayaka kingdom brought down the drums)……previously, it was simple tunes of comradeship whilst gleaning the harvest in the paddy fields. There was no need to write down the songs as they were passed down experientially through the ages.

        Take for example that melody they play during the peraheras…Gajaga Wannama…that’s an ancient Sinhala tune. When I was a toddler in another country, I used to sing that tune to yankee doodle (as I did not know the words)…..see, it’s very easy to take ancient tunes and convert them to English.

        • 0
          0

          Ramona T,
          You say:” (as I did not know the words)…..see, it’s very easy to take ancient tunes and convert them to English. “

          Yes I listened to you singing it in English on your Facebook page. So what’s wrong with Kishani’s version?

          • 0
            0

            Wow! truly……you’re one of my friends? I’m touched. Kishani is an operatic star; I am not. I sing in English with a Sinhala accent. Kishani sings in Sinhala with an Italian accent……srrrri dhrrrrrma skanka indeed :( .

            • 0
              0

              *srrrri dhrrrrrma skanda indeed :(

      • 3
        1

        Thanks for this, Bagehot:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulIuYso2PxQ

        Ranil Wickremasinghe comes across extremely well in this video. Credit to the interviewer, too.

        Ranil actually becomes a likable guy, as he speaks naturally, without any unnecessary bombast, and much less stuttering than usual. He sounds academic in a quite unassuming way. He should do more such talks.

        Power failure: will add some points later.

  • 8
    0

    Thanks Arun for this well documented piece. I especially enjoyed the 2 audio recordings.

    It is sad that some are not willing to give an artist her licence to improvise from what is considered “traditional”; often forgetting that when the “traditional” version was invented it was also a new improvisation!!

    Culture always shifts like the waves of the ocean that surrounds our island, which has provided shelter to all and sundry who landed there. We have borrowed from each other and in the process have a broad spectrum of arts and culture that we should ALL be proud of, regardless of its label.

    Keep up the good work. I used to be an ardent fan of your and Manique’s “Roller Coaster”!

    Love you madly!

  • 7
    0

    Arun Dias-Bandaranaike; surely the last word. Thank You.

    We surely would not have come as far as we have if we as a species had not extended our boundaries, tried new things, explored the dark. Pushed our thinking ‘outside the island’. May that spirit never leave us.

  • 3
    0

    Dunno Budunge is a beautiful song which is to be enjoyed by all who like such creative compositions. But it is only a song for us to enjoy in whatever way we fancy. The furor over Kishani’s interpretation reminds me of Cliff Richard’s Millenium Song based on the Lord’s Prayer. In both cases it was much ado about nothing.

  • 5
    0

    John de Silva

    He was born 155 years ago on January 13, 1857. His parents were Christians; his paternal ancestral name was Makalandage. Johannes married Leonora Rodrigo of Narahenpita. To them were born Bastian, Jamel and Dineshia. Bastian marries Dona Isabella of Nawala and their children are Johannes (11), Karolis, Karnelis, John, George and Emelia. John here is the one who blossomed into the grand playwright. Dineshia however married into a Buddhist family whose son later enrobes as Sri Subhithi of Battaramulla making John de Silva and this famous prelate cousins.

    His first school was Christian College, Kotte, one of the two leading English schools at the time – the other was in Baddegama – and the only boarding school in the country. Christian College is now Jayewardenepura Maha Vidyalaya.

    He next went to the Colombo Academy in Pettah which later became Royal College. Sinhala was not taught in schools then. Through his close association with Pundit Batuwantudawe, he gained a good knowledge of Sinhala. By the age of 20, he was a teacher at St. Joseph’s College. Later he taught at Wesley College.About this time, when he was a teacher, a company of actors from Bombay, the Elphinston Dramatic Company led by K. M. Baliwalla, a Parsee actor-director, staged their plays in Colombo. The rich and not so rich, came to see these plays which had plenty of Hindustani and Gujarati songs.
    Giving up play-writing, John de Silva joined Law College and passed out as a proctor. His practice as a proctor must have brought him a good income, but the call of the theatre was too strong and he started writing plays again.

    After more than 10 years, his new play Siri Sangabo was staged in 1903.
    The lyrics of Danno Budunge were written by the well-known 20th century Sinhala playwright, John de Silva as part of his play Sirisangabo where it was sung by three princes Sangha Tissa, Sangha Bodhi and Gotabhaya (not the Gota of recent ill-fame) as they approached the ancient citadel of Anuradhapura. It is essentially a description of what they saw and felt: the majestic stupas; flowing bodies of water, out of which sprang beautiful lotuses while swans swam around; monasteries where monks in search of Nirvana spent their time were in the vicinity; and enlightened sages were flying around magically across the sky, their shadows preventing the rays of the sun reaching the ground! And crucially, the people who are familiar with the words of the Buddha were expected to live according to the spirit of those words. Very simply, this is what de Silva’s lyrics essentially depicted. Such incredible imagination was meant to paint Anuradhapura as a heaven on earth.

    John de Silva’s Catholic background has much do with the social history of the song though it was written much after he had adopted Buddhist and Hindu practices in his personal life. As a person who went through a formal Christian education and also coming from such a religious home environment and given the nature of his times, he must have been familiar with church music as well as western classical music which seem to be the foundation for the music of Danno Budunge.

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    Give me Rugby Songs any day, any occasion.
    They were sung with gusto in the University of Ceylon days – to celebrate success in examinations.
    Opera – even local plus foreign, was only heard of.

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    Thank you Mr Bandaranaike for an informative and fascinating account of a beloved song and its different renderings including the recent one by an internationally known brilliant young Sri Lankan opera singer. The outpouring of sentiment against the scurrilous attack on her shows that despite narrow conceptions of what is “national” there are countervailing forces that accept the diversity of our society.

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    Dear Arun
    It is so nice to hear from you, we are the generation that got entertained by your lovely voice and I have seen you few times in weeramathri’s place in dehiwala where we all got our compilation tapes from.

    You are the kind of people that should have become leaders of our country and drive our culture and nation, sadly, out shit hole pariament is not a place for respectable person like you!
    What a sadness!

    Wish you long life and keep writing!

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    Thank you Arun for your well informative article. Yes I have sung Rev seniors
    Hymn for Ceylon at the end of every school term along with the school song and the National anthem followed by. commencing my school life in the mid fifties.
    Being a Buddhist I sang the Hymn with a great feeling of love for my land.

    I concur with your ending. Dunno Budunge has had a mixed musical provenance, but primarily it is a song of the Lankan stage, no more, no less.

    Well said Arun.

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    Hi Arun,

    Thank you for that informative piece. I must confess I loved Kishani’s version and sitting here in this foreign land, I cried through most of it !

    So much nostalgia, so many wonderful memories and that powerful, vibrant, vivacious voice.

    Some of those comments are a sad reflection of what has become of our “culture” , values and standards. Some justification for my self imposed exile.

    Keep it up my friend and more strength to your pen.

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    Sri lankans will never change, most of them are stuck in a rigid cultural morass of false notions,and any thing other than oriental raagas does not appease them. Kishani’s rendition of Dunno budunge in bel canto style is poison to them. They talk of cultural values and tastes, but are ignorant of the modern tastes so vulgarly and exquisitely depicted in some of the profile pictures displayed on the social media,the Face Book, by the trend setting culturally advanced youth of our country.not a word condemnig them. It is strange that these so called heros purporting to be national cultural consevationists do not have a touch of fine aesthetic taste at least perpherally to admire the ingenious talent of Kishani renowned world over, condemning her of inaptitude.

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    Enjoy the music. If some one want to worship let them go to temple or church or to mosque.
    I am always listening to music from Africa to Latin america and all kind of folk music.

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