Music is an expression of ideas and emotions in significant forms, through rhythm, melody and harmony. At the Musicmatters Festival this year, this delightful mode of expression was amplified. It was a converging point where musicians across the globe joined together to speak one language; the language of emotions. The festival truly exemplified that art has no barrier with its overlapping genres, cultures, and instruments that contrived to improvise and experiment.

Traditional folk music was blended with modern western instruments as well as invented instruments, to bring about a unique experience to the audience. They relaxed under the night skies, surrounded by mango and palm trees, with drinks in hand, to a candlelit night of soulful music from the east and west.

The German pianist, Bernhard Geigl collaborated with the local drummer Sumudi Suraweera and Isaac Smith to play jazzy tunes with improvised elements. The piano, double bass and drums combined to issue comic tunes that reminded one of a gingerly tiptoeing cartoon character. The piece was composed by Isaac Smith. At times Isaac played the double bass with both hands, other times he used a single hand and a bow. The next piece was full of melancholy. ‘Mogli’ is a composition by Bernhard and it reflected intense sadness or loss which goes on to mingle with other more complex emotions. Gradually the piece achieves happy-sadness.

‘Stay’ by Bernhard Geigl was played next, which was extremely expressive. The sounds that emerged were synonymous with an ongoing battle, over a difficult choice, inside someone’s head. The music was rhythmic, uplifting and intense. At one point it transformed into a more melodic dance rhythm. ‘The deep Ocean’ was also a dance tune. The music was raw with the liquid notes of the piano and the percussion dominating the piece, only to veer off at the end giving way to the double bass.

The last piece played by the trio was courtesy of Sumudi Suraweera. It began with tribal drum tunes, gradually layered with soft notes from the piano and the warm tunes from double bass. It was a hybrid of tradition local music and jazz elements.

The Serendib Sorcerers and the Musicmatters Transcoastal Collective gave life to Sinhala and Tamil traditional music. Miako Klein played the contrabass recorder, a wind instrument of her own creation. Sumudi Surawera played the drums, Reuben Derrick played the saxophone, Sarani Perera played guitar and Isuru Kumarasinghe displayed his skills with different sound effects plates, while Isaac Smith was on double bass.

Sriya Kariyawasam sang the Sinhala Traditional pieces. The clear beautiful traditional dance music of Asadrusha Wannama rang out, in harmony with the music from the
instruments. It was a soft playing that swayed like the wind. Kohomba Hella a piece of traditional Kandyan music from Kohomba Kankariya was the next in line. It was a slow rhythmic piece led by vocals and drum sounds. Saxophone surfaced from time to time to add to its eloquence.

Paththini Saudama which was originally sung for Goddess Paththini blessed the audience next. The rhythmic prayer gave out to a ‘raban pada’ like dialog where the vocals and the instruments complemented each other alternatively. It again gave way to more folk song like vocals and instrumental music that took a jazzy turn in the middle.

Thuranga Wannama was more upbeat in rhythm and roused one from the blissful trance of slow paced folk song. At times the saxophone notes emerged in, giving out a western effect. Improvised jazz tunes took turn alongside the traditional notes before ending to Batticoloa traditional songs.

The set continued with Batticoloa folk music, with different vocal effects that captured the audience. Sugirtha Suseenthiramohan and Priya Jeetheeswaran provided vocals. Jackson played tabla and Jude Niroshan played harmonium. At times, the vocals rang out with the suddenness of an arrow released from a bow string. It was a beautiful upbeat folk song accompanied by tabla and harmonium. The soulful recital captured and held the audience throughout with its delightful voice transitions.

The traditional music element was rare and notable. It was a privilege to hear the endangered tunes of the olden days at the heart of metropolitan Colombo, with its originality intact.
(Pics by Sassanda Liyanarachchi)

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