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For those about to rock, The Rock Company

Four years ago a company of music loving folks thought what would be the destiny of Sri Lankan rock music in time to come. Will the local talents in rock music rise from the long held practice of playing other people's songs or cover songs to play their own, thought they...

Will we ever be able to make a name in the international music sphere by playing songs of international rock


Suresh of Stigmata

 artists. How can we make the best use of potential scope in international rock music for our advantage...? These were but a few issues that need to be resolved.

There was hardly anyone to take the matters seriously as Ajith Perera who saw the importance of initiating some action with an aim to promote a local rock industry with an identity of its own with much emphasis on originality.

Thus the forming of the club, The Rock Company, the mandate to rock in Sri Lanka raising its head in 2003 in a more organised stature.

The Rock Company will hold its latest rock show on May 6 at Clancy's with Paranoid Earthling, Stigmata, Fallen Grace , Thilak Dias and Friend and Ritual to rock the house .

I asked Ajith Perera, the founder of The Rock Company, who are the office-bearers of the current Company of Rock?

All the leaders of rock bands that make their own music are regarded as its office-bearers, he explained.

There ain't no place for those playing cover stuff because we are working towards an aim. We want to promote original music.

We are planning to reach the international music scene with talented bands in Sri Lanka. It is for those rock musicians who pursues a path of creativity in what they do. The Rock Company do not want them to resort to copying other people's music.

It is through originality that we may be able to make lucrative profits from the international music industry.

What are the bands and musicians that the company is relying on to play a major contributory role towards reaching its targets?

We have about 24 bands registered with us. They include star bands such as Stigmata, Whirlwind, Paranoid Earthlings, Independent Square and Soul Skinner. What has the Company done towards welfare and development of these bands?

We have already introduced several CDs with their musical creations to the international market. We believe what we have started today will bear fruit at some point in time in the future.

We released the "Rock Company Compilation" CD one in August 2003, and the "Rock Company Compilation " CD two in April 2005 . The CD one has been exported to Australia, India, Pakistan and Germany. The CD two has been sent to reputable record labels in the international music scene.

Morbid Indiscretion, an EP by Stigmata with three original tracks by the band has sold over 350 copies. The CD " Hollow Dreams " with heavy metal tracks by Stigmata has been released to the international market.


Stigmata , from a live show of Rock Company

EZRA's EP "Nazarene" sold 350 copies.

The release of "Veedana" , a CD by Whirlwind with ten rock tracks in Sinhala has also been released for the first time by us.

The Company has established a music practise studio at the self sustaining club house for these talented bands to practise at a very nominal fee to develop their creations which otherwise would not be possible.

And towards their popularity and public awareness of their existence?

Well, that is why we hold monthly rock events such as Rock Unplugged at Clancy's on the last Sunday of every month, the much-awaited-by-fans event Rock Saturday in Colombo, and other special events.

Rock Saturday is held every last Saturday of the Month at CR and FR Clubhouse in Colombo 7 to enjoy all genres of rock music.

This is the only place where locals rock bands are to be found playing their original singles.


Rappers in spotlight over racism uproar

The national outcry in the United States over racist remarks by radio host Don Imus has triggered a fresh debate over the use of misogynistic language beloved by rap artists.

As civil rights activists held victory parties following the sacking of Imus over his racial slurs, other black commentators began soul-searching over epithets such as "ho" and the portrayal of women as sex objects in rap videos.

For some, Imus's use of the phrase "nappy-headed hos (messy-haired whores)" to describe the mostly black


Snoop Dogg

 Rutgers women's basketball team was an inevitable consequence of rap argot entering common usage by osmosis.

"The language from the rappers and comedians has seeped into the culture to the point that Don Imus thought it was okay to call black women 'hos,'" said Carol Swain, a professor of law at Vanderbilt University.

In a blog on the Huffington Post, commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson said rappers like Snoop Dogg shared responsibility for the Imus furor, and accused black leaders of tolerating sexist rap lyrics for too long.

"Imus demeaned a basketball team, Snoop and his pals have demeaned a whole generation of young blacks, and especially young black women, and blacks have let them get away with it," Hutchinson wrote.

"That's why Imus is their Frankenstein."

Snoop Dogg, who this week received a suspended prison sentence and 800 hours of community service after pleading no contest to drugs and weapons charges, dismissed the argument that hip-hop was to blame.

"It's a completely different scenario," the rapper told MTV. "(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports.

"We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood, that ain't doing shit, that's trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things."

But for Hutchinson, the language Snoop used in his defense only serves to provide further evidence of the problem.

"In one grotesque sentence in his knock against Imus, Snoop managed to get in all the ancient stereotypes about black women," Hutchinson wrote, calling on leaders like the Reverend Al Sharpton to boycott the rapper's next album.

Sharpton meanwhile has insisted that sexism in any form should not be tolerated. "We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women," he said at a news conference in New York on Thursday.

"No one, even in the name of creativity, should enjoy a large consumer base when they denigrate people based on race and based on sex."

Film-maker Byron Hurt, whose recent documentary "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes," looks at sexism and gender stereotypes in mainstream hip-hop culture, meanwhile took aim at music videos populated by scantily clad women. "You're seeing repetitive images of woman as boy toys, as sex objects. I think that's a problem," Hurt told CNN.

But Russell Simmons, a record executive and leader of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a group which aims to promote the music, said rappers were only guilty of reflecting the world around them.

"We're a violent country. That's our sad truth. And rappers are a reflection sometimes of our sad truth," Simmons said, rejecting comparisons and Imus and the hip-hop community.

"Hip-hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn't engage in racial slurs," Simmons said Friday in a statement.

"Don Imus' racially motivated diatribe toward the Rutgers women's basketball team was in no way connected to hip-hop culture."

Vanderbilt academic Swain meanwhile expressed hope the Imus furor would force the black community to address the sexist portrayal of women by rappers.

"If we engage in a broader dialogue and hold members of our community accountable then that will be a positive for the whole affair," she said.


Milroy, Madhushani form duo

Milroy Fernando has been in the local music scene for over thirty years now. He lives alone in his Moratuwa residence conducting guitar classes for young music talents around him.

Milroy does not seem to get tired teaching or playing or singing.

The former member of Calypso bands of fame, like the Skylarks and Supertone, Milroy is as energetic as ever.

He was playing the guitar and was singing when I met him last week at his residence. He was singing La


Milroy and Madhushani

 Ceylonean's favourite "Tharuna Jeevithe Ape Vinodayen."

When I asked him if he had retired from his music career, Milroy burst into laugh and said, " How can I stop when so many folks invite me to sing and entertain them at weddings and parties," he said. "But you do not have your good old friends to assist with any more, " I pointed out.

"Yes, but I have an exuberant female vocalist to make my job easier as well as more interesting ," he said as he glanced at the young girl who was sitting on a small armchair to my right.

She held a guitar in her hand. My first impression was she was shy and timid. She politely introduced herself to me with a gentle smile and said that her name was Madhushani.

Madhushani said that she was learning guitar from Milroy and that she was a student of oriental vocalist Neela Wickremesinghe.

Madhushani is a manageress of a computer software company. She's got beautiful artistic fingers. I asked her how she started her music and singing.

I started learning music at the age of ten. I have taken violin lessons , guitar and piano.

I like music and I am looking forward to do well in music. I like to have a bigger audience.

I learned to play these instruments at my school, Vishakha. Neela Wickremesinghe was my guru. I did a diploma in violin with Anil Mihiripanna.

Madhushani says she is yet to discover what suits her best in terms of finding her own style of singing, but said she likes oriental classical genre.

Then she sang the coda of Neela Wickremesinghe's "Bodhiye Viharaye" as Milroy backed the song with a guitar accompaniment. I am sure anybody would want to listen to her singing once heard. According to Milroy she is a fast learner and the duo have already had a few successful musical evenings.

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