A collection of 'Gat' in the North Indian musical tradition
Sri Lankan edition of New Instrumental
Compositions for North Indian Music
Sri Lankan edition of New Instrumental
Compositions for North Indian Music
The man heeded the divine call. The flute consented. The concord of
the man and the flute inspired the dark souls of their fellow beings,
dispelling misery and agony.
The world renowned flautist and esraj player Anil Mihiripenna yet
rooted in the Lankan soil, played another tune on the pen, away from
mesmerizing instruments, when he recorded the Gat (instrumental
compositions) finely tuned in his blood and soul.
"New Instrumental Compositions for North Indian Music is a dream-
come- true as I had always desired to bring out a collection of Gat in
the North Indian musical tradition," the artiste who won many accolades
for his musical competency says while placing two books on the table.
"The same book was published in India by Indica Publishers. This is a
historic milestone as New Instrumental Compositions for North Indian
Music is the first ever book by a Sri Lankan musician published in
India," says the maestro pointing at the book with a cover featuring the
traditional Indian art. The print of the book was supported by the
"India is the bedrock of the ragadhari ( North Indian) music
tradition and thus boasts of hundreds of thousands of phenomenal writing
material on the subject. Why this book won their attention was it
encompasses different compositions for six instruments; sitar, violin,
esraj, flute, sarod and oriental guitar.
There are compositions appropriate for stringed instruments (bowed
and plucked) but the compositions for wind instruments are different.
Thus the compositions for various types of instruments with different
techniques of playing are elaborated in the book," he explains.
"There are many books on ragadhari vocal compositions but there's a
considerable dearth of instrumental compositions. The book provides a
guideline to those studying instrumental compositions and suitable for
teachers as well. It cannot replace a teacher, but designed to offer
"In Oriental music, guru(teacher) is an essential component. The
relationship between preceptor and disciple is the nurturing channel of
tradition. For many generations this bond preserved and carried forward
the precious tradition. Therefore a book cannot replace a teacher, and
it's from a guru that pupils must seek instructions and guidance," the
"I studied under the most revered gurus in this divine art. I
mastered my inborn music talents under esraj maestro Ashish Chandra
Benerji, flute from Pandit Gowr Goswami and vocals from Pandit Jamini
Kantha Chakrwarti at the Vishva Bharati University (Shantiniketan) where
the earthly incarnation of the divine art exists.
There it reflected the fundamentals of learning and teaching. When I
attended my first esraj lesson, I carried the esraj and a book to write
down notes. My guru Ashish Chandra Benerji glanced at me and said "ekne
Being new, I did not understand Bengoli but the finger gesture spoke
it all. ( When I left Shantiniketan I delivered my farewell speech in
Bengoli ). I dragged my feet towards him grappling with a sense of
He looked at my book and questioned why I was carrying a book. When I
said it was to take down notes, my guru said: "when you study here write
everything in your head. Don't bring books hereafter". Following my
great gurus advice, I never took down notes.
During the four years in Shantiniketan, all what I learnt is in my
head and anytime I am able to recall anything," the inspired artiste
"Exercises and compositions should not be forced indiscriminately on
students, but the teacher must use his discretion in prescribing
suitable material for individual students.
Teacher must also offer advice and guidance on selecting compositions
to match their abilities. I tried to propagate the Shantiniketan model
of teaching in Sri Lanka but I failed," the maestro says.
"Art cannot be spoon-fed. It should be planted in one's blood and
soul. I began exploring this when I was a child. I trained my ears to
the melodious voice of my mother when she sang lullabies to my younger
sisters. Those fascinated us. That's why our whole family turned out to
be artistes of different spectrums," with a blissful smile on the face
"I deeply fell in love with the flute when I was in school. I carried
the flute to school and entertained my friends during free time, but it
was too late when we realised that it distracted other classes and I was
punished several times," he laughs having moved back to childhood.
"The noble duty of an artiste is to create a blissful moment. His or
her talent is to capture the minds of the people in a moment of trans
(Samadhi). This is kind of bhavna (meditation) done through music to
soothe and relieve their minds. But it's not music therapy. Both vocal
and instrumental compositions can soothe the minds".
"But I don't agree playing vocal compositions on instruments. Songs
are to be sung. The words (lyrics) of the song intertwined with the
thalam (rhythm) to create meaning. So when you play a song on a
instrument how can the meaning be reflected without words?," the maestro
The great musician who was a guru at school and university level has
performed in many soils around the world and mesmerized hundreds of
thousands of music lovers with his musical prowess.
He also authored books to widen the knowledge of students of the
classical music. He founded Sharada Kala Nikethanaya, institution that
propagates Oriental classical music in Sri Lanka. He was presented with
many national and international level awards in recognition of his
service to the field of music.
He was also presented the Honorary Citizenship of Nebraska State in
USA and the honorary member of the research board of advisors of the
American Biography Institute.
"I don't want to be away from my Motherland. I have done my due. Now
the uparwala (the one up there) will decide the rest".
Guidebook on child rights
This is a book based on one of the major issues of the nation -
children's rights. The "Guidebook on the Rights of the Child in Sri
Lanka" is a result of IDLO's (International Development Law Organisation)
Post-tsunami Legal Assistance Initiative for Sri Lanka, funded by the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Finland and Irish Aid,
Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of Ireland.
The book is divided into eight chapters with each of the key issues
related to the subject, focusing on children affected by Tsunami,
adoption, exploitation and abuse, duty of protection and support,
domestic violence, and Government institutions involved in child
A contacts directory made up of State Institutions, Ministries,
Non-Governmental Organisations, International Non- Government
Organisations etc is also provided for those seeking further
The book is a helping guide for lawyers for quick reference and for
those who have interest towards the topic. Put into easy terms in a
question-answer basis, the book also includes tables and charts so that
the reader will have no problem grasping the subject or answer.
Each chapter opens with a background to the subject so that even
those who are not familiar with the topic and its relating issues will
have an insight to the field before relating to the core of the problems
in connection with the subject.
Harshini Ranasinghe had co-authored the volume with the assistance of
Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo N. Selvakkumaran.
Several experts on the topics such as Rose Wijesekara, A. Sarveswaran
and Jeeva Niriella, Senior Lecturers of the University of Colombo, have
contributed to each of the chapters.
According to William Loris, Director-General, International
Development Law Organisation, the idea of the book was born after the
Tsunami struck the island. It is dedicated to the children of the
country, inspired by the courage they displayed.
It is aimed at supporting those helping children who have been the
victims of tsunami and those working with children generally.
An essayist of distinction
The Buddha & Emperor
Aurelius and Other Essays
M.B. Mathmaluwe (Godage International Publishers - Rs.850)
I first came across the by-line 'M.B. Mathmaluwe' in a newspaper
article he wrote some years ago, about field inspections by British
Government Agents of the Colonial era. I vividly remember the last field
inspection , in Walapane, by the very last British Government Agent
R.H.D. Manders - in whose entourage I tagged along as well. As I clipped
out the article, I presumed it had been written by a long retired
Kachcheri Mudaliyar, or some such official.
Imagine my astonishment when, a few weeks later, I read a most
perceptive article on the poetry of Robert Frost by the very same
writer! As Sri Lanka's 'English literary establishment' is an almost
microscopic minority it did not take me long to discover that my
presumed 'Kachcheri Mudaliyar' was, in fact, a highly regarded
educationist from Matale.
Since then I have been, for many years, an avid reader of his
articles on an amazing variety of topics. Mathmaluwe's The Buddha &
Emperor Aurelius and Other Essays gathers into an overflowing punkalasa
a fine selection of the many essays he has written for newspapers,
during the past half century.
Over what a rich variety of subjects do his essays range ! The title
essay [which, I feel, should have been the first races the extraordinary
coincidences between the Buddha's thought and that of the Roman Emperor
Aurelius as recorded in his Meditations, a few centuries later. Two of
his other essays on Buddhist themes exhibit an admirably sane approach
to issues sensitive to Sinhala Buddhists.
In the essay where he discusses the various Great Councils held to
"purify the Dhamma" which indicate the need that had arisen, from time
to time, to recall the Master's exact words.
"Thus in all honesty and responsibility, the Dhamma, as it has come
down to us may not be exactly the same words the Great Master himself
had uttered we are reminded again and again, that it is only 'reported'
( evam me sutam)" His other essay "Did the Buddha visit Sri Lanka ?"
provides an explanation, both sane and sensitive, to this deeply held
conviction of many Sinhala Buddhists.
These essays, ranging from the sacred to the profane, cover such a
wide variety of subjects that the reader can dip into at any point. His
writings on D.H.Lawrence, Robert Frost, Emily Bronte, Pasternak, Martin
Wickremasinghe and other giants of world literature show a refreshingly
original approach to these masters, about whom many other critics have
written 'ad nauseam'.
It is also interesting to read his paean of praise for the sadly
defunct Life magazine. Side by side is his epitaph to the "little
magazines", both scholarly and literary, that flourished here in the
1940s and 1950s in that brief 'Indian summer' when they could rely on a
cohort of English fluent literati and writers so brilliant as Reggie
Siriwardena, Mervyn de Silva, Douglas Walatara, Guy Amirthanayagam,
Godfrey Gunatilleke, Jayanta Padmanabha and others of the ilk. His
essays give interesting insights into the lives and deeds of men who
made a significant impact on their world - Nehru, archaeologist Bell,
D.S.Senanayake and the Buddhist activist Walisinghe Harischandra.
His delicate tip-toeing around Nehru's love life is a delight to
read.History enthralls him ,and his essays on Muslim Chiefs in the
Kandyan Kingdom and also on the royal prerogative of incest are
The culture he admires is not confined to historic times. His essay
on Sinhala music and drama in today's Sri Lanka not only handles such
giants as Sarachchandra, Amaradeva and Lester James Peries but boldly
goes forth to speak with understanding on those youthful icons Bathiya
and Santush !
Among the other topics these essays range over are Folklore,
Agriculture & Water Management, The Rural Scene and the eclipse of the
Village, Politics & Power.
I will not comment on them except to say that they display the
catholicity of Mathmaluwe's interests, the originality of his
perceptions and his clarity of expression.
This is , perhaps, the finest collection of Sri Lankan essays that I
have had the pleasure to read.
Showered by 'A rain of stars'
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
Ever wondered what it feels like to be showered by a rain of stars?
Ask Rohan Liyanage, the author of Tharaka Vessake (A rain of stars), and
he just might be able to provide the answer.
Tharaka Vessakeis a book comprising a collection of lyrics. This is
the third book by the lyricist. He penned his first poem during his
school days. According to him it was based on one of the figures close
to his heart, his mother.
"My father, Ariyadasa Liyanage, was my inspiration. He wrote prosody.
He took me with him when he went to meet other lyricists and poets,"
Rohan expressed adding that these discussions formed the base for his
entrance to the field.
A few years back, Rohan had his own column in Suwanda, the weekly
youth magazine. This was printed under the name Samanala Palama. The
poet-lyricist had launched Aaderai Vilasitha in 2004 and Sonduru Asapuwa
in 2005. Both of these works are made up of poems and lyrics. "My third
book is only on lyrics.
The first half of Tharaka Vessake is on pain of separation from your
loved ones. Then there are some lyrics based on love and how I see it in
different angles. The former half of the book explores different
topics," he said. As a poet plus lyricist what difference does he see in
poetry and lyrics? "A poem allows the writer to express his or her ideas
freely while you have to limit a lyric to a certain time period."
"Several of the lyrics included in the book have already been put to
music and sung by vocalists like Isanka Sewmini, Clifton Gunawardena,
Saman Buddhika Bandara, Frank David and Shiromi Almeida. I wish to see
the rest put to music and sung by many more vocalists," he said.