Festival of Folk Music for the Hearts and Souls to Mingle
Traditional welcome for the folk music festival
The Jaffna Music Festival was held on the 25th, 26th and 27th of March 2011 at Jaffna Municipal grounds. It paves the way for a biannual event held in the historic city of Jaffna. This year, the festival brought together a
variety of traditional folk music and dance performances from around the island, with groups representing different ethnic communities and regions of Sri Lanka along with performances from international folk groups from
India, South Africa, Nepal, Palestine and Norway.
The Festival unfolded in the setting of a folk-village camp where different artists, both local and international led simultaneous performances in the mornings, followed by a main stage performance in the evenings which lasted late after midnight. To further engage and educate Festival-goers, the different folk artists led exhibition stalls discussing and showcasing the rich history and diversity of each folk form. The Jaffna Music Festival is the sister event of the biennial Galle Music Festival started in the year 2009.
Beautifully decorated wooden arch at the entrance
Fresh bunch of Banana with King Coconut at the entrance
When and Where to go ~ details of the Jaffna Music Festival in all three languages ~ Tamil, English and Sinhala
Straw mats on sandy soil for the festival
Festival goers just could not stand on the floor, but often on the feet for the faster drum beats heard after many years in Jaffna
Dazzling decorations of Pineapple and Pumpkin along with young coconut leaves
Festival site in Jaffna
Camphor burns in a row of clay pots during the performance of Songs of the Soil by Professor Sinniah Maunaguru and Troupe from Batticaloa
All drummers on stage
A kid is engrossed with the festival
Traditional and Contemporary Sri Lankan Folk Groups:~
This is one of the popular Kooththu forms in Tamil tradition. It is connected to the Veerapaththirar worship, which originated in the Village named Kattuvan in the
northern part of Jaffna. This Kooththu form is around two hundred years old. This Kooththu got its name ‘Veerapaththirar Vasanthan’, from the poet, who was known as Visuva and composed it in the Veerapaththirar temple. The song describes people working in the fields planting and harvesting their crops, the colorful birds which circles the skies above and the beauty and richness of the village. Through this Kooththu the villagers pray to Veerapaththirar, an avatar of Lord Shiva to protect them from all evil. The performers make a circle and act in pairs. Each performer uses two sticks to make a rhythmical beat, which is synchronized to their movements. The audience sits in a circle around the performers. The rhythm and tune of the songs are determined by the meaning of the songs. The movement of the performers depicts the meaning of the songs. The singing is usually accompanied by the harmonium and miruthangam with thaalam (cymbal). It is also performed in the places other than temples with slight attention in time frame during the nights as an extension of temple worship.
Vasanthan Kooththu from Kattuvan in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
This dance form is traditionally found in the Mattakalappu region. A special uniqueness of the Parai Mela Koothu lies in the fact that it uses the dance form
as well as various beat patterns as a medium to communicate different emotions to the audience. The Parai Mela Drummers stand facing each other and by their performance evoke contrasting emotions to be expressed by their counterpart. There are 18 different drum patterns in this type of Melam, which is traditionally performed in temple courtyards and during funeral processions, where a main feature is the frequent stop at junctions to drum and dance. The Parai Mela Kooththu contains numerous fundamental dance and movement patterns and many elements of it resemble the Nritya dance form of the northern Thamizh tradition. Parai Melam is a rapidly declining art form that should not solely be enjoyed as entertainment but that needs to be cherished, encouraged and protected by all arts lovers, scholars and artists.
Parai Melam from Batticaloa district, East of Sri Lanka
Rohana Beddage is an immortalised artist inspired by folk music tradition in Sri Lanka. His vision of leaving a legacy to future generation is influenced by composing
novice melodies to folk tunes and verse which based on folk literature where our tradition and Sri Lankan identity lies. Applying the metre of folk poetry to compose his songs and his familiarity with folk literature is the everlasting secret of his popularity. Foundation of ethnomusicology has become one of provable factor for his unmatched excellence and unchallenged creativity. A teacher of music, dance and drama, kind hearted Father of younger generation who teaches pure Sri Lankan tradition and its captivating ethics, a composer, a lyricist, a singer, a world renowned musician and in the real sense of the word he is a maestro with overflowing humility. At the Jaffna Music Festival this world renowned musician performed:~
● Kande Lande Personal experience by Beddage which expresses heartfelt feelings towards his village.
● Raja o Mangaliya: Veddas (indigenous people in Sri Lanka) folk song when they go to cut the honeycomb and with the experience Beddage gained at “Mahiyanganaya” where he lived side by side with the Veddas in Sri Lanka.
● Sasanda Sasanda: A form of cultural expression accompanied with Buddhist philosophy and the daily work of bullock carters which express their spontaneous ideas to lessen their physical stress.
Rohana Beddage from Horana, suburb of Colombo
Sinthu Nadai Kooththu:~
This is a very popular Kooththu form in the Tamil tradition. It is connected to a legend about goddess Maariyamman. The main character in this Kooththu is Kaaththavaraayan thus it is also called Kaaththavaraayan Kooththu. The whole Kooththu is following the Sinthu Nadai style ~ a simple rhythmic walk like movement of legs with a rhythm. The whole performance is traditionally created accordingly to the character. It is performed in temples as part of the Amman Worship. The Kooththu is performed as praise to goddess Muththumaari, asking her to protect the village from sickness and drought. The performance is accompanied by singing, thaalam, miruthangam and harmonium. Shiva and Vishnu took the form of two deer to produce Kaaththavaraayan. The baby was given to goddess Muththumaari to be looked after. But her love towards this boy, and her constant cradling of the infant annoyed the Devas. They sent the river Ganga from heaven to destroy both mother and son. The baby blocked the river with his foot and protected earth from destruction and thus getting his name: Kaaththavaraayan meaning ‘saviour’.
Sinthu Nadai Kooththu from Neerveli in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has inherited an ancient tradition of puppetry. The art of string puppetry and its practice is centered round Ambalangoda region in the South. We owe
a debt of gratitude to, “Saranga String Puppetries” who have preserved this art form, with much dedication, by preventing it from going into extinction. In the old days, the puppets were used to bring news and politics as well as to tell exciting and romantic stories to the rural areas. Most of the performances are based on characters found in Buddhist literature including chronicles and creations which highlight Buddhist values.
The services of G. Premin of Ambalangoda, a pioneer puppeteer of current era belonging to the clan of Sri Lankan Traditional Puppetry, are still appreciated, as he is an artiste who understood the value of puppetry and safeguarded the art. The knowledge and art of performing the puppetry are handed down in traditional families. Premin and his team of ten members of Saranga String Puppetries have sacrificed their whole life for the promotion of puppetry and show a great zeal and dedication for the industry. His productions, such as “Ehelapola” and “Sri Wickrama” gaining knowledge and influence from his father and grandfather entered a new path in the art of puppetry. Modern day puppeteers continue to engage in puppetry struggling for their own survival lacking incentives from society and policy makers to continue this tradition.
Rookada from Ambalangoda, South of Sri Lanka
The members of the Tradition and Culture of Muslim Inducing Association TACOMIA live in Akkaraipattu, in the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka. The group is well
known among the Muslim community for their distinctive style of performing music with sticks. This style is known as ‘Kali Kambattam’, which refers to ‘beat and play’. The
knowledge and art of performing the play are handed down in traditional families to the present generation. The roots of their play style can be traced back to about 300 years ago.
This tradition is very popular in every Muslim community. The band over the years has played more than 30 shows to wide and varied audiences around the country. The group performs a wide variety of folk tales in form of singing and dancing with sticks. The folk group’s playing, singing and dancing style is Saudi Arabian in origin. This scenario forms the base and all surrounding sequences are acted in various manner using diverse symbols,costumes accompanied by rhythmic singing and drumming with sticks. According to M.H Muzzamil, leader of the group, the younger generation in the Eastern coast shows a big interest in joining the group and learning this unique tradition.
Kali Kambaattam from Akkaraipattu in Ampara district, South West of Sri Lanka
Kaavadi is a folk dance which is predominantly performed in temple rituals. The dancers carry a bow like structure on their shoulders and sway and twirl to the rhythmic song. The song is sung to Murugan, Maariyamman or Ganesh asking them to bless the villagers.
Bending sticks and decorating them with brightly colored cloths and peacock feathers make the Kaavadi. The folk art Murugan Thirunadanam has evolved in the Vanni district in a small village called Pulloppalai. Annaviyar Vallipuram Chelladurai learnt this art by watching his father and his grandfather dancing in the neighborhood temple Vazhividu Murugan. He has been performing and teaching this art to the villagers for the past 45 years. Murugan Thirunadanam is unique to any other Kavadis performed elsewhere. This form is Annaviyar Cheeladurai’s own rendition of the original art and it’s endemic to Pulloppalai.In this form wooden statues of Peacocks and deities are brought on stage as part of the story telling. Annaviyar Chelladurai was awarded the Governor’s award as recognition for his services to this art form and his efforts to keep it alive.
Murugan Thirunadanam from Puloppalai, North f Sri Lanka
This particular Kooththu is performed in Mulliyawalai in Mullaithivu District. It depicts the story of an incident which has taken place. While the temple festival takes place, some businessmen who are non~Hindus (Muslims) arrive in Mulliyawalai. The immediately put up huts and begin their business. The Chief priest of thiparticulr temple along with his assistant visit the stalls and buy things which are needed for the festival. The Chief priest did not have enough money to pay. The seller says “Do not worry, we can collect the balance later”. The Chief priest and assistants leave the stall and continue to carry out the rituals during the festival.
Two days later, the seller goes into the temple with dried fish to collect the balance from the Chief Priest. Seeing the seller with dried fish, the Chief priest of the temple got angry and ordered the seller to leave the temple immediately. But the seller was annoyed and refused to leave the temple premises. It leads to heated argument. The seller tried to smash the Kumbam (traditional holy pot) which is kept under the Kodi Maram (tower where flag is hoisted during the festive time). But he failed and fainted.
Later, the relative of the seller rushes to the temple upon hearing the news. He apologized on behalf of the seller, the Chief priest forgives the seller, and sprinkles holy water. The seller becomes conscious and apologises for his mistake.
The seventh generation from Mulliyawalai is currently performing Magudi Aattam after 45 years.
Magudi Attam from Mulliyawalai, North West of Sri Lanka
Professor S. Maunaguru:~
Born in Batticaloa, Professor S. Maunaguru has made many achievements in performance and research in the field of Theatre during the last 40 years. He has made profound contributions to Sri Lankan Theater especially to the traditional theater of Batticaloa Koothu.He has produced plays while working both in university of Jaffna and in Eastern University of Sri Lanka. Professor S. Maunaguru is an actor, author, director. His contribution to Tamil Theatre in Sri Lanka is immense as an innovator. He has written over 25 books and 15 plays in Tamil.
He was awarded by the Sri Lankan state and by civil organizations for his work, contributions & publications in the field of Theater including the Sahidya Mandala award. He is a former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Head of the Department of Fine arts and the Head of the
Sawami Vipulananda institute of aesthetic studies at the Eastern University Sri Lanka. At the Jaffna Music Festival Professor S.Maunaguru and his group performed:~
● Songs of the Soil (Folk Music of Eastern Sri Lanka) Batticaloa is situated in the eastern Cost of
Sri Lana. It is an area endowed with sea, jungle and paddy fields. The people of Batticaloa drew their
livelihood from natural resources. The social structure found among the Tamils here differs from
that of other parts of Sri Lanka. This programme revels the significant character of Batticaloa. This
programme introduces the deferent types of folk songs of Batticaloa
● Raavanesan (A play based on Vadamody Kooththu style of folk theatre of Batticaloa) Vadamody Kooththu
is a traditional theatre among the theatrical forms of Batticaloa. This narrative theater composed of
music and dance has been traditionally performed in the village all throughout the night on a round
stage. In this production of Raavanesan the potential theatre elements of the rich Kooththu traditions
have been exploited to create a new influential theatre.
Professor S. Maunaguru from Batticaloa
This Kooththu is very popular in the Mullaithivu district for the last 7th generations. The legend associated with Kannaki and Kovalan provides the theme of this Kooththu. Mathalam and thalam are the instruments used in the background. The performance is usually enacted in front of the temple in a circular stage. The story of Silappathikaaram, one of the five main epics in Tamil literature is narrated in this Kooththu. Kannaki is considered the goddess of chastity. She burns down the entire city of Mathurai for the unjust caused to her husband, when he was sentenced to death by the Pandya king for being suspected for stealing the queen’s silambu (a thick anklet filled with bells). In the Mulliyawalai village people believe it was god herself who came down to earth as Kannaki.
Like in many other villages in the North, the villagers mainly perform this Kooththu to pray for better harvest and protection from sickness. The main dancers in this folk drama prepare themselves for almost one month, purifying their minds and bodies through worship and good religious practices.
Kovalan Kooththu from Mullaithivu, North West of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan Kaffirs (cafrinhas in Portuguese, kapiriyo in Sinhala, and kapili in Tamil) are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century. The Kaffirs were brought to Sri Lanka as a source of labour and were also used as soldiers to fight against the Sri Lankan kings, most probably in the Sri Lankan–Portuguese War, Portuguese seafarers carried the first kaffirs to what was then Sri Lanka in the 1500s, most likely from Mozambique.
Kaffirs are proud to be Sri Lankans, they also acknowledge their African history. Promoting their music allows their future generations to better understand the Kaffir's history. Sri Lanka Kaffir culture is a direct link back to their distant African past which is rapidly disappearing. Baila is a form of dance music popular in Sri Lanka, originating centuries ago among the Kaffirs or Afro-Sinhalese communities (mixed communities consisting of Portuguese, African and native Sinhalese people), and was later amalgamated with European instruments and eastern and western rhythms, especially rhythms found in Spain and northern European folk music. The group “Kaffer Manja” was established in 1980. Since then they have been performing at hotels and open stages island-wide. The group consists of 12 members who are between 23 ~ 60 years old. Recently the group stared a Community Based Organization (CBO) called “Kaffer Stella (Kaffir Stars). A fraction of their income from shows is deposited in the CBO account to do a big Kaffir Cultural Show in the coming year. 'Kaffir culture' is a video portrait of one such community and the struggle to keep their culture alive in the face of falling numbers.
Kaffir Manja from Siraambiyadi, North West of Sri Lanka
The song portrays the colonial era , and describes stories formed through existed relationship between the British and the natives. During the Colonial period, a British ship sailed to Nagar Kovil. The people of that village, where promised a better life only to be shipped abroad for labour. When the people realised this, they cried out for help, begging the crew to release them. A snake from Nagar Kovil then entered the ship. The ship’s captain then proceeded to slice the snake only to find hundreds of other snakes emerged from within. The ship unable to continue with its journey, released the villagers back to the shores of Nagar Kovil. However the snakes did not leave. Upon further inspection it was found that a little girl and a cat from Nagar Kovil were still inside the ship. Only after their release the snakes finally left the ship. Every year, Artists dressed according to the various characters of this story, stand around a small ship, and sing and act this story during the Nagar Kovil festival. The audiences sit on the sandy beaches, around the singers and watch them perform in moon light.
Kappal Paattu from Nagar Kovil in Jaffna district
Started in 2004, Ravi Nethra Dancing Academy is well known in the Sabaragamuwa province. Members of the dancing academy are the fourth generation folk musicians.
The dancing team has performed in foreign countries like, Malaysia, Oman, India and Philippines and has won the first place at the inter-school dancing competition from 1987 to date. Their dance tradition still plays the most vital role at certain cultural and traditional festive occasions. They are: The Perehera, Yaktovil, Kirimadu, Pahanmadu, Gam-madu, Clergy processions and festival drums. Certain features like, hands and feet formations, instruments, style of play and costumes are unique to the Sabaragamuwa dance tradition.
According to ancient records the dancer is required to adorn a costume similar to that worn by god Saman of the Saman Devalaya. Their formation of dance requires much skill that only comes with practice. Only an experienced tutor will poses the necessary skills to train others. Usually the training period requires 3-4 months. The academy also conducts training programs and workshops in schools to create awareness on folk music among the school children, which in turn helps them to preserve this unique piece of folk culture.
Sabaragamuwa Bali dance
Uzhavar Nadanam is a folk dance based on the farming life of Villagers in the Vanni area and it describes the origins and the life style of the Vanni district. Uzhavar
Nadanam is an art which has been danced for many centuries. The singers chant about farmers working hard in the fields, enjoying the cool breeze, the dancing peacocks and the singing cuckoos. The dancers enact the Vanni farmers’ daily life style: the farmers getting up before day break, visiting the small Pillaiyar which is near a lotus pond and praying for a good day, plowing the land, fertilizing the soil, weeding, planting seedlings, eating together under the shades of road side trees and enjoying the beauty of the passing village girls and so on. The middle part a dance shows the farmers harvesting, removing the chaff of the seeds, separating the chaff from the rice using a ‘sulaku’, tying them in to sacks and loading them on bullock carts to be taken away. And the final part shows the Thai Pongal festival where the people thank the Sun god for a bountiful harvest, making milk rice and celebrating the year’s harvest. The song is called "Vanni Vayaloram".
Uzhavar Nadanam from Vavnuiya district, North of Sri Lanka
Situated at Warakapola, “Ranganath Dancing Academy”, is well known for up country or Kandyan dance which took its name from Kandy, the last royal capital of Ceylon.
This art is still closely intertwined with religious rituals which are accompanied by the complex rhythms of several drummers to appease to local deities. The percussion instrument used is a wooden drum with leather heads of monkey skin at one end and cowhide at the other. Two different types of skins make room for contrasting tones. Dancers, usually women go through a routine of sinuous poses and flowing arm movements. This genre is today considered the classical dance of Sri Lanka. In Sanskrit terminology it is considered pure dance (nrtta); it features a highly developed system of tala (rhythm), provided by cymbals called thalampataa. With the objective of bringing these unique Sri Lankan upcountry folk dance and singing styles into the limelight, the professional dancers started the, “Ranganath Dancing Academy” in 1946. The academy has won many national and international-level awards for their wonderful expression of a country's diverse culture and tradition. Among them are; Kalasoori President Award, Sumathi Award in 2003 and OCIC Award in 2003 Tele Drama Awards Festival. Also the group members represented Sri Lanka as the “Eminent Folk Singer” for the South Asian Folklore Festival held in 2008 in New Delhi, India. Presently, the academy comprises of 40 students, a research unit, arts museum and a new dancing creation unit.
Upcountry dancing and traditional singing from Warakapola
Karaham has been and still is danced in many villages . Hence unique music styles for the dance have flourished in each village to suit the local taste Karakam is a
decorated cone-like structure, which the dancers balance on their heads while they dance. The performers sit and stand, swaying to the various tunes. It could also be described as a parade dance, because the dancers dance along the village streets and people would stand outside their houses to watch this parade. Now it is mostly performed in temple courtyards. The art of dancing, while balancing an embellished structure, was said to have begun when villagers started dancing, while balancing the baskets they carried on their heads to the fields. Karakam is now danced during temple festivals, as a pledge to god and purely for entertainment. The accompaniment includes Uddukku (a small hand drum) and Parai, both used for the loud sound they produce. During temple festivals, Nathaswaram (a long trumpet like wind instrument) and thavil (drum commonly played with the Naathaswaram) are also used. Generally a group of ten dancers dance in a synchronized form for the accompaniment of a group of singers. Traditionally the songs which were sung and played were thevarams (stanzas praising god). But now South Indian cinema tunes are played to provide entertainment to the audience. It is said the Karakam becomes more and more exciting and fast towards the end and sometimes the audience are pulled by the power of this music to start dancing with the performers.
Karaham from Point Pedro in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
“Kaaman Kooththu ”, a Mahabharatham based play staged by “Kalayaha Makkal Kalai
Arangu”, the Tamil theatre group is on in the neighborhood of Portree Division of Norwood. This is a different kind of entertainment, when it comes to sets, props, costumes and the stage itself. Very direct but powerful is the portrayal of the characters. The play has attracted a good audience in the up country as well as other areas of Sri Lanka. The play moves briskly and keeps the audience absorbed. The play is based on the episode of Madhan and Radhi’s love affair – amidst god Siva plans to kill Madhan. Different actors doing a role in various scenes, different roles done by a single actor are interesting aspects of this production. The demonstration of some characters like Komali (joker), Kuravan and Kurathi, puts a smile on everyone’s lips. All these actors are professional artists; they formed the group 25 years ago. They also play Ponnar Sangar, Arjunan Thabasu, Nalla Thangal and Kadei.
Kaaman Kooththu from Norwood, hill country side of Sri Lanka
In Kandy , where Kohomba Kankariya ev olved , Nishan Rampitiye Dancing Academy has been performing this art for generations. Well known for Kohomba Kankariya
and Bali, the group has around 50 performing artists. It takes nearly five years or more to arrange a full Kohomba Kankariya performance - the most difficult point is to
scour the professional dancers who know the procedures well and the Kankariya itself.
The Khohomba Kankariya contains a number of episodes around an incident. Kohomba Kankariya ritual is performed to ensure freedom from diseases, invoke blessings and for the people to live in prosperity. The blessings are expected to manifest only in the location that Kohomba Kankariya is enacted, so that if any others want such blessings, they too are compelled to enact Kohomba Kankariya in their own areas, thereby ensuring more people would make offerings to please the 'Yakka' (devil) separately for their well-being! The Bali ceremony is a mixture of Buddhism and folk religion. The ritual consists of dancing and drumming in front of the Bali figures by the Bali artist (Bali-adura), who continuously recites propitiatory stanzas calling for protection and redress. The patient (aturaya) sits by the side of the Bali figures. The Bali artist is helped by a number of assistants working under him. The academy is very proud to be winning national and international level awards and the Presidential Award for “Skillfull Wes Natum Artist of 2009 – 2010”.
Kohomba Kankariya from Kandy
This is the most popular form of traditional story telling amongst Tamils. Villu Paatu means bow song. It is told in folk history that soldiers of the Sera, Chola and
Pandiya Kingdoms in South India initially performed the villu paatu during the nights when they were resting after battle. They used their villus (bows) and amours to createmusic and tell stories for entertainment. Later this was revised by poets in South India and stories from epics and of kings were sung in this art. Usually a single person is the singer, storyteller and actor in this performance who beats the bow while he sings. The accompanying instruments are miruthangam and harmonium. The performance is usually based on traditional stories, in order to attract the public. Contemporary issues which are not connected to the main storyline are also carefully interwoven without distorting the main story. Contemporary issues are also used as themes in the recent past. Although Villu Paatu emphasises on an underlying moral in most of its stories, humor is incorporated a great deal into the story telling.
Sinnamani Villisai from Achchuveli in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
Saman Panapitiya & Mathra:~
Each and every ethnic group of the world has its own culture and identity. All these cultural aspects come from ancient times, and should be considered the national
heritage of any society. Today some of these aspects seem to be gradually vanishing. It is important to preserve these traditions, and educate the younger generations of our societies of the value of these cultures and traditions, so that they too can do their part in protecting and preserving our cultural heritage. It was to achieve this mission that the folk group ‘Mathra’ was formed. They will present traditional folk songs onstage, with modern music. They will be performing the folk songs of Andahera, Nelum, Goyam Kavi, Pathal Kavi, Bambara Kavi using modern methods and musical arrangements, to sing song first sung by their ancestors.
Saman Panapitiya & Mathra from Colombo
This is one of the Kooththu practiced amongst Tamils in the Chulipuram area. It is now going to be performed again after nearly twenty year. The story of Papparavaham is connected to the legend Mahabharata. Papparavaaham goes on to tell the story of the great fight between father and son, Arjuna the great archer in the epic Mahabharath and Papparavaahan, who captured a horse his father released during a Yaga (offering to the gods).
Papparavaahan wins the battle killing his father. But ultimately due to the intervention of the gods Arjuna is revived back to life. The men perform to the sound of the thalam ringing with an annaviyar singing, backed by sallari and mathalam. The performance usually takes place in a circular space in the Kovil compound.. The audience is seated on the three sides of the performing space. The performers do not use modern facilities such as loudspeaker.This Kooththu is performed only during the temple periods. Almost a century ago, it was said that real horses and elephants were brought in during the performance to add grandeur to the performance.
Papparavaaham Kooththu from Chulipuram in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
Daha Ata Sanniya:~
Denipitiya Dancing Group focuses on typical southern dance forms -Ruhunu dancing - which is ritualistic and originates from pre-Buddhist folk religion and traditions. It is renowned for the use of oversized colorful masks. It is believed that masks propitiate the gods to cure illness caused by demons. With members descending
from generations of dancers from the Southern Province, the troupe is determined to preserve a rich legacy while blending different forms of dance to create a distinctive style.
Another form of Ruhunu tradition is devil dancing. The troupe adopts different styles of devil dancing in addition to other forms of low country dancing. These include Sooniyam,Sanni Yakuma, Rata Yakuma and Mahason Samayama. The patron of Denipitiya Polwatta Traditional Dancing Group is Chandrarathna Wadasingha. He has been involved in preserving and passing on the tradition of southern dancing style which he learned from his grandparents. Chandrarathna represents the ninth generation of their tradition and he is teaching the art to his son and the youth in the area. Denipitiya Dancing Group has toured to Japan in 1985 and performed in front of a large gathering in Tokyo.
Daha Ata Sanniya from Denipitiya
Isai Naadagam : Poothathamby:~
Isai Nadakam , (musical) evolved from the Parsi theatre tradition, which introduced a structured theater form in India. This form of theater is popular for its use of
colorful stage backdrops and became popular in many parts in India especially in Bombay.
Sangarathas Swamikal, the author of many scripts is considered the father of Isai Nadakam. It is believed the story Poothathambi was written by Sangarathas during his
stay in Jaffna, even though the original script was never discovered. Poothathambi, as it’s performed today is a modified version of the original script. The actors sing as they act in ‘Poothathambi’. The songs are composed according to the rules of Carnatic music, and the ragas and thaalas are set according to the moods of the play. The songs are accompanied by a harmonium, cymbals, miruthangam and a violin. Traditionally, songs narrate stories found in ancient epics. But Poothaththambi is a story which is set during the Dutch period in Jaffna. The Dutch had a practice of appointing Natives to help in their administration. Pooththathambi was appointed as a ‘manthiri’. The story proceeds, that one of the officers fell in love with Pooththathambi’s wife and made advances at her. Unsuccessful, he tricked Poothathambi in to signing a blank paper. The paper was used to frame charges of treachery that he was plotting with the Kandyan Kings to over throw the Dutch.
Isai Naadagam : Poothathamby from Alvai in Jaffna district, North of Sri Lanka
Though origin of Kolam is, by now, untraceable, this unique form of mask dance has settled down along the Southern coastal line during the British occupation of Sri Lanka.Over many generations, the clan of Podi Singjoo in the Southern coastal fisheries township of Mirissa have been preserving and passing on the tradition of Kolam and low country folk dance to the posterity. People gather in large numbers when folk rituals are performed in ‘Gam-Maduwa’ by Podi Singjoo dancing team. A gam-maduwa is an elaboration of rituals based on age-old customs and traditions. It is performed in a temporary shed erected for the occasion. It is of special interest to the farmers, for whom a gam-maduwa would bring in blessings of the gods for success in their agricultural activities. Others too believe that it would bring a lot of good to the village. It falls into the category of rituals known as 'shanti
karma' and is a ritual with mass participation. Being a rare event, it attracts village-folk from the surrounding villages as well. Young members of the clan like G.G Padmasiri and his dancing team stand out for their dedication and commitment to preserving this inimitable tradition of Kolam and Folk Dance which, for them, is a way of life.
Kolam from Mirissa, South of Sri Lanka
Manganiar Group ~ India:~
The Manganiar Group is known for their traditional Indian folk music, and seen as some of the most sophisticated musicians of the Western Rajasthan. The folk music group come from the district of Barmer in Rajasthan, also called the land of kings, and famous for their folk music, and generations of professional musicians. They are seen as the descendants of the Rajputs – the Kings of Rajasthan, in the way that their songs are passed on from generation to generation, making them effectively keepers of the history of the desert. Their songs are about all parts of life; love, weddings, birth, or any family festivity. Amongst the instruments they play, is the remarkable bowed instrument the ‘Kamayacha’, with its big, circular resonator, giving out an impressive deep, booming sound.
Manganiar Group from India
Sibikwa ~ South Africa:~
Sibikwa Arts Centre is South Africa’s leading multi disciplinary art centre and has been designated a centre of excellence by the Department of Arts &Culture. Established in 1988 and situated in Benoni 45km east of the centre of Johannesburg ,Sibikwa has seven rehearsal spaces, a dance studio an art studio ,administration block and a state of the art black box theatre with 220 seats. Sibikwa runs several programmes amongst them the African Indigenous Orchestra which has been so generously supported by the South African- Norwegian Music Cooperation (MMINO) for several years. The seven piece African Indigenous Orchestra uses traditional African instruments such as horns, uhadi (African bow instruments),marimbas,drums and mbira to create a sound for the 21st century. The African Indigenous Orchestra’s music is a celebration of the traditional and the new and plays itself out through lulling, moving subtleties of sound and movement to high energy beats. The performances are always guaranteed to be a feast for the senses.
Sibikwa from South Africa
Tindra ~ Norway:~
The musicians are educated from The Norwegian Academy of Music, and founded the trio Tindra in the year 2000. The members are Åshild Vetrhus (born 1978) from Suldal in Rogaland, Jorun Marie Rypdal Kvernberg (born 1979) from Fræna in Romsdal and Irene Tillung(born 1977) from Voss. Tindra has won first prize in the open category of the National Contest for Traditional Music (2003) and was a finalist in INTRO-folk, Concerts Norway’s competition for launching new talent (2005). The group has toured Norway under the auspices of Concerts Norway, and has presented concerts in Europe and Asia. Tindra released their debut CD, Lukkeleg vaking, in 2006. This album was nominated for Spellemansprisen (Norwegian Grammy). In 2009 they released an album named “Den kvite hjorten” (The white deer), wich contains self composed music for a childrens play. Their third album was recorded in January this year, and will be released in April. Tindra means “sparkle. Their musical arrangements and performances are colourful, energetic, partly humorous, passionate and rough.
The three young women of Tindra provide innovative renditions of the tunes of their ancestors, as well as crafting their own songs, powered by strong West Norwegian traditions and a clear view of modern musical styles. The group shows their sincere musicality through their performances as well as a charming ability to communicate their stories and their music. The themes of the songs are universal ~ love, marriage, tragedies in life and death.
Tindra from Norway
Bharta, Dangol & Durga ~ Nepal:~
Nuchhe Bahadur Dangolhas been palying the madal (Nepali drum) since the age of five. At thirteen, he began learning Nepali folk dance from his father. A few years
later, he was invited to perform at King Mahendra’s coronation ceremony. During his set, Nuchhe fell off the stage and broke his back. Unfortunately he could no longer dance after the surgery. Nuchhe then devoted his time to studying and teaching the drums of Nepal at Tribhuvan University. Nuchhe is known for his twenty-two piece folk drum set, which contains many madals tuned to different pitches. He has performed on his invention for Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Albert Hall. Currently, he is conducting research on Dhime, Madal, folk songs and Chariya dance, in addition to teaching madal at NMC.
Durga Prasad Khatiwada first blew through a bansuri at the age of seven. After three years of teaching himself to play, he began making his own flutes. During his
time in India, Durga finished as the first runner up in both the All India Radio Music Competition in 2000, and the All India Youth Music Competition in 2002. Since then, Durga has performed in France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany, as well as across the Subcontinent. He has been teaching bansuri for the past four years at NMC.
Bharta, Dangol & Durga from Nepal
*Charlie Rishmawi: A Palestinian multi-instrumentalist, born in 1986 in Kuwait. Growing up, he developed a love for different musical genres especially Ethnic, Classical, Jazz, and Contemporary
music. By age 11 he started to play the Piano and the Transverse Flute. He performed in many International festivals with different bands as a Bass, Guitar, or Oud player. After his graduation from The National Conservatory of Music in Bethlehem, he worked as a music instructor in The Dhow Countries Academy of Zanzibar/Africa for two years. Charlie has composed musical soundtracks for local and international movies and is currently working as a music teacher and music arranger in several studios. He performs at school concerts with Sabreen Association.
*Ibrahim Khalil Najem: A Palestinian Oud and Contrabass player, born in Nablus, in 1983 in Palestine. Graduated from Edward Said National Conservatory of Music Beit Sahour, Palestine.Ibrahim attended many courses and workshops at local and international level. He has performed in school concerts with Sabreen Association and now is the head of the cultural Unit ~ Public Relations and Cultural Affairs Department at Al~Quds University Abu- Dis, Palestine.
*John Robert Handal: A musician, born in Jerusalem in 1982 and living in Bethlehem. He has worked with Sabreen Association for Artistic Development since 2003 as a percussion trainer and has led workshops for students and teachers as a sound technician. He graduated from E’cole De Frere in Bethlehem in 2001. John is a Percussionist and piano player, and has done musical arrangements
for songs and documentary films. He is also member in many Palestinian musical groups. He has performed in Norway, Germany, Italy, Nepal and United States of America.
Sabreen Association from Palestine
Quotes from the festival site:~
1.“I began to dance Karagam, when I was 16 year old. I am 78 year old now, still I dance Karagam. It is a duty of all of us to preserve the Folk art” says Ramupillai Murugupillai from Mulliyawalai.
2.“This is my first visit to Jaffna. I had second thoughts when I was invited to perform in Jaffna ~ such as how will the Jaffna Tamil people welcome us and treat us. But, after reaching Jaffna, I was stunned to see their warm welcome, true love and care they showered towards the Non~Tamil speaking artistes. My thought was proven wrong.
I am delighted to be part of the Jaffna Music Festival 2011. I exchanged my knowledge with the fellow Tamil Folk artistes, and I learnt from them as well, although there is a language barrier.
I feel very sad and cosy to leave Jaffna. I love the people of Jaffna and their tradition. Even though, they have faced many hardships in life during the war, I am amazed to see how well they have preserved their unique culture. I invite the Tamil folk artistes to visit the Sinhala areas and exchange their tradition and values with us” says Nishantha Rampitiya, Sinhala Folk artiste from Deldeniya.
3.“Folk music in Norway is a soloist performance, but we have made a few changes for the group. We try to keep the originality of the folk songs, when we perform” say Nowegian singer Ashid Vetrhus
4.“There should be more festivals such as this to encourage the talents. We should enjoy, experiment and exchange different forms of folk” says Thushyanthy Balasuntharam from Batticalao
5.“It is an excellent opportunity to be here in Jaffna. We enjoy playing and learning from other folk music groups” says Petere Loui of Kafeer Manja
6.“The music festival is very good as local and international cultures from different backgrounds get to perform in one stage. It is our first visit to the North, and we are happy because the festival has provided us a great opportunity to get to know different cultures” says Eshani Ranganath of the Ranganath Dancing Academy.
7.“The music and culture here is very different here. We love being here and love the different costumes everyone is wearing during the performance and festival” says Thandi Dube of Sibikwa from South Africa.
8.“Jaffna tradition is interwoven with folk music and dance. Earlier, the famous Kooththus from Jaffna were performed from dusk to dawn. But due to the war, the situation changed, people got displaced, and could not continue practicing and performing the folk music and dance.
Jaffna Music Festival is a landmark event which creates opportunity and connects musicians, dancers and people across borders” says Thirugnanam Tharmalingam, Co-ordinator for the Tamil folk groups of Jaffna Music festival 2011.
9.“We lost the night life in Jaffna due to war. We slowly begin to enjoy being out till late. Festivals help people to preserve our culture and tradition” says a Tuk Tuk driver Dinesh who enjoyed the festival.
10.“We love singing the “Ratha Ratha” song continuously for the festival goers in Jaffna. The response is instant; they immediately get up and dance, which encouraged us endlessly. We are delighted that we drove the crowd wild!” says Nehru Khan while chewing betel leaves with arecanuts in Jaffna way.
11. “We are proud to be in Jaffna to perform. Folk music and dance should be celebrated by all” says Robert Handal from Palestine.
12. “We should not lose our tradition and it values. They need to be preserved for many generations” says Santhirasegaram Sivasithambaram from Mulliyawalai.
13. “It’s encouraging to see young performers at the festival. Festivals such as this add colour and courage to all” says Nuchhe Bahadur Dangol from Nepal.
14. “We are best known for our unique folk music and dance. But, it is quite unfortunate due to three decade of war, our traditional art forms have “nearly died” in Vanni. “Kovalan Kooththu” and “Magudi Aattam” were very famous in Vanni three decades ago, and performed throughout the nights for more than15 hours during temple festivals. Jaffna Music Festival has helped to revive, rejuvenate, resurrect and preserve the unique art form” says Kanapathipillai Arunthaharan, Senior Lecturer of Department of Tamil at the University of Jaffna.
15.“I and my friends are interested in music. We are delighted to see such a music festival is happening in Jaffna. We are able to enjoy African music, Palestinian music and so on. And, we are also able to enjoy some Tamil folk music traditions which are dying off from the practice. I heard about puppetry and storytelling, but I am witnessing these art forms for the time in my life, and I am delighted to be here.
There is no language or religion for music. Anybody can enjoy music. Communities in Sri Lanka are divided over the years due to the war. Music should be used to heal our hearts and minds, which are divided for decades” Eroshan Puviraj, Student of Engineering faculty, University of Moratuwa.
16.“People of Jaffna are very courteous. They have a unique tradition of art, music and dance. We are glad to be in Jaffna to perform” says Rohana Baddege from Horana.
17. “It’s a huge honour to be invited to be part of the Jaffna Music Festival. It is a fantastic festival, where culture is exchanged extensively. We are in small pockets where we rarely know what’s happening in our own island. People say that “This is great for Jaffna”, but I think it is fantastic for the entire country.
Communities are divided geographically. There is no resentment. I think that is fascinating. Men, women and children of Jaffna have gratitude and welcoming, which is huge. We need to have festivals like this which facilitate us to understand other communities” Sulochana Dissanayake, Puppeteer from Colombo.
Festival site at dusk
Festival goers on feet at the grand finale
More photos of the Jaffna Music Festival 2011 can be viewed on