Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 13 February 2011





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Government Gazette

Malay artists showcase their talents

Malay community's contribution to Sri Lankan cultural scene has been substantial ever since the community became a part and parcel of post colonial cultural legacy of the nation.

CD containing the tribute song for President Mahinda

Malay community has been living along with the other communities since colonial days. The community's contribution to Sri Lankan culture is manifold. Asiff Hussein writes of Malay community in Sri Lanka

"Renowned for their martial prowess and happy go-lucky attitude, Sri Lanka"s Malay folk have but a relatively short history in the country, albeit a very fascinating one.

This small Muslim community which comprises about 50,000 persons are mainly descended from Javanese political exiles (nobles and chieftains), soldiers and convicts, who arrived in the island from Dutch-occupied Java during the period of Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka from 1658 " 1796.

Although the vast majority of Sri Lankan Malays are of Javanese ancestry, there are also considerable numbers descended from the folk of other islands in the Indonesian archipelago such as the Balinese, Tidorese, Madurese, Sundanese, Bandanese and Amboinese.

Thus the ethnic term "Malay" should not be misconstrued as indicating their origin from the Malayan peninsula. Although there do exist Sri Lankan Malays descended from the folk of the Malayan peninsula, their numbers are very few indeed.

The local Malays refer to themselves as orang Java (people of Java) and orang Melayu (Malay people) while the majority Sinhalese community call them Ja-minissu (Javanese people). Indonesian political exiles comprised a significant portion of the early Malay population brought hither by the Dutch.

These exiles posed a serious political threat to the Dutch East India company (or "vereenigde oost indische compagnie", known as the VOC for short) which had its headquarters in Batavia (the Dutch name for Jakarta).

Sri Lanka and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa were the principal centres of banishment for such exiles."

Tony Mantara with Stanley Omar and others in a studio

Malay community's contribution to enrich Sri Lankan culture is unique. For instance, names of Malay singers like Harun Lanthra have become a household name. Malay musician Stanley Omar has , over the years, made substantial contribution to the field of music leaving Malay imprints on Sri Lankan multi-ethnic music scene. I addition, Stanley Omar's another contribution to the field is discovering talents particularly among Sri Lankan Malay community.

Tony C.H Mantara

Tony C.H Mantara is the latest talent from the Malay community of Sri Lanka. Tony Mantara's journey into the field of music is fascinating.

In his childhood Mantara would love to sing songs of H.R Jothipala, J.A Milton Perera and Mohamad Drafi. Though he is gifted with talent in singing, he could not realise his dream as he joined the tourism industry as soon as he left school. It was a fulltime job and Mantara had no time to exercise his inborn talent of singing.

There was a lull in tourism before the end of conflict, Mantara had nothing particular to do and was wondering as to why he should not use his inborn talent. Recognising the inborn talent for singing in him, Stanley Omar invited him to sing for some of the songs he composed. Stanley Omar has written lyrics and composed music for the songs. Tony Mantara has already recorded a couple of Malay songs and some of the songs had already aired on Eye Channel. Currently, Mantara is recording six Sinhalese. Lyrics for some of the songs were written by Stanley Omar. Jagath Ranatunga and Nambbuge wrote lyrics for the songs. Mantara and other Malay singers (both men and women) are in the process of producing the first ever Malay CD containing about 18 songs. Some of the songs for the CD have already been recorded. The CD will be released by mid December. A tribute CD to President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already been done by the Malay community of Sri Lanka. The lyric for the tribute song was by Jagath Ranatunga and music was by Stanley Omar.



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