Digital legacy of Sinhala songs
In this week’s column, we examine the pivotal role of a Sri Lankan
domiciled in Australia, Nalin Jayawardene, who is an active member of
Sri Lankan cultural diaspora, plays in preserving, promoting and
providing a platform of Sri Lankans in the digital legacy of the
It is pertinent here, at least briefly, to look into the prominent
aspects of cultural diaspora and who its proactive role in propagating
and preserving diverse cultures and cultural diaspora’s influence on
cultures of origin.
In a paper titled ‘The Diaspora Effect: The Influence of Exiles on
Their Cultures of Origin’, Martin Kilduff. Kevin G. Corley says,
“Swidler (1986) refers to the “toolbag”of culturally specific skills and
abilities emphasised and developed within each cultural grouping. When
exiles leave their home culture to join the culture of another nation,
they bring with them certain aspects of the home culture as part of
their approach to life.
The cultural capital can consist of values, skills, training,
language, customs, life experiences and other socially learned behaviour
and attitudes acquired through intense interaction with members of a
specific cultural heritage. Exiles from the home culture are, in a
sense, ambassadors carrying with them the culture’s toolbag of assorted
attributes into new environments. As ambassadors, their endeavours are
likely to be followed closely by those left behind for clues as to what
changes are made to the common toolbag that cultural members carry. The
successes and failures of members of the diaspora are likely to be read
as providing evidence for how well a representative from one specific
culture can do in a different context.”
They point out that active cultural diaspora will have a pervasive
influence on their cultures of origin. Martin Kilduff. Kevin G. Corley
says, “When someone leaves a culture, the ties to that culture are
usually maintained. Exiles keep in touch with friends and relatives who
remain, and they often create communities of the displaced to help
retain their sense of attachment and identity. These visible exile
communities often serve as fertile locations for the development of
hybrid cultures, that is, cultures that incorporate elements from both
the home and host cultures.
For example, Korean communities in the U.S. tend to form around
immigrant Protestant churches which simultaneously help immigrants
maintain ethnic attachment and help them adjust to a distinctly Western
set of values. Exiles, as they go about their daily rounds, struggle to
employ their toolbags of cultural competencies in new environments. News
of these struggles, and of transformations in culture, are communicated
back to the homelands through the extensive networks that immigrants
tend to maintain.”
What is noteworthy in Nalin’s longstanding contribution to
preservation and propagation of Sri Lankan culture principally through
Sinhala songs, is that he has created a virtual Sri Lanka. It is through
the platform in the virtual reality with universal accessibility that
Nalin has networked Sri Lankans scattered in diverse parts of the globe
and represent their lives in the form of Sinhala songs.
Nalin Jayawardena hails from a family which is closely associated
with music landscape of the nation. In fact, his uncles were famed
exponents in the field of music in Sri Lanka in the 50s and his brother
was a leading singer. Although Nalin studied music under Shelma de Silva
at the Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa and was a member in the Junior
Choir, he did not puruse a career in music due to stiff competition and
gangsterism in the field.
One of the significant contributions Nalin Jayawardena made over the
years is creating a formidable corpus of digitally-preserved Sinhala
songs with universal accessibility in the World Wide Web. He is also a
much-needed helping hand for aspiring newcomers in the field of music
not only from Sri Lanka but also from diverse parts of the globe.
In a way, Nalin’s endeavour is, really, a broad-basing the arena of
Sinhala music adding Sinhala songs to the artistic digital legacy of
humanity. Nalin Jayawardena is credited with becoming the first Sri
Lankan singer to release an internet-based audio album for his fans
around the globe to download free of charge.
The album titled Kanda Paamule was launched in 2004. Nalin has, so
far, released 10 CDs, and he is in the process of making another five
CDs. The website with the target audience of Sri Lankan diaspora
currently contains over 100,000 Sinhalese songs available free for
These songs were composed in partnership with talented Sinhala lyric
writers such as Dr Vicumpriya Perera, Sunil Govinnage, Sriya
Kumarasingha Bhadraji Mahinda, Daya Anada Ranasingha and Chrishanthi de
Fonseka. Under the guidance and advice of Dr. Vicumpriya Perera and his
musician brother Rohan Jayawardena, Nalin created a first internet-based
CD launching platform which has so far launched over 35 CDs available
for free downloading.
Sri Lankan musicians
Music scores for Nalin’s songs were composed by Sri Lankan musicians
such as Nimal Mendis, Rohan Jayawardena, Sangeeth Wickramasingha, Ananda
Widyasekara and Rukshan Karunanayaka.
Apart from songs, Nalin Jayawardena also contributed to the creation
of the firstever Dhammapada Stanzas in CD Packs in partnership with Ven.
Beruwela Siri Sobitha Thera Dr Gill Fronsdal, Dr Vicumpriya Perera and
Janaka Wimaladharama. He also collaborated in making the charity CD/DVD
in aid of the tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.
His repertoire includes Kanda Paamule (2004), Anusmarana Upahara – H
R Jothipala Tribute (2004), tsunami Audio CD (2005), Cold Cold Night
[Seetha Sisil Rea] – Xmas Single (2005), Paata Paata Heenayak (2008),
Upahaara Sihiwatana (2009), Weli Aetayak –
Vicumpriya Perera Lyrics 02 (2009), Athithawarjanaa – Jothi Upahara
Gee Pelahara (2010), Perth Gamata Paayayi Sandha (2010), Paata Paata
Samanalayin (2010) Oba Soya Enem and Duru Ratawala Api (2011).
Nalin’s repertoire of songs deals with diverse themes ranging from
religious themes to mundane subjects such as patriotism, national
reconciliation, tsunami, diasporic issues, family and life.
One of the salient aspects of the themes of the songs is that they
capture the quintessential characteristics of diasporic life where newly
immigrants are in the process of constant negotiation with the cultural
capital that they brought from home and try to fix them in the alien set
up which produces cultural Hybridity with the influx of members of the
humanity from diverse parts of the globe and from equally diverse
cultural and linguistic backgrounds.