Don’t rap our Golden Old Songs
Posted on April 29th, 2020

Chanaka Bandarage

Rap music evolved around 1960s from hip hop music. It involves delivering existing songs in hip hop style, rock rhythms and fast beats.

Sri Lanka’s current young performers are heavily involved in rapping music (songs).  By doing so, they do a great disservice to our highly respected, old, established songs.

Dhanno Budunge is such a song. It was written by John De Silva in early 20th century (precisely in 1903). The first singer is unknown. Some say it was the song writer himself. In 1940s and 1950s Rupasinghe Master sang it brilliantly.

Dhanno Budunge was first released as a LP record under ‘His Master’s Voice’ label in late 1950s. The cassette, CD, DVD, MP3 versions later emerged.

Dhanno Budnuge has been played in Sinhala homes with devotion to Lord Buddha and Anuradhapura, the ancient city. The song has nobility, impeccability and perfection.

Even Dhanno Budunge has been rapped. It has been sung by artistes over different pop vocal deliveries/beats. The writer has been told that there had existed baila versions of Danno Budunge.

By rapping our highly respected, oldish songs like Danno Budunge with cynical/ulterior intention, these artistes not only cause disrespect to the song but also to our traditions, customs and heritage.

Dhanno Budunge is not a song that should be sung in a baila beat to dance.

Amazing Grace is sung devotionally in Anglo Saxon countries since late 18th century. There is so much respect shown to this song in those countries. They would never allow it to be rapped.

Another similar song is Australia’s Waltzing Matilda. It is protected in that country as a National Treasure.

In 1960s and 1970s Sri Lanka produced brilliant and finest singers and musicians.  Rapping music (songs) was never done by them. They created their own, original, authentic  music. Sunil Shantha, CT Fernando, Amaradeva, Victor Rathnayake, Nanda Malini, Milton Mallawarachchi, Clarence Wijewardane, MS Fernando, Anton Jones, Freddie Silva, Sanath Nandasiri, TM Jayarathne, Abeywardane Balasuriya, Dyarathne Ranathunge, Amara Ranathunga, Chitra Somapala and Anula Bulathsinhala come to mind.

The importance is that the highly respected artistes never stole others’ songs to create their own. It is true that Amaradeva too sang Dhanno Budunge. But, that was alright.  He never tried to own it.  Furthermore, he did not disturb the song’s originality, seriousness and sacredness.

Unarguably Victor Rathnayake has produced some of the best music of our time. He is a living legend. He must receive the State’s patronage. The remarkable thing is that at nearly 80 years of age he continues to produce brilliant masterpieces. His most recent  මගේ සඳ ඇවිත්,  නිවී සැනසිල්ලේ and හිතින් යන අය are examples. If  he sings someone else’s song (very rarely), he would always mention the original artiste’s name.

We have highly talented young artistes today. Some of the music that they have created is most outstanding and marvelous.

But, sadly there are many that tend to sing old, favourite songs. They think that this is the only way to become popular. This inhibits their creativity. They should try to make their own quality songs/music.

On  two different aspects –

(1) Dancing to famous old tunes has become a new norm; veteran artistes in gala shows, children in school concerts commonly do this. They dance beautifully wearing incredible costumes. Often, they demonstrate superb choreography. The writer is not saying that this is bad, but it is good if new music is also created. Rather than dancing to old songs/old beats with new words/Hindi songs; performers should try to dance to new songs/music either created by themselves or others. This is how a culture is progressed. As stated earlier there is enormous new talent today. In olden days children performed in school concerts of their own creations (songs, acts/dances); later in life they ended becoming highly talented artistes.   Even in ‘Handa Mama’ today, children tend to recite old children songs; those days they mostly sang their own songs. During the show, some children made new songs instantly.

(2) There is a tendency to ‘rap’ our traditional dancing as well – Kandyan and Low Country. They rap them with Indonesian/Korean, Lebanese, Latin American style dancing. Sadly sometimes such things are done by our ‘acclaimed’ dancing teachers. The writer has attended events where our Kandyan dancing had contained ‘sexy’ overtures. Recently dancers did inappropriate Kandyan type dancing before an audience that was largely of foreign dignitaries. Their costumes exposed body parts – something abnormal in our traditional Kandyan dancing. In a certain scene, a Kandyan type dancing couple as part of the dance kissed each other on the stage. Why did the organisers tolerate such nonsense?

Again, rapping old songs is very common and fashionable in Sri Lanka today. Such rapped music is in demand and promoted heavily by our TV stations and FM radio stations. Unlike their older counterparts, many of our younger generation seem to accept any music that comes their way.

About 30 – 40 years ago, it was SLBC and Rupavahini/ITN that promoted good, local music. They may still be trying to do that; but very few people listen/watch them. As they have lost dominance, they are no longer the major source of local music.

Rapping our older, quality songs like Dhanno Budunge, Shantha Me Re Yame, Lo Ada Ninde/Mal Bara Himidiriye (CT Fernando version) should not be allowed. The writer states that it is alright to sing others’ songs in  public including older, quality songs. But, it should be done without harming the songs originality, meaning and authenticity. What they must not do is to rap them, like hip hop, heavy metal or baila.

One Response to “Don’t rap our Golden Old Songs”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    PLAGIARISM. IF ANYBODY PARASITES ON ANOTHERS ORIGINAL COMPOSITIONS, IT IS INFRINGING ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND COULD BE TAKEN TO COURTS.

    ALSO, IT REFLECTS SEVERE BANKRUPTCY TO ORIGINATE THEIR OWN COMPOSITIONS.

    THE ORIGINAL OWNERS OF THESE SONGS, OR THOSE WHO HOLD POWERS OF ATTORNEY, SHOULD IMMEDIATELY ASK THESE PARASITES TO GET OFF THE BACK, AND ALSO ENSURE THAT A LAWYER SENDS A LETTER OF DEMAND, REQUESTING POSITIVE RESPONSE.

    THOSE BEAUTIFUL SONGS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO BE TOUCHED BY DEPRAVED MUSICIANS, PERIOD.

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