Posted on August 12th, 2018


Yahapalana loves western culture, just as much as it loves western political support. The first dose of alien western culture came at the Independence concert of February 2016, when Kishani Jayasinghe, soprano, sang Danno Budunge. Kishani was at the time a very successful opera singer in the west. She sang with great sincerity, in a western intonation which sounded foreign to the listeners and there was a reaction.

There were several reasons for this reaction, said Susirith Mendis. A much revered song steeped in Sinhala culture was sung by a by a singer trained in an alien western music tradition at an event of national independence, where the predominant Sinhale Buddhist tradition  should have been given pride of place. Specially, said Mendis, because Sri Lanka had found that it was encircled and threatened by US western backed Sri Lanka politicians, led by a blatantly pro western Prime Minister. Kishani’s rendering of Danno was therefore seen as blatant genuflection of the Yahapalana government at the altar of US government neo liberality and neo colonialism enterprise. This is the reason for this exaggerated knee jerk reaction.

Instead of supporting indigenous culture, Yahapalana wishes to chase after western culture. Yahapalana set up the Colombo Cultural Hub Trust (CCHT) in February 2017.  Its mission was to make Colombo the cultural centre for South Asia. The project was proposed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who spoke to Mano Chanmugam and Neomal De Alwis and stated his wish to open Colombo for international art and cultural performances. He wished to bring in the cultures of other countries so that the future generation will have the opportunity of experiencing international cultural and art forms on local soil,  said Chanmugam.

On embarking on this mission, one of the major issues we have noted is that the performing and visual arts theaters in Colombo are ‘not good in acoustics.’ An acoustics expert was brought down from England to look into this matter. ‘ he has given us basic instructions to improve Nelum Pokuna. We have been given three years to bring up the standards of these venues so that we will be the best in Asia. Our theatres would then be better, hopefully than the theatres in China, Japan, and Singapore which cater to western music’.

We wish to bring down the stars who are reigning in their fields today, but this is very expensive,  said Chanmugam, in 2017. We have brought down Danielle de Niese and Shani Diluka too will be coming to perform soon. These are artistes of Sri Lankan origin,” Danielle De Niese also sang  at a concert celebrating Sri Lanka’s 70 years of Independence, in February 2018, presented by the Colombo Cultural Hub Trust in collaboration with Dilmah.

The Prime Minister wishes to set up a professional state orchestra and a combined band orchestra using the armed forces, said Chanmugam. He also wishes to host a combined music festival where Bollywood meets Pakistan music. Further, he has also entrusted the CCHT with the task of holding a national Baila Festival. He knew how popular Baila is in the country and it will also appeal to countries like Portugal, Spain, Brazil, and Russia. It will captivate masses and showcase Sri Lankans’ diverse talents to the world,” said de Alwis.

The first activity of the CCHT was to hold the 4th   Asia Pacific Choir Games in Sri Lanka in October 2017. These Games are an activity of INTERKULTUR, a leading international agency for major musical events in the choral community. This will be the first time that an INTERKULTUR event will be held in South Asia.  INTERKULTUR has been organizing such events for around two decades, said the organizers. The event was sponsored by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Dilmah Tea.

The categories were children’s choirs, youth choirs, adult choirs (mixed, male, female choirs), Musica Sacra a cappella, Musica Sacra with accompaniment, Gospel, Spiritual, music of spirit and faith, jazz, pop, show, folklore a cappella and folklore with accompaniment. The competitions were, Open competition, Asia Pacific Champions Competition and Grand Prix of Nations. They were open to non professional choirs from across the world. There would be Evaluation performances (non-competing), individual coaching and singing together. The international jury will conduct closed door workshops. All the competitions were open and free of charge to public audiences.

There were two special celebration concerts featuring international choirs held at Temple Trees and Nelum Pokuna. The opening ceremony featured a great selection of local talent including Ravibandu Vidyapathi, the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, Juilliard trained soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke and the Soul Sounds choir. Friendship concerts were held daily at 5 p.m at the Fairway Center Stage at the Nelum Pokuna premises. . These concerts were open to the public free of charge. There was also a feast of sacred music at the St. Mary’s Church, Bambalapitiya in the morning and evening. There was a street parade of all participating choirs, most in their colorful national costumes, starting from Nelum Pokuna, winding its way around the Viharamaha Devi Park and back again. .

Yahapalana engages in cosmetic actions which are no help to its present population. President Sirisena  annulled in December 2016, At the mahamaluwa of Dalada Maligawa, the Gazette issued in 1818  and declared as national heroes 19 persons including Monarawila Keppetipola, who had been named as traitors for leading and participating the 1818 Uva-Wellassa rebellion against British colonial rule.. The descendants of these took part in the event. there was a full  page advertisement       in the newspapers.. Then in another special gazette notification  President Sirisena, declared 81 more leaders and rebels of the 1818 Uva rebellion as national heroes. . includes 49 people sentenced to death and another 32 declared as traitors and expelled to Mauritius consequent to their involvement in the uprising. The list of national heroes sentenced to death by Court Martial was given.

Yahapalana carried out another cosmetic action at Christmas time in December 2016. Yahapalana successfully created a Xmas tree 238 foot, tallest in the world at Galle Face Green, Colombo. It had 600,000 colored LED lights, a 20 foot Santa and a 40 foot high sleigh. Frame was decorated with thousands of pine cones. It was reported that the workers from the Sri Lanka Ports authority had donated their labor free  for the project.  However, the Tree did not look like a tree. It looked like a large bottle. This stunt was not repeated in 2017.

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