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‘Hey Geneva’ by Ajith Kumarasiri! Birth of Sinhala Blues?

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by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hello Friends

Hey Geneva” is a song performed by musician-singer-composer Ajith Kumarasiri at his live concert”No More” at Punchi theatre in Borella on March 31st 2012.

It is now featured on You Tube.

It was Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka ’s former Ambassador to the UN in Geneva who informed me first about “Hey Geneva”. Dayan who is currently our envoy to Paris describes it as “Sinhala Blues or the Blues in Sinhala” and hails it as the birth of a new genre.

I listened to it once, twice, thrice and was highly impressed. The words in Sinhala are easy to follow but matters are made much simpler for the non – Sinhala audience by sub –titles in English. It is about 10 minutes long.

Blues is the name given to a musical form that originated in the Afro-American communities of the USA at the tail end of the 19th century. It evolved mainly through spirituals,songs sung during work in the plantations and native ballads. They are interspersed with shouts and chants.

It developed into a distinct music genre over the years with many sub-categories. The fifties and sixties of the 20th century saw it impacting on forms like Jazz, Rhythm & blues and Rock & Roll. Modern musical instruments began blending in. It is characterized by specific chord progressions

Blues is derived from the expression “blue devils” denoting melancholy,sadness and dismal moods.Today Blues is a music genre with features like lyrical words, bass line notes and specific sounds from musical instruments. It keeps growing according to time and environment and has developed several sub – genres.

I have heard several Malayalam songs belonging to the Blues genre. These are mainly sung by Christian Gospel music groups.

The double Oscar winning Tamil music composer AR Rahman experimented with “blues” in the Tamil film “ Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaayaa” in 2010.

The song interestingly was in Malayalam and called “Aaromale” (Oh Beloved). It was written by the Kerala poet Kaithparam and sung by Kerala singer and composer Alphons Joseph. It also has an interlude in the Bhageshree raga. “Aaromale” is one of my favourites.

Let me return to Kumarasiri’s “Hey Geneva”.

Thanks to the recent UN Human Rights Resolution the name Geneva is on everyone’s lips in Sri Lanka and among Sri Lankans abroad.

Kumarasiri has used it cleverly as the title to draw attention. The song appears to be simple and somewhat pedestrian outwardly. But appearances are deceptive and in this instance has hidden depths.

Sri Lankans are noted for their sense of humour even when the going is tough and “hey Geneva ” is another example. The wry , subtle humour is all there particularly in the play on the word “Kanawa” (eat or eating). It has to be seen against the backdrop of shades of meaning given in Sinhala colloquial references.

The song will appeal to all Sri Lankans concerned about the direction in which their country is going. The references “ We do not kill any more”, Give us our Island back to us” etc strike resonant chords.

Kumarasiri sings clearly and tugs at our heart strings even as his fingers continue to strum.

“Nil sindhu” is born in Sinhala music. Well done Ajith!! I wish you well!!

I wish and hope that Sinhala blues would grow in strength and develop into a sub –genre with the passage of time.

Meanwhile I am posting the song on you tube and invite readers to be viewers and listeners.

Ajith Kumarasiri performed this song at his live concert ‘No More මාර්ක්ස්’ on 31 of March 2012 @ Punchi Theatre-Colombo 08

Here is “Hey Geneva” Friends – DBSJ

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43 Comments

  1. Dear DBS, well put and in Sinhala too: ‘Nil Sindu’. This blues ballad, with its ironic humour, marks the birth of a genre in Sri Lankan music.

  2. Quite a remarkable song and easy to understand even for non – Sinhalese with rudimentary Sihala knowledge.

    Thank You Mr.Jeyaraj for this link and through you my Thanks to Ambassador Jayatilleka too for informing you

  3. Beautiful composition presented with the three guitar format. The lead and the rhythm played on the hollow guitar makes the sound all the more appealing for the blues style. The talent of the trio deserves appreciation.

  4. A beautiful song.As DBS says the spiritual songs of the African Americans whilst serving as a way to forget their sadness and suffering also had its hidden meanings. In fact some of the words used were ‘directions/instructions ‘ to escape to freedom from their captivity. They were also singing about their villages, their past and what they were missing, especially freedom. The Tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka too use/d to sing similar songs nostalgically of the villages and life they had from where they came from.On the contrary Bharathy sang about the sufferings of the Indian labourers working in the Sugar cane plantations (Karumpu Thottam in far away countries) Knowing people know what Ajith is singing about.May God bless him.

  5. Hip hip hooray for Nil Sindu!
    Best wishes to this young artist for the beautiful composition.
    Thanks very much to DBS and Dr. DJ for posting this.

  6. The lyric “arrack to the temple” is a broadside to Buddhists, unwarranted and spoils to whole thing. These guys are talented guitarists, the title is great but the lyrics could have been much effective.

  7. @dias I dont know why you object to that line re arrack to the temples as its a well-known thing about monks drinking arrack,doing business with the temple assets,abusing children,dabbling in racist politics which are totally contradictory to the true Buddhism preached by Gautama Buddha,The Catholic clergy are no better either and if you look at it historically politics and religion are a deadly duo from the time of Cardinal Richelue in France to Oliver Cromwels time in England to our own dabbling monks and priests in good ole’ Lanka

  8. ha// Hah !

    Very nice.I like the humour & the sarcasm, especially the sarcastic smile !!

    ——————-

    Dias says:
    April 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm
    The lyric “arrack to the temple” is a broadside to Buddhists, unwarranted and spoils to whole thing.

    —————

    Isn’t that the reality ???

  9. This is absolutely ecstatic. Thanks DBSJ.

    This will be a hit all the way & listening to it will cut through all racial barriers & soothe the enemosities.
    Someone hear quoted eric clapton. Oh yes. It our guy so its even better…..

    Fantastic strumming.

    Wish ajith kulasiri be blessed with more such creations.
    cutting through ethnicity we all could sit and enjoy. A silver streak. nil sindu to unite SL.

  10. ‘Arrack for temples… Pirith water for the whole country’ reminds me of the saying, ‘oorukkubadhesam unakkalladi penney’ in Tamil. This really is the curse for our coutries. As long as our leaders don’t walk the talk we will have to keep begging ‘upe nidhahasa upita dhenna’ thamai..

    Nice work by the way and hope that the irony reaches the Sinhala masses.

  11. Hey DBS,
    I like the clip but as a musician I think the music is not upto par. There is no proper blues chord progression. The singer comes in whenever he wants to. The lead guitarist is not sure what he is playing, ofcourse he does know some blues scales as it were. All in all, although it sounds “bluesy” the song is a below 3 on a scale of 10 when it comes to the music aspect of it. The lyrics are hilarious and brings out the truth in Sri lanka. Great job DBS. But please advise them through your office to be more professional when playing blues. It can be a disgrace to the ones who love blues.

    DBSJ RESPONDS:

    Ok OK.Point taken.I guess you are a blue-blooded musician or true blue puritan. Now dont let Hey Geneva dump you into the “”blue devils”.

  12. Music with a message makes a lot of difference to many. He has done a good job at what he did in the ten minutes.

    What I understood from the song is that people allowed open their only to have their food. Am I right?

    How did he manage to hoodwink Gota with this song?

    If Ajith Kumarasiri is safe which means Gota’s stupid intelligence did not get the subtle message in the song.

    Ajith Kumarasiri has cleverly occupied the small space which is still not occupied by Growing Gota’s Goons.

  13. DBSJ We are still awaiting for Tamara Kunanayagam part 2

    The pleasure is in the waiting……….DBSJ

  14. ‘Hey Geneva’ belongs to the tradition of Sri Lankan ‘Baila’. If the tap the rhythm you’ll notice it’s in the 3/4time-signature as in ‘Baila’ and not in the 4/4 time-signature of ‘Blues’. It is spiced up with jazzy elements musically but it’s basically ‘Baila.

    Shall we call it “Baila blues” then?…..DBSJ

  15. @Pro Bono Publico and @TRN

    Reality or not, at this sensitive juncture of purported national reconciliation, all of us need to be respectful about one-another’s differences – and the singer has clearly crossed that line; he could have easily substituted with some other lyric but opted not to do so. While I do not speak for all Buddhists, it is unlikely that the insult is viewed as humorous by many. While politicians and public figures are suitable subjects for satire, religions, religious figures, and places-of-worship should not be – they are no joke!

  16. Pingback: Sinhala Blues from Ajith Kumarasiri

  17. @Dias

    The name of the contributor sounds like one related to N. Q. Dias (of Mrs. B’s era), who seeded religion into all government departments and that has grown and blossomed into Monks Party etc. and blocking any reconciliation.

    The song among other good features is thought provoking and more towards reconciliation.

  18. You may call it ‘Baila Blues’ or ‘Nil Baila’. However, the artist expresses a cynical and sarcastic attitude to goings-on in Sri Lanka. The pedestrian and rustic quality of his lyrics show that they are, more or less, improvisatory rather than well thought out lyrics.

    Spontaneous?……….DBSJ

  19. @Dias, you do talk of national reconciliation but please take a hard look at what the so called religious leaders esp among the Buddhist and Catholic clergy have contributed towards it? all they do is stir up racial tension ,abuse children and dabble in politics and never have they stood up for justice and fairplay so its fair game if such hypocrites are targeted like this

  20. DBSJ, though I have lots of respect for your in depth knowledge in Srilankan politics, I’m appalled at your lack of knoledge and bad taste in music. This man sounds just like that Sunil Perera of the Gypsies of Glukorasa. There is nothing wrong having pleasure to see a young artist using music to critizise the system, but for Christ’s sake, do not call this music blues. This has nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing to do with blues. Trust me, just the way you know your politics, I know my blues.

    Ok,Ok,shall we call it Nilsindu? ……….DBSJ

  21. citroen is letting off hot air. Dayan and DBS never said this was blues but only said it is Sinhala blues or Blues in Sinhala.Dbs calls it nilsindu

    So whats your grouse man?

  22. Thanks Ajith for performing the song which reflects very clearly the current situation of our paradise island of Sri Lnaka. Thanks DBS. Moreover thanks Dayan for your courage and passion towards the true prosperity of our Nation.

  23. What a load of CRAP !! This is not music man this is SHIT !! I like the Topics that Ajith chose. But he doesn’t have a clue of how to write or sing. Having a long hair, tattoo, husky voice etc doesn’t make you radical. As he says, he never studied music and his statement speaks for himself. There are some great artists who produce music with no education. But they know what they do. Only some people who think or like to think that they are radical, like Ajith’s songs. But the sad part is those people even don’t know the meaning of radicalism. What I suggest is that we need artists who speaks the unspoken truth like Ajith. I have no issue about the fact that he is talking all the shit going behind the curtains of the temples or church or mosques or whatever and we should speak out the bitter truth. But have to do the job with correct lyrics, music and voice. Hope he will find his way correctly in music and I wish Ajith all the best !!

  24. Devil’s Blue Sindu (DBS)!

    DBSJ RESPONDS:

    HeY Cyril!

    Such anger! my my!!

    Why do I get the feeling that the green eyed monster has seized you because Dayan and I wondered whether a new genre of Sinhala blues. Nil Sindu was born?

  25. Ajith is to me at least, one of the more ‘honest’ and ‘true’ musicians we have in SL. A troubadou for our times.

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