by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
“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