Celebrating traditional folk art

Saturday, 29 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Jaffna Music Festival to recollect forgotten art and culture

Opening doors to explore the cultural diversity of the Northern part of the country through song and dance, ‘Jaffna Music Festival’ will set its stage for the first time this March in the Jaffna Peninsula.

Premeditated to be held on three consecutive days starting March 25, the Festival will explore the exciting and vibrant breadth of Sri Lankan traditional art and folklore. Adding to the exciting line-up of authentic Sri Lankan folk artistes, the Festival will also see colorful performances by international folk groups from India, Nepal, Palestine and Norway.

The Festival will unfold in a folk-village camp setting where artistes will lead simultaneous performances from 10.00a.m to 3.00pm followed by a daily main stage performance from 4 pm – 10 pm Friday to Sunday. To further engage and educate festival-goers, all folk artistes will lead workshops, discussing and showcasing the rich history and diversity of their folk forms.

Jaffna Music Festival will provide all its visitors with the opportunity to witness and learn more about Sri Lanka’s rich and varied folk art forms with several groups representing all ethnic communities and all regions from around the country in attendance – including song and dance traditions from the Hill Country, the North, the South, the coastal regions, and the Central Province.

Staging Jaffna Music festival has several motivations, Festival organisers asserted. Focusing on the cultural traditional heritage as an education for younger generations and aiming to bring together a mass crowd from different parts of the country through music symbolising peace and prosperity are the core objectives of the event. It would also act as a platform for the media and filmmakers to document these folk forms and preserve it for generations to come. The regional and international participation should be inspirational for the Sri Lankan participants and audience as well as for the visiting bands, the organisers say.

The Music Festival is the sister event of the Galle Music Festival which initially took place in 2009. It is hoped that from this year onwards the festival will take place annually alternating between Galle and Jaffna.

The Festival is funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy as part of the Music Cooperation between Sri Lanka and Norway, which is implemented in Sri Lanka by the Sewalanka Foundation with the guidance of Aru Sri Art Theatre, while Concerts Norway acts as the implementing partner for the project from Norway.

Due to the nearly three decades of war in the northern region, folk art along with other forms of art has suffered tremendously. Years of curfew, frequent displacement and many other factors beyond the control of the citizens of the region have made it nearly impossible for folk artistes to display, preserve and pass on their traditional art forms. “In this context, the Music Cooperation in consultation with senior scholars on folk music have decided to make village performances an integral part of the music programme that will have a longer lasting effect and build up to the three day festival event,” organisers said. As such eight different folk form from different districts of the Jaffna peninsular as well as one folk form from Mullaithivu district has been identified. All performing groups have undergone a workshop which brought together musicians from South, East, West and Central Sri Lanka.

The performance standard of these groups of performers varies between groups who have not performed for 30 years and, to annual ritual performers. There will also be a performance by one group of artists who has lost all their equipments due to repeated displacement and have only recently returned to their native villages.  

In the village performances that have been scheduled the Music Cooperation will assist, apart from inspiring a performance on the village level and in the traditional context by providing the groups with costumes, properties, stages, compensating the artistes organising sound and lighting as well as promoting the events to a wider audience.

The villages that are scheduled to perform are Neerveli (Chinthunadai Koothu folk form), Alvai (Nelliadi) (Isainadakam folk art), Ampan (Karakam folk art), Nakarkovil (Kappat Paatu art form), Chullipuram (Papiravaham folk form), Achchuveli (Villu Paattu forlk form), Tellipalai/ Myliddy South, Kadduvan (Veerapathira vasanthan Kootu folk form) and from Mulaivalai (Kovalan Koothu folk form)