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Samindu Paamula:Songs of healing

By Randima Attygalle
“If we can appease a chaotic mind in thes turbulent times of the world, through song, I think it’s a sheer a blessing,” the words of Victor Ratnayake seemed to justify, not only the social responsibility of all artistes but, the very essence of his latest venture Samindu Paamula, a collection of 18 Buddhist songs launched at historical Bellanvila Rajamaha Vihara on March 27. The first copies of the CD and the audio tape were presented to the Chancellor, University of Sri Jayewardenapura, Ven. Bellanvila Wimalarathana Thera, in an ambiance of quietude which essentially synchronised with the entity of such a musical effort.

The veteran, who marked golden chapters in the local arena of music such as the celebrated ‘Sa’ series (Sri Lanka’s first ever one-man musical performance) and Detholanga Sinaha – first collection of songs by a local artiste, which is accessible via the web, Victor Ratnayake entered the annals of local musical history once more with the launch of Samindu Paamula, the first ever Buddhist collection of songs to have been compiled by an artiste. “Today we are living in a social vacuum with morals are fast diminishing. People are distancing themselves from their religion. Our Sri Lankan identity is distorted. In such a context, I believe that every artiste has a social responsibility towards ‘healing’ the ‘wounds’ of the social equilibrium, as the song is a very powerful media to convey a social message. Samindu Paamula is one such attempt of mine, which I believe will serve humanity even in a small way,” explained Mr. Ratnayake of the objective of his venture.

Elaborating on the choice of songs in the collection, Mr. Ratnayake said, “when considering the Buddhist songs I have sung during my singing career spanning over 40 years, I remember, with gratitude, Premakirthi de Alwis, who composed most of the lyrics for me,” adding that out of 18 songs in the collection, six are composed by him. Five new melodies titled thanha rathi, sanda gunaya sari, himi desu bana, sansare kelawara wetha, dunduhi handa neguna are composed by eminent lyricists – Geethanath Kudaligama, Yamuna Malini Perera, Mahinda Dissanayake, Ratna Sri Wijesinghe and W.A. Abeysinghe.

Adhering to ‘spiritual enchantment’ (Dehemi Vindanaya) advocated in Buddhism, Samindu Paamula attempts to penetrate into the pulse of many as a timely antidote. “When we look at Awukana or Samadhi Buddha statue, we often wonder as to how a mass of ‘lifeless lime’ was given ‘life’ by the ancient artisan inspired by rich Buddhist civilization, which appealed to the intelligence of the man. Thus, the message ‘from enchantment to wisdom’, which is the definition of a sound work of art, be it a song or otherwise, is no doubt resonated in every melody of Samindu Paamula,” words of Ven. Agalakada Sirisumana Thera who delivered the keynote speech on the occasion, seemed to leave a timely message to ponder over.
(Pix by Pushpakumara Mathugama and Nissanka Wijeratne)

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Isankya wins Gratiaen Award 2006

Isankya Kodithuwakku’s collection of short stories, the “Banana Tree Crisis”, won the coveted 2006 Gratiaen Prize. The award was announced at a ceremony organized by the Gratiaen Trust last Saturday in Colombo. The Gratiaen Prize is a literary award gifted by Michael Ondaatje with the money he received from the 1992 Booker Prize for “The English Patient”. This annual award is recognized as the premier literary award for writing in English, in Sri Lanka. The 2006 prize was jointly awarded to Isankya, perhaps, the youngest prize winner to date.

Isankya Kodithuwakku was born and raised in Sri Lanka. Accompanying her father on a couple of diplomatic assignments to Japan and South Korea, she received some of her primary schooling there and also had the opportunity to travel widely in a number of other countries. On completion of her school education at Ladies’ College and Visakha Vidyalaya in Sri Lanka, she was selected to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in the mathematics stream. However, on receiving a scholarship to do undergraduate studies at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, she moved there in 2001. She gave up her mathematics major to concentrate on writing and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree with Highest Honours.

Returning to Sri Lanka, she subsequently spent a year working with the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, mainly involved with writing reports on the organisation’s tsunami relief activities.
In August last year, she moved to New York to read for the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the prestigious Columbia University, where she received a fellowship to undertake postgraduate studies in Writing.
This debut collection of short stories maps the journeys of individuals from diverse locations and lifestyles around Sri Lanka. The characters in these stories come from all corners of Sri Lanka and all strata of life in the island. What unites these characters though is their intense desire to follow their dreams.
Isankya is very appreciative of Vijitha Yapa Publications’ willingness to publish “The Banana Tree Crisis”, as she is an unknown entity.
Isankya is the daughter of Chandani and Dr Karunasena Kodithuwakku.

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Born of the wave

Young Asia Television (YA TV) documents the stories of tsunami victims, dealing with trauma, rebuilding and rehabilitation of coastal communities in the aftermath of the devastation. The series is to be aired on television and radio in the coming days…

By Jayashika Padmasiri
‘Tsunami’ is a cursed word in our country. There were too many stories of loss and destruction, for it to ever become just another word. Many of the stories may never get told. But the “Coastal Rising” programme of YA*TV brings us some of these stories, remembered by only the few who went through the ordeal. “People’s story” is a new programme that deals with the tsunami and its aftermath.

Looking back two years later, we see clearly, the part played by the media, at the time of this devastation. Morning headlines, breaking news, news at every hour- death toll, survivors, the displaced and the disappeared or the departed-the loss counting at every moment… but what now? The part the media played is not over yet. And the voices of the survivors are what YA TV is attempting to get heard, as it launches its programme series dealing with various aspects of the tsunami and its impact on the coastal dwellers of Sri Lanka’s.
Each one different from the other. Each one, the story of a person telling the tale which, to most of us, just got drowned out in noise. The programme highlights the potential of co-operation, collaboration and relationship building in a TV and radio series that will be telecast and broadcast on several television channels, radio stations and published in some news papers.

These stories did not take shape under rainbows and sunsets but, under a giant wave of water and tears. They are stories that still bring tears, because these are victims that lost, not only families and homes but also, a part of themselves, in that destructive wave. These are a seaside people. Their sub culture, livelihood and individual mythos were all shaped by the mighty ocean. Theirs are stories that will never mean less, for its retelling.
“Coastal Rising” will be telecast on ITN on Wednesday at 10 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (Sinhala); ETV on Friday at 10 p.m. and Monday at 12:30 p.m. (English); Derana on Sunday at 1 p.m. (Sinhala ) and is a YA TV production.

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Zeena’s remarkable recovery – Hambantota

As many as one third of Hambantota’s 3,000 strong Muslim population was killed or missing after the tsunami, and the livelihoods of most of those who remained were destroyed. But among the stories of loss and livelihood from this southeastern coastal town are also those of courage and resilience – of individuals who survived and attempted to move on amidst the greatest adversity.

Zeena Salih, one such woman.
The tsunami came just five months after the death of Zeena’s husband. “I had just finished observing Idda- a period of four months and ten days that a Muslim widow remains confined to the house. It was only a week after I had finished Idda, when I had to face the tsunami”, she said.
Zeena lost her two children and 14 other family members to the tsunami. Homeless and alone, suffering from grief and shock, she didn’t know what to do with herself or her life. It was during this time that she had the opportunity to get involved with an NGO especially concerned with the psychological impact of the tsunami on those like herself.
Zeena was able to make a significant recovery with the help of community volunteers who befriended her and gave her support and assistance. She took part in a training programme and now works with others in the community, particularly Muslim women, whose customary obligations have made it difficult for them to pursue relief and other forms of assistance available to them. Zeena visits these families regularly, helping other tsunami survivors rebuild their lives.

Employed as a paid community worker, Zeena is now able to benefit from regular training and capacity building to work more effectively among communities. Her recovery was made complete when she received a new house in a resettlement village for the tsunami affected.
Zeena is a role model and an inspiration to all those survivors of the tsunami – as an individual who benefited from the relief and rehabilitation effort of several NGOs and community organizations. It was her own experience that motivated her to work for other like herself – it is a vocation that brings her great satisfaction, and even happiness.

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