ADAPTING TRADITIONAL MUSIC ONTO A CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT
Insights by Dr.Sumudi Suraweera
Contemporary Sri Lankan Pop music across the board ranging from Sinhala light Pop to Hip Hop to Rock makes reference to Sri Lankan traditional music. Being commercially oriented, one questions the real intentions of these contemporary artists behind adapting elements of traditional music. In some cases, artists use the traditional element as the 'cultural trumph card' when attempting to promote music globally. In other instances, it is a matter of filtering out the 'easy listening' elements of the tarditional music to cater to the general masses. Sadly, neither of these practices portary the richness of the traditional music, nor generates a level of appreciation it deserves. Therefore, he would like to identify these current commercial trends as musical contexts in which the traditional music is deteriorated further, in addition to the challenges it faces in its original context.
Is it possible to adapt elements of traditional music onto a contemporary setting in which both the traditional and contemporary can mutually benefit from each other ? That is a context in which the music essence, richness and uniqueness of the traditional music is highlighted, along with an innovative new sound produced as a result of interaction and communication with contemporary music elements. Dr. Sumudhi Suraweera belives that it is possible, with a careful, in-depth study of the traditional. To go a step further, he belives, an adaptation carried out in such a manner can help preserve and revive interest in the traditional. Such a project can only exist outside the commercial, market-driven industry, within the context of non-mainstream contemporary art and music.
It is in this light that he introduced an ensemble featured in the 2013 Musicmatters Festival, the Baliphonics. Baliphonics is an ensemble that adapts the music of the bali ritual in the Raigama region of the low-country tradition into a musical context that includes elements of the contemporary improvisations and jazz. The ensemble first came into life in 2008 during his doctoral research of low-country drumming through his own initiation.