Cutting through barriers at the Galle Music Festival

Gall MFThe Galle Music Festival held last weekend provided a place for artists to meet each other, enjoy the traditions and performances of their counterparts and celebrate the similarities and differences in their musical traditions. It also provided a rich and enjoyable experience for audiences who will come together from all walks of life from the North, South, East, West, and Central parts of Sri Lanka.

Music cuts through all barriers and boundaries, helping people to connect and immerse themselves in multiple cultures and experiences. The Music Cooperation between Sri Lanka and Norway embraced this sentiment and in 2009 established a successful annual Music Festival which alternates between the Sri Lankan cities of Jaffna and Galle. The Galle Music Festival 2016 is the seventh and latest iteration of the Music Festival, scheduled to be held on the 14th of May at the Galle Fort.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy supports the music festivals as an activity that is part of this ongoing Music Cooperation, of which a series of activities have taken place under the Music Cooperation over the past years. Sevalanka Foundation is implementing the activities under the Music Cooperation in partnership with Concerts Norway

The Music Cooperation holds these music festivals to foster ethnic harmony through cultural interventions. The Festivals offer a platform for artists and audiences from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds to connect through the medium of music.

“These festivals provide Sri Lanka’s diverse community artists with the opportunity to showcase and celebrate their unique art forms on a national stage. What’s more, the festivals are interactive spaces and it is always wonderful to see our artists and audiences connecting and learning from each other,” says Festival Director Kaushalya Navaratne.

Speaking about their experience at this type of music festival, Kilinochchi based all-female drumming group Thappu said, “Performing at the Jaffna Music Festival among international and Sri Lankan artists was an unforgettable experience. After our performance at Jaffna Music Festival, we realized that we can use this drum to help in our community’s healing process. We learned that we can change the hearts of the people through this instrument. We were excited to be part of the Galle Music Festival and share our music and experience with an entire new audience and fellow artists.”

Artistes who performed at the Galle Music Festival

The Islamic Social Heritage Cultural Association – Sufi

The Islamic Social Heritage Cultural Association (ISHCA) from Irakkamam is dedicated to sharing and promoting the ancient and traditional art forms of Islamic culture including its music, dance and other forms of artistic story-telling. In particular, ISHCA is focused on disseminating the universal Islamic messages of peace and tolerance via Sufi music, which is the devotional music of the Sufis, inspired by Sufi poets. Passionate and ecstatic, spiritual and entrancing, Sufi music is a uniquely valuable artform that reflects the most accessible, liberal and pluralistic aspects of Islam.

Puli Kooththu

‘Puli Kooththu’ is a performance form with a long history, and is traditionally performed by the Tamils of Eastern Sri Lanka. During the Sinhala and Tamil New Year period, ‘Puli Kooththu’ is performed from house to house and in exchange, people offer money, paddy, rice and such to the performers.

‘Puli Kooththu’ depicts the hardships in collecting honey from the forest as well as the various ethics of hunting. People from Vaharai, Santhiveli and Vantharumoolai are still engaged in this traditional performing art with slight variations in both style and content in each village. ‘Puli Kooththu’ as a performance has both entertainment and educational value not only for adults but for children as well.


The Karagam system of dance originated in the up-country area many centuries ago. It was created by Marimuttu and was originally referred to as the Mandram Kala Mandram. In the past this system was practiced using drums. However, during the civil war, the group that still continues this tradition lost all their drums. Therefore, the group was unable to continue their practice for many years. They have not been able to buy the instruments as yet, but they have managed to find recordings of the music and songs, and can therefore dance to the recordings. This particular group was formed 12 years ago.

The Kuda Mudal Kummi is another dance system. This is a strenuous dance ritual which requires much physical strength; therefore, the dancers have to alternate from time-to-time during the performance. “At first, when we originally started this dance form it was a failure; the youths were uninterested and refused to participate. But we did not give up. We decided to explain the dance-form, its origins and cultural values to the youth and young adults. Then they became more interested and it was successful.”

The group first performed at the Muttumariamman Kovil as the Karagam is based on God Muttuamman.


Kaveri Kala Manram (KKM) was formed in 2003 as a youth cultural group using drama to address social marginalization. Over the years, as a result of witnessing the conflict and the consequential displacement of people from the region, it has evolved to engage in and facilitate the rehabilitation and resettlement of returning IDPs.

KKM uses drama and traditional music as a key approach to facilitate healing and generate a community spirit in the returning IDPs and children in the Jaffna peninsula, supporting them in the complex and challenging process of rebuilding their lives. Nearly forty-five theatre and music artists dedicate themselves to the above goal and social responsibilities.


The pioneers of Ambalangoda Kolam masks and Kolam dancing are the lineage of Maha Ambalangoda Tukka Wadu Gunadasa. Tukka Wadu Oinis, grandfather of Tukka Wadu Gunadasa is the pioneer for Kolam mask and dancing group of the Maha Ambalangoda, which goes back between 250-300 years.

This is considered to be the first Kolam masks and dancing group in Ambalangoda. For examples the set of the oldest masks belonging to Tukka Wadu lineage which is kept in the National museum of Sri Lanka.

Sandasi Beat Drummers

The ‘‘Sandasi Dance and Drum Academy” specializes in traditional forms of Sri Lankan dance and drumming. Up country dance, low country dance, Sabaragamu dance, Baratha Nattyam and Kathak dance are taught at the academy from primary level up to university level students. The head of the Academy is Mrs. W.K. Dinusha Sandamalim who achieved national recognition when she won the first place of the ‘‘Kavitha Talent 2012” competition, organized by the Ministry of Higher Education of Sri Lanka, while still an undergraduate.

The Academy’s newest performing ensemble is the Sandasi Beat Drummers, an all-female group of the upcoming generation’s most talented performers. This is the Sandasi Beat Drummers’ first performance at the Galle Music Festival.

Urban Rappers

Hailing from Nuwara Eliya, Anoj is a Tamil rapper who is passionate about rapping in his mother tongue.

Pamuditha Anjana uses the stage name Zen and is a socially conscious rapper from Dematagoda. He is very vocal on social media and his music reflects is opinions of currents affairs and his ideology.

Krema Diaz: A duo from Galle, Krema Diaz consists of Shafni Awam and Emanuel Abeywardane. Their music captures their experiences of contemporary life in Galle, with dreamy and punchy synth lines punctuated by biting lyrics and catchy hooks.

Imaad Majeed is a poet, singer-songwriter and rapper with an adamant focus on social issues. Not your usual rapper, his lyrics are emotional and self-aware, talking about inner conflicts.

Each performer will perform a solo number, and then come together for a finale that will feature a multilingual song addressing the themes of the Galle Music Festival, highlighting the importance of people from all walks of life coming together and celebrating what they share.

Raghu Dixit Project

Often hailed as India’s biggest cultural and musical export, Raghu Dixit’s unique brand of infectious, happy music transcends age, genre, and even language. His music is strongly rooted in Indian traditions and culture and is presented with a very contemporary, global sound. With his towering voice fronting traditional Indian folk music, subtly infused with elements of Western rock, Arabic, Latino, and reggae textures and rhythms, Raghu’s music transcends national borders and whatever languages he sings in, he always gets audiences singing and dancing with joy.

From playing to over 100,000 people in his home state to every big music festival in India, from Glastonbury, to the BBC to even playing for the Queen of England and the entire Royal Family, Raghu Dixit is clearly in demand! Raghu Dixit has even had the no.1 spot 7 times on the iTunes World Music Charts. It took Raghu 12 years to get his music out but today, he is the unquestionable No. 1 live indie act in the country.

Jag Changa – Raghu Dixit’s Second Studio Album is acclaimed to be their best work so far with soulful, uptempo and earthy beats.

Musical Collaborations

Many contemporary musicians relish the opportunity to broaden their musical horizons through collaborating across diverse art forms. Over the years, the Galle and Jaffna Music Festivals have connected many musicians and their audiences, encouraging new conversations and friendships.

This year, we have taken that commitment to a new level with our Collaborations series. The Music Cooperation is excited to present three new collaborations created by some of the country’s most innovative artists.


One of the hits of the 2015 Jaffna Music Festival was Youth Voices, a dynamic collaboration between students from the University of Jaffna, University of Peradeniya and Eastern University brought together by the Music Cooperation. Youth Voices is back by popular demand in 2016 in Galle, and will present a new fusion work that blends dance and instrumental traditions from around the island. Youth Voices has been created especially for Galle Music Festival audiences under the direction of Dr. Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan.

The Calling

Prepare to be moved and inspired by The Calling, which brings together the primordial sounds of the drum and the voice in a forceful and joyous celebration of women’s musical mastery. The Thappu drummers from the Northern Province, sharing the driving and urgent rhythms and songs that have supported their community to heal and rebuild, joined by the Colombo-based Sandasi Beat Drummers with their vivid array of drums, will thrill you with their compelling rhythms and visual display. They are then joined by the electric energy of Soul Sounds, Sri Lanka’s premier award winning female vocal ensemble, directed by Soundarie David Rodrigo, to fill the stage with music that blends two fundamental and ancient sounds – the drum and the voice, common to all the world’s cultures and a representation of our shared humanity – in an uplifting and memorable musical fusion.

This collaboration transcends language barriers but also expectations of who can drum and who can perform. The Calling welcomes a new generation of performers, all women, who proudly claim their place on Sri Lanka’s stages and in their communities.

Musicmatters Trans-coastal Collective

Born out of a year-long collaborative project between the Colombo-based Music matters Collective and youth artists from the Swami Vipulananda Institute of Aesthetic Studies in Batticaloa, the Music matters Transcoastal Collective works mainly with traditional music that is indigenous to the Batticaloa region of Sri Lanka. The music, which is performed outside of its original contexts, demands deep sensitivity and thought when featured within a contemporary context such as the Galle Music Festival. Instrumentation featured during this performance will include udukku, thappu, maththalam, double bass, harmonium, guitar, drums and electronics.


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