Rhythms of Life at Sri Lankan Embassy
By C. Naseer Ahmad
“Ayubowan – meaning, may you have a long life,” said His Excellency Jaliya WIckramasuriya, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, to music lovers of different countries, cultures and religious persuasion. For these devotees few places could be more harmonious than the beautiful residence of the Sri Lankan Ambassador which is a stone throw away from Vice-President Joe Biden's official residence.
As visitors climbed each step of the spiraling staircase they were greeted by cheerful embassy staff and the Ambassador embraced them with both hands and a warm smile. “Sri Lanka is one of the oldest democracies in Asia with over 2,500 years of written history and a rich heritage”, said Ambassador Wickramasuriya in his introductory remarks. Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage manifested beautifully through the musical notes and the majestic steps of a skilled dancer. Keen eyes of Embassy Series photographer Morris Simon captured these images digitally for eternity.
“The music of Sri Lanka has its roots in four primary influences, each unique in its own right: 1) ancient folk ritual; 2) Buddhist religious tradition; 3) the legacy of European colonization – predominantly Portuguese; and 4) the commercial and historical influence of nearby Indian culture – specifically, Bollywood cinema,” described Dr Loius Reith, Embassy Series Board Director.
Two top artists of Sri Lanka , Jananath Warakagoda and Kapila Ruwan Poogalaarachchi, entertained the guests with their superb talents. Jananath has a distinguished pedigree that smoothed his entry into the world of music. He represented Sri Lanka as a drummer when he was 14 years old and worked for the “CHanna-upuli” Performing Arts organization performing all over the world including Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan and Pakistan. He is noted for his memorable performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in UK and the Sydney Opera House. Kapila is a renowned musician in his own right – as a founder of the “Nelu Kapila Music Academy” – with many awards and achievements such as the 2005 Youth award for best stage drama director.
The evening began with enchanting dances by Chathuri Wickramarachchi, a renowned Sri Lankan artist. She is a graduate of the Visual and Performing Arts University, Colombo with over 15 years of dancing and teaching experience in the renowned Channa-Upuli Dance Troupe. Chathuri has performed in over 40 countries for many international events, and has represented Sri Lanka on several important venues and occasions, including the Sydney Opera House and Queen Elizabeth Theater in United Kingdom. For the audience, the stunning performance was both magical as well as up close and personal – something more special than being in the Sydney Opera House.
With short videos about Sri Lanka, participants were exposed to images of beautiful landscapes, wild life, cultural and tourist attractions that make Sri Lanka one of the choicest travel destinations. Ambassador Wiramsuriya’s wife took painstaking care to ensure that the guests were served with plentiful delicious Sri Lankan traditional dishes.
“It is a small world”, people often say and it was remarkable to note how many people in the gathering had either visited Pakistan or had some other connection with Pakistan. Many were heard expressing their warm feelings about Pakistan as a country. For instance, Shahin D. Mafi, an Embassy Series Board Director, expressed her positive feelings about a visit to Karachi for adopting children from an orphanage. And, so “uniting people through musical diplomacy” – a motto of the Embassy Series - is truly an achievement of its Artistic Director and Founder Jerome Barry who makes the evening special for everyone participating in such events.
As Ambassador Wickramasuriya said, “Ayubowan” to all the readers and those participating in the Embassy Series.