Senator A.M.A. Azeez — an introspective analysis
by C. Narayanasuwami
Remembering Senator Azeez on his 110th birthday- 4th October 2021- brings memories of a great Muslim visionary. He was a great intellectual, an able administrator, an erudite scholar and an accomplished educationist whose multiple services to the nation and to the Muslim community in particular, are well documented. His life provides stimulating examples of challenges and successes in varied areas of human development. I will have occasion to refer to his notable achievements in the subsequent paragraphs. Before doing so I must refer to the beautiful story of how I came into contact with him and how he became an ardent sponsor and supporter of my educational journey.
My association with Senator Azeez deserves to be written in gold. I was 16-years old when I first came to know him. I studied at Jaffna Hindu College (JHC) where I did my primary and secondary schooling. Senator Azeez too was an old boy of this College. He was born in the same village as mine – Vannarponnai, Jaffna – the citadel of Arumuga Navalar, the beacon of Saivaism. Being a resident of Vannarponnai, his knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Arumuga Navalar were unbelievably high so as to enable him to pontificate on the teachings of this great saint at popular seminars. It is here he imbibed his excellent knowledge of Jaffna Tamil customs and key insights into Tamil cultural mores and traditions. Being a Jaffna Muslim of impeccable background and character it obviously came naturally to him.
Senator Azeez was educated at two reputed Hindu schools, Vaidyeshwara Vidyalayam and Jaffna Hindu College, where he proved to be a brilliant student. He was proud of these schools and with the guidance and training received under distinguished teachers he excelled in Tamil and Hinduism. He had this to say about his days at Vaidyeshwara, “I now feel thrice-blessed that I did go to Vidyalayam and nowhere else. My period of stay, February 1921 to June 1923, though pretty short quantitatively was extremely long qualitatively. It was at Vidyalayam that I became first aquainted with the devotional hymns of exquisite beauty and exceeding piety for which Tamil is so famed through the ages and throughout the world”.
He entered the University College in 1929. He was an Exhibitioner in History and graduated with Honours in History from the University of London in 1933. On being awarded the Government Arts Scholarship, he went to Cambridge but returned after a term on his success at the Ceylon Civil Service examination – the first Muslim recruit to the Civil Service.
My mother passed away in 1948 and my father who was everything to me then wanted me to join the Jaffna Hindu College Hostel after my Senior School Certificate (SSC) results to pursue Higher School Certificate (HSC) studies – this was largely aimed at weaning me away from grieving and depressing thoughts at home. Being the only son he wanted me to pursue my higher studies without interruption. Soon after I joined the JHC hostel I was elected as the secretary of the HSC Hostel Union because of my long connections with the school from 1943.
In that capacity I invited Senator Azeez as the Chief Guest for our annual hostel union dinner in 1952. It has been the practice of the HSC hostel union to invite distinguished old boys of JHC to officiate as chief guests. It is interesting that I was able to find a copy of the invitation for the dinner in one of my personal folders safely locked away with cherished documents pertinent to my educational and professional career – I discovered this by chance when searching for documents after I received a request from Ali Azeez, the illustrious son of a great father, to write about my association with Senator Azeez.
Senator Azeez readily agreed and came and conquered! After the ceremonial speeches and address by the Chief Guest he called me to a side and asked whether I have relations in Colombo and if so why I should not join Zahira College to continue my HSC studies. Taken aback at this sudden and unexpected proposition I told him that my father would not be happy to be separated from his only son. He insisted that he would like to speak to my father and asked me to arrange a meeting with him. I agreed and introduced my father to him. He spoke to him in excellent Tamil and told him to send me to Zahira to complete the second year of HSC from where he thought I would be able to enter the university.
My father was taken aback but finally agreed because he was unable to resist his request. This brought me to Colombo Zahira College where I did my HSC and entered Peradeniya university as a direct entrant; during those days there was a two-tier entry procedure for university admission-students who did well were granted direct entry without going through a viva voce and those who performed at medium level were subjected to a viva voce process. Senator Azeez was extremely pleased at my performance and made special mention of it at the school assembly.
I completed my degree in 1959 and went to pay my respects to Senator Azeez. He asked me to join the College as a teacher. I told him that I would be sitting for the Ceylon Civil Service (CCS) Examination and may require some free time. His response was amazing – he said that it would be great and encouraged me to teach while preparing for the examination. In March 1960 I was selected as one of the eight successful CCS candidates. It is difficult to express in words the satisfaction and happiness that Senator Azeez displayed on hearing his college student’s achievement. He organised a special school assembly and congratulated me in the presence of all his staff and the entire student community. It is rarely that you find such a dedicated, adorable and affectionate humanist and educationist.
I have often wondered how fortunate I was in having known and associated with such a wonderful human being who displayed so much empathy, kindness and love. I am reminded of the great philosopher, scholar and Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell who said, “The most valuable things in life are not measured in monetary terms. The really important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real estate, but friendships, trust, confidence, empathy, mercy, love and faith”. Among others, Senator Azeez believed in cultivating good friendships and fostering love and trust among all communities in Sri Lanka.
In retrospect, the turning point in my life started with my shift to Zahira College leaving a reputed Hindu institution in Jaffna which had earned a name for high university admissions. This had kept me wondering why the events moved so fast in this direction and what the magnetic appeal that Senator Azeez had in converting me and my father to a life changing decision. To this day I cannot find an answer except to hypothesise that intellectual outlook, empathy and trust as stated by Bertrand Russell, as well as mesmerising approaches to human relationships, influence people, leaving an enduring impact on their lives.
My association with him continued till his death. His thirst for knowledge and interest and proficiency in both English and Tamil literature drew him closer to me. I had a special liking for him for his excellent knowledge of Jaffna Tamil customs and traditions. His spoken and written Tamil represented the pure Jaffna Tamil dialect which was the envy of even Tamil professors who considered him a scholar of high repute. His oratorical skills, whether in Tamil or English, attracted many followers. What was significant was his ability to articulate clearly and effectively his ideas and thoughts on important subjects in both English and Tamil.
I have had many discussions with him on selected subjects in both English and Tamil literature and Hinduism. Unbelievably his knowledge of Hinduism was thorough as he would recite Thiruvasagam like a Hindu. Late Sivagurunathan, (editor, Thinakaran), late Prof. Sivathamby (both past students of Zahira) and I used to visit his house at his request for various discourses and discussions on scholarly subjects. I vividly remember those days when he would meticulously argue his case for a certain position in literary criticism and expect all of us to agree with his stand. When we disagreed he would slowly mellow down and accept an agreed stand. While healthy debates went on, his lovely wife and children entertained us, not to mention the delicious ‘wattalappam’ served during Ramadan days! His scholarly approaches to analysing Islam, Arabic/Tamil religious literature and his contribution to Muslim culture were indeed exemplary.
Senator Azeez was a remarkable human being who sacrificed the power, glory and fame associated with the then Ceylon Civil Service for uplifting the cause of Muslim education – this is unparalleled in Sri Lankan history. Being the first Muslim civil servant he had before him a glorious future in the public service, but the call of duty to his community and more specifically, to their educational and cultural renaissance, propelled him to assume the leadership of Zahira College. This decision elevated him to the position of a community leader with intrinsic interest in uplifting their place in the larger multicultural society of Sri Lanka.
During the 13 years he served as Principal of Zahira, the College achieved significant elevation in educational standards and university admissions. One does not need additional proof to show his dedication and commitment to building up Zahira if one considers the circumstances under which he scouted for students of all communities based on their prospective educational accomplishments – my case is an example. He had the intuition, charisma and foresightedness to build a premier Muslim college which he in his later years wanted to transform into a cultural university-unfortunately this did not materialise due to petty jealousies and rivalry which always hinder progress in any society. Sir Razik Fareed, another great Muslim leader, had this to say, “I am personally aware that Azeez has done more for Zahira than any other single individual. He sacrificed his CCS job for the sake of the community and for the sake of Zahira”.
As Principal of Zahira, Senator Azeez’s leadership, following the successful tenure of Dr. T.B. Jayah, was unrivalled as he rode like a Colossus to make the College excel not only in education, but sports, including Rifle shooting, and other socio-cultural activities. The painstaking efforts he made to build a sound library was evident when I prepared for the university entrance and the CCS examinations. He built up a dedicated team of teachers and succeeded in sending over 150 students to the one and only university in Sri Lanka then. With such accomplishments it is no surprise that his period as principal was hailed as the golden era of Zahira.
Senator Azeez’s zeal for Muslim education took different paths. His multi-pronged attempts to lift the quality of education among Muslim children is borne out by the initiatives he took to establish the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund. The success achieved in building up this Fund for future generations, which is well documented, was a worthwhile and indispensable effort greatly appreciated by succeeding generations of Muslim children. He did not stop with this. He was instrumental in promoting and establishing Young Men’s Muslim Associations (YMMA) throughout the country.
Senator Azeez’s services were well recognised by the country, and even before the time of the first prime minister, D.S. Senanayake, he played a pivotal role in government’s development activities, including food production programs commenced during war times, public services and institution building. He was rewarded when he was nominated to the Senate where he served three terms and was subsequently appointed as a member of the Public Service Commission.
As a Tamil with no racial bias or cultural inhibitions, I am proud to state that Senator Azeez stood high and tall as a trusted statesman and an erudite scholar among all communities. While fostering education of the Muslims he encouraged the admission of children from other communities to Zahira. He was an enthusiastic sponsor, supporter and participant of Tamil and Muslim conferences to propagate the essence of key Tamil literary master pieces such as Thirukkural, Thiruvasagam, Kamabaramayanam, Purananuru and Silappadiharam, in the wide world of Tamil literature. His interest in Arabic-Tamil publications was somewhat unique as there were few in his time who had the knowledge and interest in this area. His interest in literary pursuits resulted in a number of publications which have been listed elsewhere.
Senator Azeez was a jewel of a human being. I dedicate this piece to a great scholar and humanist who served as a great mentor, trusted friend, a close guide, and a well-wisher for several years until his untimely death in 1973. Cherished memories of him will live forever in the hearts and minds of all who loved him unreservedly.
(C. Narayanasuwami was a student and later a teacher at Zahira College during the Azeez era. He entered the University of Ceylon from Zahira and graduated in 1959. In 1960 he joined the Ceylon Civil Service and later worked for the UN and the Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines in senior capacities. He retired as a director level professional of the Asian Development Bank in 1996).
What JVP-NPP needs to do to win
By Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
A young academic at the Open University writing on a popular website has recently defined the NPP project as ‘Left populist’, a term which is very familiar to us at least from the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. He also mentions several parallels and precursors internationally.
As one who has been advocating a ‘left populist’ project for years, I am disinclined to nit-pick about whether or not the JVP-NPP fits the bill. At the moment and in its current incarnation, it is indeed the closest we have to a ‘left populist’ project. Its competitor the SJB, which its founder-leader identifies as social democratic, would be as approximate –and as loose– a fit for the labels ‘progressive populist’, ‘moderate populist’ or ‘populist centrist’, as the JVP-NPP is for ‘left populist’. But that’s the deck of cards we have.
The points I seek to make are different, and may be said to boil down to a single theme or problematique.
Distorted Left Populism
My argument is that the JVP-NPP is as distant from ‘left populism’ globally as it was from ‘left revolutionism’ globally in an earlier incarnation. In both avatars, it is unique in its leftism but not in a positive or helpful way for its cause at any given time.
Mine is not intended as a damning indictment of the JVP-NPP. It is intended as a constructive criticism of a rectifiable error, the rectification of which is utterly urgent given the deadly threat posed by the Wickremesinghe administration and its project of dependent dictatorship.
The JVP-NPP has a structural absence that no ‘left populist’ enterprise, especially in Latin America, has ever had. It is an absence that has marked the JVP from its inception and has been carried over into the present NPP project.
It is not an absence unique to the JVP but figures more in Sri Lanka than it has almost anywhere else. I say this because the same ‘absence’ characterised the LTTE as well. In short, that factor or its radical absence has marred the anti-systemic forces of South and North on the island.
The homeland of left populism has been Latin America while its second home has been Southern Europe. With the exception of Greece, it may be said that ‘left populism’ has an Ibero-American or culturally Hispanic character, which some might trace to the ‘romanticism’ of that culture. But such considerations need not detain us here.
‘Left populism’ has had several identifiable sources and points of departure: the former guerrilla movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the non-guerrilla movements of resistance to dictatorships; parties and split-offs from parties of the Marxist left; left-oriented split-offs or the leftwing of broad flexible even centrist populist formations; leftwing experiments from within the militaries etc.
Populism, Pluralism & Unity
Despite this diversity, all experiments of a Left populist character in Latin America and Europe, have had one thing in common: various forms of unity – e.g., united fronts, blocs etc.—of political parties. I would take up far too much space if I were to list them, starting with the Frente Amplio (which means precisely ‘Broad Front’) initiated by the Tupamaros-MLN of Uruguay and containing the Uruguayan Communist party and headed by a military man, General Liber Seregni, in 1970. The Frente Amplio lasted through the decades of the darkest civil-military dictatorship up to the presidential electoral victories of Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica respectively. Another example would be El Salvador’s FMLN, which brought together several Marxist guerrilla movements into a single front under the stern insistence of Fidel Castro.
Though the roots of unity were back in the 1970s, the formula has only been strengthened in the 1990s and 21st century projects of Left populism. There is a theoretical-strategic logic for this. The polarisation of ‘us vs them’, the 99% vs. the 1%, the many not the few—in socioeconomic terms—is of course a hallmark of populism. But pro-NPP academics and ideologues are unaware of or omit its corollary everywhere from Uruguay to Greece and Spain. Namely, that socioeconomic ‘majoritarianism’ is not possible with a single party as agency.
When the JVP and the NPP have the same leader, and the JVP leader was the founder of the NPP, I cannot regard it as a truly autonomous project, but a party project. Left populism globally, from its inception right up to Lula last year, is predicated on the admission of political, not just social plurality, and the fact that socioeconomic, i.e., popular majoritarianism is possible only as a pluri-party united front, platform or bloc.
This recognition of the imperative of unity as necessitating a convergence of political fractions and currents; that unity is impossible as a function of a single political party; that authentic majoritarianism i.e., “us” is possible only if “we” converge and combine as an ensemble of our organic political agencies, is a structural feature of Left Populism.
It is radically absent in the JVP-NPP and has been so from the JVP’s founding in 1965. It was also true of the LTTE.
It is this insistence on political unipolarity (to put it diplomatically) or political monopoly (to put it bluntly) is a genetic defect of the JVP which has been carried over into the NPP project.
I do not say this to contest the leading role and the main role that the JVP has earned in any left populist project. I say it to draw the Gramscian distinction between ‘leadership’ and ‘domination’. Only ‘leadership’ can create consensus and popular consent; domination through monopoly cannot.
The simple truth is that however ‘left populist’ you think you are; no single party can be said to represent the people or even a majority – as distinct from a mere plurality– of the people. Furthermore, the people are not a unitary subject, and therefore cannot have a unitary leadership. This is the importance of Fidel Castro’s insistence to the Latin American Left of a ‘united command’ which brings together the diverse segments of the left by reflecting plurality.
Anyone who knows the history of Syriza and Podemos knows that they are not outcrops of some single party of long-standing but the result of an organic process of convergences of factions.
Had the JVP had a policy of united fronts – within the Southern left and with the Northern left– it would not have been as decisively defeated as it was in its two insurrections, and might have even succeeded in its second attempt. Though it has formed the NPP which has brought some significant success, it is still POLITICALLY sectarian in that it has no political alliances, partnerships, i.e., NO POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS outside of itself.
I must emphasize that here I am not speaking of a bloc with the SJB, though it is most desirable, to be recommended, and if this were Latin America would definitely be on the agenda of discussion.
Let us speak frankly. The most important phenomenon of recent times (since the victorious end of the war) was the Aragalaya of last year. The JVP, especially its student front the SYU, participated in that massive uprising which dislodged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but it played a less decisive role in the Aragalaya than did the FSP and the IUSF which is close to it. This is by no means to say that the FSP led the Aragalaya, but to point out that it played a more decisive role – which included some mistakes– than did the JVP.
How then does one remain blind to the fact that the JVP-NPP’s ‘left populism’ does not include the FSP and by extension the IUSF? How can there be a ‘popular bloc’ – a key element of left populism—without the IUSF?
Given that Pubudu Jayagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa, Lahiru Weerasekara and Wasantha Mudalige are among the most successful public communicators today (especially on the left), what kind of ‘left’ is a ‘left populism’ devoid of their presence, participation and contribution?
What does it take to recognise that unity of some sort of these two streams of the Left could result in a most useful division of labour and a quantum leap in the hopes and morale of the increasingly left-oriented post-Aragalaya populace, especially the youth?
Surely the very sight of a platform with the leaders of the JVP-NPP and the FSP-IUSF (AKD and Kumar Gunaratnam, Eranga Gunasekara and Wasantha Mudalige, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Duminda Nagamuwa, Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jayagoda) will take the Left populist project to the next level?
As a party the JVP from its birth, and by extension, the NPP today, have set aside one of the main weapons of leftist theory, strategy and political practice: the United Front. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Dimitrov, Gramsci, Togliatti, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro have founded and enriched this strategic concept.
It is difficult to accept that Rohana Wijeweera and Anura Kumara Dissanayake knew/know better than these giants, and that the JVP-NPP can dispense with this political sword and shield and yet prevail–or even survive the coming storm.
The JVP must present a LEFT option in the leadership of which is the major shareholder; not merely a JVP option or para-JVP option, which is what the NPP is. A credible, viable Left alternative cannot be reduced to a single party and its front/auxiliary; it cannot but be a United Left – a Left Front– alternative.
[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is author of The Great Gramsci: Imagining an Alt-Left Project, in ‘On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative’ eds Richard Falk et al, Routledge, New York, 2019.]
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
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