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The musings of ‘Kothu’ as National brand



by B. Nimal Veerasingham

A YouTube parody song that I watched recently, captures the conversation between the Mission Control and the two astronauts just landed on Mars.

Mission Control:

Have you safely landed?

Astronauts: Yes – No worries – we have brought the packed lunch as well.

Mission Control:



Yes – in case you want to know – its ‘Pittu’ in banana leaf, with mutton curry, Liver fry, a day-old fish curry, brinjal moju, Katta sambal and omelette.

The people in the Mission Control nod in unison, figuring more gastronomy than astronomy.

At the present times of intense globalization and interdependence of borderless goods and services, where demarcation lines are in unknown territory, the question of ‘National foods’ have become very much muddled. The glory days of TV cooking shows place the presenters and chefs into celebrity status drawing millions of viewers into trying the same in their own kitchens. The TV celebrity Chefs dominate the culinary experiments, fusing regional and ethnic flavours into altogether new food cultures, behaviour, preparation, procurement, and consumption; questioning the authenticity, both sides of the realms. Quite logically, food adventuring leads to new cultures and lands, the print and visual media conjoins culinary tourism with this new ‘unknown’, ‘exotic’ and ‘authentic’ experiment into spinning an industry of its own, infusing center of tourism with novelty food adventuring.

Food Culture

The popularity of food culture, both in the East and the West, bring to light the food adventurer’s accomplishment at having discovered the ‘hidden’, to their own enrichment and pleasure. Jamie Oliver’s ‘American Road Trip’ or Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservation’ or Andrew Zimmern’s ‘Bizarre World’ accomplishes this effort of loosely commodifying, while the original gatekeepers and their lived histories quite often overlooked as to how ownership is identified.

The so-called food patriotism in aligning or claiming to be the rightful owners of a particular food always created an uncomfortable dilemma; sort of bad taste in the mouth, when tracing the origins with impartiality. Italians lead the pack as being the undisputed Global foodies, holding the rightful ownership for pasta to spaghetti and pizza to cannoli, and anything in between numbering more than 100s if not 1000s of delicacies. In the 50’s, Author Prezzolini questioned as to ‘What is the glory of Dante compared to spaghetti?’, continuing, ‘the spaghetti has entered many American homes where the name Dante is never pronounced’. It is very interesting that Dante who is one of the greatest philosophers, theologian and considered as the father of the Italian Language is being compared to mundane palatal taste that is rightfully at times overcomes fine liturgies of human worthiness. The culinary identity to the DNA is so strong that simply dressing like pizza or wearing a chef hat would propagate Italian identity in the Global stage, as witnessed in the recently held Euro Cup.

Pasta and Chicken Tikka Masala

But claiming authenticity is not a straightforward process, but a complicated one. The origins of pasta, as not simply having Asian origins, but born out of Mediterranean melting pot, would certainly bring back protesting gladiators in the streets of Rome. Long before Marco Polo, the so-called pioneer of East-West exchange brought forward the spectrum of pollination regarding starchy pasta versions, there were pioneers from variety of convergences, who made it even harder for the so-called authenticity to carry the day. Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi (10th Century), a member of the Norman King Roger ll’s court in Palermo (Southern Italy) identified pasta as ‘Itriyya’. Interestingly a Jewish Doctor’s medical text in an Arabic journal appeared for the same, two centuries earlier where we now call ‘Tunisia’.

Chicken Tikka-Masala as the national food of UK is another episode of 360° split jump on a gymnastic beam, in this meringue of food spasms. Chicken Tikka Masala, not being a mainstay of continental India, introduced by Bengali chefs in the likes of Shakespearean era Fleet Street Pubs, where culinary tastes are vigorously tested before placed in podium. The past U.K Foreign Secretary’s proclamation on Chicken Tikka Masala as being the National food of the U.K, clearly surpasses the arguments of colonised and colonizer, indigenous or imported.

Chilli’s crowning moment

Chilli-pepper is another mother of all decorum that hits home curry base harder. Who would ever accept that chilli-pepper (capsicum annuum) that matches native peppercorn in heat units, is native to South America and the Portuguese introduced it to the Indian sub-continent in 15th century to create a pungent heat to their profitability? The world’s raw green chili pepper production stands roughly around 40 million tons today, half of which produced in China.

Food pervades a wide spectrum of social, political, and economic discourse, and at times questions the ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ labelling by the faithful, while retaining a fundamental relativity and background, many times evolutionary. Anthropologists argue that food is a moral thought, sponsors human contact and permeates nationalist barriers society tries to impose. There is good reason on the merit of the Hindustani saying, ‘Every two miles the water (taste) changes; and every four, the language’.

Wheat loyalists

The influence of wheat in Asian culinary consumption, though second to rice, is phenomenal. Though China and India lead in the production, their populations consume most, as such the West has found a niche export market through their advanced productive methodologies. Imported wheat, though contains less nutrients than rice, has the advantage of providing instant carbohydrate energy with longer shelf life. It provides greater flexibility and exceptional creative maneuverability through its high gluten content.

The use of advanced technology in agriculture production of the West has allowed Wheat to be stored for longer period, to fend off shipping time to far away destinations. Bleaching is a process that greatly enhances this prorogue, which critics points that nutrients are shelved out and put back artificially, a practice banned by regulators in EU.

Sri Lankan timeline

Wheat, also called ‘American flour’ or ‘Godamba’, on the street and households, is so popular though not produced but imported mostly from the West. The first encounter with Europeans at the shores of the Island, records what will become the country’s eventual obsession. The ‘Rajawali’ thus describes, ‘and now it came to pass, in the month of April, in the Christian year 1552, that a ship from Portugal in the Jambu-dwipa arrived…. For their food, they eat Budhu gal (a sort of white stone), and they drank blood (meaning unleavened bread and port wine).

From that accidental encounter with the group led by the son of Governor of Goa Francisco D’Almeida, the obsession for the gluttonous white wheat flour grew beyond the established guidelines of hereditary cuisines. The diversity and influence propagated by the three colonisers on the inhabitants gave birth to experimental fusion of many culinary delights.

The romance with white or bleached ‘American’ wheat is not simply a page marker for the scribes. it could be measured, where the small Island ranked as the 16th largest purchaser from the US markets in the 80s. Along with sprung variety of short-eats or street food, not to mention as an alternative to anything and everything the native rice flour could call shots.

That brings about the invention of the most popular street food of all times – ‘Kothu Roti’ or ‘Kothu’ in short. The glory of ‘Kothu’ (Meaning chop in Tamil) and it’s burst into variations and reinventions as a highly acclaimed food fusion, wholly, or being a side dining enhancer, has mostly resulted with the spread of Diaspora to all corners of the Globe within the last five decades.

Kothu’s humble beginnings

In the 70’s, one of the grand culinary experience the streets of Colombo could offer is the grandiose ‘Biryani’ – mutton, beef, or chicken of your choice, specialised by the Muslim eateries. The experience is though compact and not on quantity, was a delicious burst of contrasting gustatory sensations – fluffy steaming, sometimes intermittently coloured rice, fried chicken, boiled egg, green chili\onion\cilantro sambol, pickle, cucumber salad. It did safely transition above a notch, outside the everyday home experience.

But something else was brewing in the 70’s in the East, initially as an experiment, most likely through the influence on the exposure and convulsion of fine gastronomical creativity. Or maybe an accidental decoction of natural elements already found in the days’ cooking. ‘Veechu Roti’ (Veechu means ‘throwing/stretching in Tamil) is made from the ‘Godamba’ or ‘American flour’ is a great puller by itself without any chopping. Freshly made thin and stretchy ‘Veechu Roti’ with thickened mutton/beef gravy is a transitional experience by its own then. So, its natural that someone decided to mix both factors together, to make it as an alternate to ‘Biryani’ to snare the taste buds. The brightly lit, flat hot iron plate or griddle where the ‘veechu roti’ was made, has multifunctional dimensions; first to divide the massaged glutenous flour ball into equal portions with generous amount of oil, stretch to the limits and toast it in folded flat square shape.

The American flour’s highly glutinous content allows the stretching to paper thin size. Then use the same flat base griddle to mix the diced roti with egg, onions, green chilli, spices, curry leaves, choice of available vegetables and of course generous amount of mutton/beef/chicken curry, with plenty of gravy. The melodious sound bite, at times at the discretional musical personality of the ‘Kothu Chef’, arising from the banging or chopping of the metal cleavers over the griddle, evenly flip the semi soggy mixture. The sound bites also served as a marketing tool inviting the passersby. It also served as a barometer to the larger neighborhood, as to how young or dead the night is, to have a late snack or a forum with friends.

In the 70s, any youngster living at Batticaloa would scrap the last cent out of his pocket to have the ‘Kothu’ delight at ‘Rasheediya’s’, ‘Hadjiars’, Hotel de Paris or many other in the suburbs, without a blink. The richness of Batticaloa ‘Kothu’ then, was derived from the aromatic explosion of the mutton/beef curry, deeply seeped, and thickened in array of spices. Only the richness of the curry will carry the ‘Kothu’, and nothing else. Literally there was no unsaturated pieces of roti, but fully soaked in aromatic gravy. On top of it, you will be given an extra small dish of gravy to soak it further. To enjoy it with full senses, it must be eaten by hand to say the least, because a fork won’t hold that swampy mixer on the first place.

‘Kothu’ became the choice of meal while travelling on the Batticaloa night train to Colombo during the same period. At a time when travelling by bus with accommodative dinner stops to Colombo is unheard of, a 10-hour train journey starting at 8.00PM needed fuel for the commuter. The ‘buffet’ compartment is hardly reachable due to the absolute crowding, besides it had mostly bread and tea on the top list. As a result, quite logically, Night mail train as it was called then, provided another experience of smelling the aromatics arising from the ‘Kothu’ parcels consumed everywhere from compartment corridors and floor. Those who studied or worked in Colombo during that time, searched in vain to experience a similar feast of the senses in the Capital city, until they are back home by the Batti ‘Kothu’ labs.

Kothu in the world stage

Today the humble ‘Kothu’ has exploded into creative culinary variations with fine dining experience, mostly where the diaspora has expanded its roots, due to the availability of diverse sources for the base-curry. Iddiyapa Kothu, Pittu Kothu, ‘Kudal Kothu’ (Intestine), Liver Kothu, Seafood Kothu, Dolphin Kothu, Chilli-chicken Kothu, Tandoori Kothu, Poutine Kothu, Calamari kothu, Shawarma Kothu, just to name a few. Literally the choice and richness of the curry dominates the outcome and satisfaction of the consumer. Roti at this stage only functions as an enhancer of the experience.

There are many commentators, critiques, restaurants, and eateries highlight the ‘Kothu’ as a Sri Lankan street food in the Global culinary scene, everywhere from Europe, North America, Australia to Asia. The Indian observers sometimes compares this to South Indian ‘Kothu Parota’, though varies mostly on the richness and fiery intensity of the Sri Lankan curry base.

From its meagre beginning, the growth of ‘Kothu’ in some ways compensates the decline of Tea from its glory days as the national showcase, though not in anyway directly compared. The times of the boomers are getting out of steam, while the affluent generation ‘X’rs, ‘Y’rs, and millennials are in full force, willing to adventure newer creations to upsurge exotic experiences from culinary realms. The servings of ‘Kothu’ at Wedding receptions to 5-star hotel buffet menus, trade exhibitions to summer picnic tables, reiterates its earned place, tested by fire, of course. This is not in any way interrelating territorial dimension with handed down traditions. As a commodity of sensory delight in the global culinary theatre, ‘Kothu’ highlights the elevation of Sri Lankan unique food experience. Like the Italian spaghetti and the UK’s Chicken Tikka Masala, its evolution from the fusion of imported ‘American flour’, with its own rich and fiery curry brand has created a symbol easily associated with and traced to Sri Lanka. Thanks to the pioneers who wouldn’t have dreamt or envisioned, but the ‘Kothu’ has become the national brand of Sri Lanka in the world stage.

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Have Humanities and Social Sciences muddied water enough?



By Maduranga Kalugampitiya

The domain of the humanities and social sciences is under attack more than ever before. The relevance, as well as usefulness of the degrees earned in those fields, is being questioned left, right, and centre. The question of whether it is meaningful at all to be spending, if not wasting, the limited financial resources available in the coffers to produce graduates in those fields is raised constantly, at multiple levels. Attempts are being made to introduce a little bit of soft skills into the curricula in order to add ‘value’ to the degree programmes in the field. The assumption here is that either such degree programmes do not impart any skills or the skills that they impart are of no value. We often see this widely-shared profoundly negative attitude towards the humanities and the social sciences (more towards the former than towards the latter) being projected on the practitioners (students, teachers, and researchers) in those areas. At a top-level meeting, which was held one to two years ago, with the participation of policy-makers in higher education and academics and educationists representing the humanities and social sciences departments, at state universities, a key figure in the higher education establishment claimed that the students who come to the humanities and social sciences faculties were ‘late-developers’. What better (or should I say worse?) indication of the official attitude towards those of us in the humanities and the social sciences!

While acknowledging that many of the key factors that have resulted in downgrading the humanities and social sciences disciplines are global by nature and are very much part of the neoliberal world order, which dominates the day, I wish to ask if we, the practitioners in the said fields, have done our part to counter the attack.

What the humanities and the social sciences engage with is essentially and self-consciously social. What these disciplines have to say has a direct bearing on the social dimension of human existence. It is near impossible to discuss phenomena in economics, political science, or sociology without having to reflect upon and use examples from what happens in our lives and around us. One cannot even begin to talk about teaching English as a second language without taking a look at her/his own experience learning English and the struggles that many people go through at different levels doing the same. One cannot talk about successful ways of teaching foreign languages without recognizing the need to incorporate an engagement with the cultural life of those languages at some level. No reading of an artwork—be it a novel, a movie, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, whatever—is possible without the reader at least subconsciously reflecting upon the broader context in which those artworks are set and also relating her own context or experience to what is being read. A legal scholar cannot read a legislation without paying attention to the social implications of the legislation and the dynamics of the community at whom that legislation is directed. The point is our own existence as social beings is right in the middle of what we engage with in such disciplines. To steal (and do so self-consciously) a term from the hard/natural sciences, society is essentially the ‘laboratory’ in which those in the humanities and social sciences conduct their work. There may be some areas of study within the humanities and social sciences which do not require an explicit engagement with our social existence, but I would say that such areas, if any, are limited in number.

Needless to say that every social intervention is political in nature. It involves unsettling what appears to be normal about our social existence in some way. One cannot make interventions that have a lasting impact without muddying the water which we have been made to believe is clear. How much of muddying do we as practitioners in the field of humanities and social sciences do is a question that needs to be asked.

Unfortunately, we do not see much work in the humanities and social sciences which unsettles the dominant order. What we often see is work that reinforces and reaffirms the dominant structures, systems, and lines of thought. Lack of rigorous academic training and exposure to critical theory is clearly one of the factors which prevents some scholars in the field from being able to make interventions that are capable of muddying the water, but the fact that we sometimes do not see much muddying even on the part of the more adept scholars shows that lack of rigorous training is not the sole reason.

Muddying the water is no simple matter. To use a problematic, yet in my view useful, analogy, a scholar in the said field trying to make an intervention that results in unsettling the order is like a hydrogen atom in H2O, ‘water’ in layperson’s language, trying to make an intervention which results in a re-evaluation of the oxygen atom. Such an intervention invariably entails a re-evaluation of the hydrogen atom as well, for the reason that the two atoms are part of an organic whole. One cannot be purely objective in its reading of the other. Such an intervention is bound to be as unsettling for the hydrogen atom as it is for the oxygen atom. Similarly, in a majority of contexts, a scholar in the area of the humanities and social sciences cannot make an intervention, the kind that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, without unsettling the dominant structures and value systems, which they themselves are part of, live by, and also benefit from. For instance, the norms, values, and practices which define the idea of marriage in contexts like ours are things that a male scholar would have to deal with as a member of our society, and any intervention on his part which raises questions about gender-based inequalities embodied in such norms, values, and practices would be to question his own privilege. Needless to say that such an intervention could result in an existential crisis for the scholar, at least temporarily. Such interventions also entail the possibility of backlash from society. One needs thorough training to withstand that pressure.

In place of interventions that unsettle the existing order, what we often see is work, which re-presents commonsensical knowledge garbed in jargon. To give an example from an area that I am a bit familiar with, much of the work that takes place in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) identifies lack of motivation on the part of the students and also teachers and also lack of proper training for teachers as the primary reasons for the plight of English education in the country. This reading is not very different from a layperson’s understanding of the problem, and what we often see as research findings in the field of ESL is the same understanding, albeit dressed up in technical-sounding language. Such readings do not unsettle the existing order. They put the blame on the powerless. Very limited is the work that sees the present plight of English education as a systemic or structural problem. Reading that plight as a systemic problem requires us to re-evaluate the fundamental structures which govern our society, and such re-evaluation is unsettling is many ways. I argue that that is what is expected of scholarship in the ESL field, but unfortunately that is not what we see as coming out of the field.

If what gets produced as knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is jargonized commonsense, then the claim that such fields have nothing important to say is valid. If what a scholar in those fields has to say is not different to a layperson’s understanding of a given reality, the question whether there is any point in producing such scholars becomes valid.

In my view, the humanities and social sciences are in need of fundamental restructuring. This restructuring is not the kind which calls for the incorporation of a bit of soft skills here and a bit of soft skills there so that those who come out of those fields easily fit into predefined slots in society but the kind that results in the enhancement of the critical thinking capacity of the scholars. It is the kind of restructuring that would produce scholars who are capable of engaging in a political reading of the realities that define our existence in society and raise difficult questions about such existence, in other words, scholars who are capable of muddying the water.

(Maduranga Kalugampitiya is attached to Department of English, University of Peradeniya)

Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall thatparodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.

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Selective targeting not law’s purpose



By Jehan Perera

The re-emergence of Donald Trump in the United States is a reminder that change is not permanent. Former President Trump is currently utilising the grievances of the white population in the United States with regard to the economic difficulties that many of them face to make the case that they need to be united to maintain their position in society. He is coming forward as their champion. The saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to the founders of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, among many others, though Lord Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) stated that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790. The phrase is often used to emphasise the importance of being vigilant in protecting one’s rights and freedoms.

Ethnic and religious identity are two powerful concepts by which people may be mobilised the world over. This is a phenomenon that seemed to have subsided in Western Europe due to centuries of secular practices in which the state was made secular and neutral between ethnicities and religions. For a short while last year during the Aragalaya, it seemed that Sri Lanka was transcending its ethnic and religious cleavages in the face of the unexpected economic calamity that plunged large sections of the population back into poverty. There was unprecedented unity especially at the street level to demonstrate publicly that the government that had brought the country to this sorry pass had to go. The mighty force of people’s power succeeded in driving the leaders of that government out of power. Hopefully, there will be a government in the future that will bring the unity and mutual respect within the people, especially the younger generations, to the fore and the sooner the better as the price is growing higher by the day.

But like the irrepressible Donald Trump the old order is fighting to stage its comeback. The rhetoric of ethnicity and religion being in danger is surfacing once more. President Ranil Wickremesinghe who proclaimed late last year that the 13th Amendment to the constitution would be implemented in full, as it was meant to be, and enable the devolution of power to be enjoyed by the people of the provinces, including those dominated by Tamils and Muslims, has gone silent on this promise. The old order to which he is providing a new economic vision is clearly recalcitrant on ethno-religious matters. As a result, the government’s bold plan to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as promised to the international community in 2015 to address the unresolved human rights issues of the war, is reportedly on the rocks. The main Tamil political parties have made statements that they will not legitimise or accept such a mechanism in the absence of a genuine devolution of power. Politics must not override policies.


The sense of threat to ethnicity and religion looms too large once again for forward movement in conflict resolution between the different communities that constitute the Sri Lankan nation which is diverse and plural. Two unlikely persons now find themselves at the centre of an emotion-heavy ethno-religious storm. One is a comedian, the other is a religious preacher. Both of them have offended the religious sensibilities of many in the ethno-religious Sinhala Buddhist majority community. Both of their statements were originally made to small audiences of their own persuasion, but were then projected through social media to reach much larger audiences. The question is whether they made these statements to rouse religious hatred and violence. There have been numerous statements from all sides of the divide, whether ethnic, religious or political, denouncing them for their utterances.

Both comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and pastor Jerome Fernando have apologised for offending and hurting the religious sentiments of the Buddhist population. They made an attempt to remedy the situation when they realised the hurt, the anger and the opposition they had generated. This is not the first time that such hurtful and offensive comments have been made by members of one ethno-religious community against members of another ethnic-religious community. Taking advantage of this fact the government is arguing the case for the control of social media and also the mainstream media. It is preparing to bring forward legislation for a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission that would also pave the way to imprison journalists for their reporting, impose fines, and also revoke the licences issued to electronic media institutions if they impact negatively on national security, national economy, and public order or create any conflict among races and religions.

In a free society, opportunities are provided for people to be able to air their thoughts and dissents openly, be it at Hyde Park or through their representatives in Parliament. The threat to freedom of speech and to the media that can arise from this new law can be seen in the way that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is the world’s standard bearer on civil and political rights has been used and is being abused in Sri Lanka. It was incorporated into Sri Lankan law in a manner that has permitted successive governments to misuse it. It is very likely that the Broadcast Regulatory Commission bill will yield a similar result if passed into law. The arrest and detention of comedian Natasha Edirisooriya under the ICCPR Act has become yet another unfortunate example of the misuse of a law meant to protect human rights by the government. Pastor Jerome Fernando is out of prison as he is currently abroad having left the country a short while before a travel ban was delivered to him.


The state media reported that a “Police officer said that since there is information that she was a person who was in the Aragalaya protest, they are looking into the matter with special attention.” This gives rise to the inference that the reason for her arrest was politically motivated. Comedian Edirisooriya was accused of having violated the provisions in the ICCPR in Section 3(1) that forbids hate speech. Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has pointed out that in the case of Edirisooriya that for speech to be illegal on the grounds of being hate speech it requires “a clear showing of intent to incite others to discriminate, be hostile towards or commit violence against the group in question.” Amnesty International also notes that “When the expression fails to meet the test, even if it is shocking, offensive or disturbing, it should be protected by the state.”

Ironically, in the past there have been many instances of ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in a hateful manner that even led to riots against them, but successive governments have been inactive in protecting them or arresting their persecutors. Such targeting has taken place, often for political purposes in the context of elections, in blatant bids to mobilise sections of the population through appeals to narrow nationalism and fear of the other. The country’s political and governmental leaders need to desist from utilising the ICCPR Act against those who make social and political critiques that are outside the domain of hate speech. The arrest of Bruno Divakara, the owner of SL-Vlogs, under the ICCPR Act is an indication of this larger and more concerning phenomenon which is being brought to the fore by the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill.

The crackdown on the space for free expression and critical comment is unacceptable in a democratic polity, especially one as troubled as Sri Lanka, in which the economy has collapsed and caused much suffering to the people and the call to hold elections has been growing. The intervention of the Human Rights Commission which has called on the Inspector General of Police to submit a report on the arrest and its rationale is a hopeful sign that the independence of institutions intended to provide a check and balance will finally prevail. The Sri Lankan state will hopefully evolve to be a neutral arbiter in the disputes between competing ethnic, religious and partisan political visions of what the state should be and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within it. Taking on undemocratic powers in a variety of ways and within a short space of time is unlikely to deliver economic resurgence and a stable and democratic governance the country longs for. Without freedom, justice and fair play within, there can be no hope of economic development that President Wickremesinghe would be wanting to see.

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Girl power… to light up our scene



Manthra: Pop, rock and Sinhala songs

We have never had any outstanding all-girl bands, in the local scene, except, perhaps…yes The Planets, and that was decades ago!

The Planets did make a name for themselves, and they did create quite a lot of excitement, when they went into action.

Of course, abroad, we had several top all-girl bands – outfits like the Spice Girls, Bangles, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes.

It’s happening even now, in the K-pop scene.

Let’s hope we would have something to shout about…with the band Manthra – an all-girl outfit that came together last year (2022).

Manthra is made up of Hiruni Fernando (leader/bass guitar), Gayathma Liyanage (lead guitar), Amaya Jayarathne (drums), Imeshini Piyumika (keyboards), and Arundathi Hewawitharana (vocals).

Amaya Arundathi and Imeshini are studying at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, while Gayathma is studying Architecture at NIMB, and Hiruni is the Western Music teacher at St. Lawrence’s Convent, and the pianist at Galadari Hotel, having studied piano and classical guitar at West London University.

They have already displayed their talents at various venues, events, weddings, and on TV, as well (Vanithabimana Sirasa TV and Charna TV Art Beat).

Additionally, the band showcased their talent at the talent show held at the Esoft Metro Campus.

The plus factor, where this all-girl outfit is concerned, is that their repertoire is made up rock, pop, and Sinhala songs.

Explaining as to how they came up with the name Manthra, founder member Hiruni said that Manthra means a word, or sound, repeated to aid concentration in meditation, and that the name was suggested by one of the band members.

Hiruni Fernando: Founder and leader of Manthra

She also went on to say that putting together a female band is not an easy task, in the scene here.

“We faced many difficulties in finding members. Some joined and then left, after a short while. Unlike a male band, where there are many male musicians in Sri Lanka, there are only a few female musicians. And then, there are some parents who don’t like their daughters getting involved in music.”

With talented musicians in their line-up, the future certainly looks bright for Manthra who are now keen to project themselves, in an awesome way, in the scene here, and abroad, as well.

“We are keen to do stage shows and we are also planning to create our own songs,” said Hiruni.

Yes, we need an all-girl group to add variety to our scene that is now turning out to be a kind of ‘repeating groove,’ where we see, and hear, almost the same thing…over and over again!

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