Genuine conscience through Classical art
Kolithabanu Dissanayake explores the pulse of the
age-old educational system of the isle:
Classical art, which emerged after Tagore’s visit to Sri Lanka in
1935 is facing a drastic challenge and fighting for its own survival
today. Music Faculty Dean of Visual and Performing University
Kolithabanu Dissanayake shared his thoughts with Daily News ‘Artscope’
Tagore’s visit to the island brought an enthusiasm of renaissance to
music education. It opened Sripali Mandapa, Government School of Art
(for music), Government School of Ballet and Dancing and Heywood
Institute (for painting and sculpture) under Wilmat Perera, Lionel
Edirisinghe and S. Paneebaratha.
These institutes of education delivered valuable human resources such
as artists, educationists and teachers of fine arts.
The education procedure came through a variety of reforms and gained
a reasonable progress in the aesthetic education system and its
Two major incidents stand as examples: the Government School of Art
transformed into University standard as the Aesthetic Tudies Institution
in the Kelaniya University and the inception of the Colombo Visual and
Performing Arts University.
Today’s popular concepts suppressed the valuable practices of the
classical artistes. ‘Renaissance in aesthetics’ was brought under the
above educational institutions.”
Dissanayake opines. He adds that the present society is geared
towards consumption. This suppressed the traditional aspects related to
The result was the decline in passion for the subject with economical
and socio-political changes after 1977. Along with the competitive and
fast-moving environment it introduced a naive notion that only popular
concepts should be broadcast.
This was the period when music diverted from the audio set-up to
visualized format. The trend minimized the publicity for classical art
in the country. Thus the advantage of the electronic media’s
technicality was almost robbed by cheap and popular concepts. This is a
“The setting distanced the audience from classical art though it
disciplined people. Consequently, an ideology developed among people as
‘mere entertainment should be the essential part in art and culture’.
Those who have the authority over electronic media went to town with
this unreasonable notion as the only slogan of our art and culture,” he
A class of merchants was keen to sponsor ‘art’ because they
recognized it as a concept with market value. They give maximum
publicity to this so called art. Parents were roped into the game. They
vied to send their children to naive TV and Radio program, which falsely
depicted themselves as ‘art’.
Kolithabanu adds: “The 1977 government toppling destroyed the harmony
within the society. It suppressed classical art. This changed the
thoughts and desires of the people and transformed them into a consumer
centred behaviour. People were completely taken by an illusive or
mythical society created by naive and deceptive advertisements.”
He stresses that this is not a problem linked with classical art. The
issue rose with needless changes of the society’s mindset. Classical art
could exist only with a generation of refined audience. People never
rejected classical art in one piece of mind. The changes in the late
1970s created this mentality.
“Classical art possesses its own lively nature. It maintains a refine
foundation which no one can destroy,” he observed.
The songs of Amaradeva, Sunil Santha and Ananda Smarakoon are
timeless. They add value to our life. They are the landmarks of certain
eras. The social disorder does not permit a proper discussion on the
subject. Yet there is an accusation that classical art didn’t reform
according to the ‘new’ society.
An art with a foundation never transforms according to the wrong
moves of the society. Classical art always protects its Classical
Teledramas and music are created to cater to a certain trend or a
class emerging out of popular culture. Yet they do not prevail. People
reject them immediately after consumption.
The classical disciplined art, on the contrary, lasts forever.
“There is a multitude of people who believe and represent themselves
as artistes without engaging in activities of value. Their creations
will be buried in the sands of time and space. Classical art is immortal
because it develops within nature. It demands a better religion, ethos
and humanity for the society.
It is moulded by individuals who know the essence of nature,”
Dissanayake said adding that artistes like Beethovan or Ravi Shankar are
deeply connected to this aspect. They have created art through in-depth
study of nature.
“We deal with light and air in singing every note. The notes we use
for autumn are very different from those we use for the summer.
Therefore the idea of destroying this sacred art form means the act of
demolishing the face of the whole universe,” he concluded.