Harmonious percussions | Daily News

Harmonious percussions

Though challenging,

the job is nothing new for Professor Ratnayake who has performed the sitar in his original compositions in distinguished venues across the world. He has collaborated with internationally recognized artists like pianists Masahiko Satoh, Joe Chindamo, Ben Waltzer, and Freddie Ravel, cellist Ramon Jaffe, guitarist Thibault Cauvin, violinists Miranda Cuckson and Helen Ayers, saxophonist Eric Marienthal

The unlikeliest event can mount up to be almost certainty because improbability is an illusion. On March 26, 1778, Ludwig Van Beethoven gave his first public performance. His father revealed the musician’s age: six years! Sri Lanka’s Pradeep Ratnayake took to music at five years. He established his brand name as a sitarist.

Recently, however, he moved the sitar aside to brace himself for a different allegory.

He was the chosen musician from Sri Lanka to compose for the Australian saxophone and piano duo HD Duo: Dr Michael Duke and David Howie. A cross-cultural mission, enterprising in its own right, the project concentrated on the commonwealth musicians. The project materialised recently at the Sri Jayewardenepura University a few days before a spectacle of music connoisseurs and academics. Though challenging, the job is nothing new for Professor Ratnayake who has performed the sitar in his original compositions in distinguished venues across the world. He has collaborated with internationally recognized artists like pianists Masahiko Satoh, Joe Chindamo, Ben Waltzer, and Freddie Ravel, cellist Ramon Jaffe, guitarist Thibault Cauvin, violinists Miranda Cuckson and Helen Ayers, saxophonist Eric Marienthal. Professor Ratnayake was tasked with composing for them pieces that collaborated with the star. Ratnayake is known for giving the sitar a particularly Sri Lankan sound – through the incorporation of its folk music, use of its traditional drums and including harmonies in playing this basically melodic instrument.

Tough fight

“Compared to England and other European countries, we have not much progressed or evolved in music. So we need to give these countries a tough fight. Originally ours is folk music. How can we go to the world with folk music alone? Essentially, we need to extract the elements of other types of music,” Ratnayake elaborated his mission.

To adorn the eight-minute composition Professor Ratnayake banked on numerous techniques: the melodies from the folk music, drum percussions and Jala raga of Indian classical music. He made use of two instrumental vannamas, gajaga and thuraga, to enhance the folk musical element.

Our local music is composed of three essential elements, according to Ratnayake: Indian, folk and western music. Much of what we get to hear today is influenced by at least one of these genres.

Influential music

“When I think of our own traditions what comes to my mind first is the drums. So I went for the drum percussions. As for the influence of Indian music, I took the Jala range. That came in handy.”

The combination of percussions, Jala and Vannam enhanced the dialogue between the piano and saxophone.

Commenting on the concert, Sri Jayewardenepura University Vice Chancellor Professor Sampath Amaratunga said that Professor Ratnayake is the one who made the sitar close to the piano.

“He is an asset to us. An asset to the country. An asset to the music field. Most academics come to be questioned at a certain practical level. But when it comes to Professor Ratnayake, he constantly engages in research and contributes to the music field much practically,” Professor Amaratunga said.

Dubbed as Sri Lankan Ravi Shankar, the academic cum sitarist bridges the two cultures of Asia and West, according to Professor Amaratunga.

Ratnayake’s first passion was for north Indian raga music. He practised the sitar while studying the western music. At Colombo University, he studied jazz and computer technology. That experience led him to compose the award-winning score to the film Siddhartha Gauthama.

Varied talents

“Some software can produce the exact effect of an instrument. But such software is quite expensive.”

At the university, Ratnayake has come across several groups of students.

“There are students who are interested in many areas. Some are brilliant at composing music, but not really into singing. The singers sometimes cannot compose music. Some are good at music arrangement. Some are good at technology. We need to handpick them and direct them in a practical path,” Professor Ratnayake added.

This harmonious evening was graced by the presence of Sri Jayewardenepura University Vice Chancellor Prof Sampath Amaratunge, Graduate Studies Dean Prof Hemanthi Ranasinghe, Medical Sciences Dean Prof Surangi Yasewardene, Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Prof D P S Chandrakumara, Applied Sciences Dean Prof Sudantha Liyanage and Engineering Dean Dr S A A M Subasinghe graced the occasion with Professors Carlo Fonseka and J B Disanayaka.

 


 

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