The Washerman’s Dog obsession with pop music of South Asia continues tonight with the spotlight on baila, an urban dance music from Sri Lanka. Baila’s roots are deep in the history of that little tear drop island. Originally a form of music created and performed by the awfully named kaffir (Afro-Sinhala-Portuguese) peoples by the 20th century European instruments were added and it quickly became a craze for the city-dwelling middle classes. Sinhala lyrics that touched on local themes were integrated and soon artists such as Maxwell Mendis, Darlene Arnolda, A.E. Manhoran and especially a police officer named Wally Bastian were the stars of new craze.
Baila derives from the Portuguese word for bailar (to dance) and as a musical style is very European or westward looking. It is not too dissimilar in feel from chutney music (West Indian diaspora) or indeed, calypso. Like those two styles it has certain fast paced effervescence a real dance beat and the occasional risqué English phrase tossed in as a bit of spice.
Tonight’s collection is the sort of music you’d hear if you went to a summer garden party with friends of a certain class (and in a certain time) in Colombo or Kandy. Open a cold one, perhaps light a cigarette and watch the ladies in their tight saris wiggle to baila!
01 Chuda Manikka [Darlene Arnolda]
02 Kaffiringha [A.E. Manhoran]
03 Golu Hadawahta [Paul Ferdnando]
04 Maha Denumutta [Maxwell Mendis]
05 Gonwassa [Moonstones]
06 Maw Piyo Denna [Maxwell Mendis]
07 Modaya Modaya [Paul Ferdnando]
08 Varsity Kollo [Dharmaratne Brothers]
09 Yaksa Petiya [Maxwell Mendis]
10 Mala [Paul Ferdnando]
11 Hai Hooi (Tamil) [A.E. Manhoran]
12 Instrumental Baila Medley [The Fortunes]