A dazzling display of Sri Lankan drums and dance
The lights gradually zoomed in on the soft beating of drums intensifying, accompanied by the blowing of the conch shell as the curtain rose on the first item of 'Nrithyabhimana' -- a traditional Sri Lankan drum and dance performance -- at the Shilpakala Academy last Friday. Chants and “Magul bera”, as it is known, were performed to invoke the blessings of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sanga (three pillars of Buddhism) and the goddess Saraswathi, patron of the arts.
The Sri Lanka Women's Association (Seva Vanitha) a non-profit, non-political association, aims to promote and enable women's participation in development work through various services, and its branch in Dhaka organised 'Nrithyabhimana' as its annual fund-raising event. All proceeds of the show are donated to government-approved charities of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The Magul bera was followed by a low country feminine dance style -- “Giri Devi” -- representing the grace of the demon princess Giri.
Ravibandhu Vidyapathy, a renowned drum and dance choreographer and artistic director, along with his troupe, has been showcasing Sri Lankan drumming and dances around the world. Performing at the Shilpakala Academy, Ravibandhu and his troupe proved true ambassadors of the culture of Sri Lanka.
The graceful female dancers made way for a more masculine form of traditional Kandyan dance -- “Ves” (masks), originated from an ancient purification ritual, the Kohomba Yakuma or Kohomba Kankariya. The dance was as propitiatory, never secular, and performed only by males. The elaborate Ves costume, particularly the headgear, is considered sacred and is believed to belong to the deity Kohomba.
The next performer made his way to the stage amidst loud applause by a surprised audience, and staged the act “Salu Paliya” -- a low country comical mask dance, followed by “Thrithva”, a graceful creative dance inspired by Indian fusion music from “Soundscapes” by Bikram Gosh.
The saga of drumming continued as the “Geta bera” -- a drum dance that exhibits the rhythmic varieties of intricacies of the art of Kandyan drumming. The dexterity of the movement of the fingers of the drummers was commendable. This was followed by a classical Kandyan dance called the “Matra navaya”.
The most powerful performance was “Shiva” performed by Ravibandhu himself, which is based on the Kathakali dance style from India -- depicting the destruction of the Gajasura, the elephant-headed demon, by Lord Shiva.
The female dancers once again graced the stage as they performed the movements of the peacock to a song of the “Vannama” (recitation) from the 17th century.
The grace glided into ferocity as the next style, depicting the dance of the cobra demon and the mythical bird known as “Naga Raksha” and “Gurulu Raksha”, was showcased.
Once again grace mixed with strength took its place as the “Ukussa” (dance of the hawk), inspired by the Kandyan style of dancing, made its way.
The most appreciated performance was the “Thelme”, a traditional low country ritualistic dance exhibiting the acrobatic prowess of the dancer.
The chief guest at the show was the Minister of Information and Cultural Affairs, Abul Kalam Azad, who congratulated the Seva Vanitha Unit of Dhaka and wished them success in all their endeavours.
The finale was the “Bera Samoohaya” or the “Pancha Thuriyavaadanaya” where the beats of an orchestra of five various drums were synchronised into a splendid assortment of different sounds into a single tune.
The adroitness of the movement of the fingers and the drumsticks along with various movements of the elbow in between the beating of the drums attracted much attention. The show ended with a standing ovation to the performers.