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Airports are a drag, as are most other aspects of taking off for other lands. It’s even got to the stage where I can’t abide packing, so as Java astutely observed, it looks more and more like less and less of it is in store for the future.

The desire for travel that was initially acute has petered out over the years, and now, moving around within the island is really all that is desired as far as ‘travel’ is concerned. Perhaps it has to do with all the crap like security checks, paranoia, emptying everything into this little tray whilst going through electronically charged arches, crowds and stuff. Java, on the other hand, manages to get into it and make the best of what’s on offer. Fortunately, since this is ‘official’, the lounges are available and this makes a whole lot of difference to us both. Hanging around between flights would be even worse without this small concession and then there’s also the flight itself, where every little bit of added comfort adds solace to the frazzled state.

And so it’s up, up and away this evening to be gone for a couple of weeks – mostly work and little time for much else (although Java has some ideas), but we shall make the best of it. There will be little time to check the goings on at kottu, but perhaps Java will oblige whilst I’m in the sessions – unless he’s upto something else, that is.

One thing I very much regret having to miss out on is the children’s ballet going on the boards next week at the Bishop’s College Auditorium, produced by the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya – ‘Kumbi Kathawa’. It promises to be something special and I’d much rather be here for it than in China.

But then, that’s the way things go sometimes.

There’s been stuff in the news recently about the quality of ‘reportage’ in our local media and on the integrity of the reporters themselves, which got Java’s inner-wheel spinning enough for him to come up with some observations. It’s not as if his thoughts are special or anything, but I found some of the stuff he spewed out to be worth a mull or more.

He observed how Iqbal Athas has been in the firing-line sights of quite a few politicos in the past and it seems that the trend continues. The moment he reports anything even the slightest bit disturbing to the powers that be and their supporters, all manner of allegations are strewn around implying that he is a pawn of the opposition or of the terrorists and a danger to national security. He has been raided, assaulted, abused and threatened with death. His family has been frightened and intimidated by security personnel. His security has been withdrawn. And yet he continues to do what he considers to be his bounden duty as a member of the Fourth Estate to keep the public informed of his particular area of expertise. So is he, as is alleged by forces allied with the government, a danger to national security and the cats-paw of the opposition and/or the terrorists, or is he a journalist/reporter who is good at his job and whose integrity is beyond compromise? Or is there some kind of middle-ground that encompasses elements of both views?

Then, he said, there’s Sonali Samarasinghe of the ‘Sunday Leader’ and ‘Morning Leader’ publications who has been the recipient of awards on more than one occasion for her excellence in journalism (we’re not sure of the specific awards). She too has been hauled up by the ‘powers’, threatened and grilled on her sources and other aspects of the information she puts out for all to see. Her skill is beyond doubt and her courage, in the face of the threats and actions of the government forces, is highly commendable and we’re sure, appreciated by many readers who want more than the usual mess of pottage ladled out by the subservient personnel of the Lake House media and the others that support the government.

Java was quick to point out that he has no problem with folk supporting the government, but that the crux of the issue is that ‘reporting’, to be true to its function, must necessarily be as ‘factual’ as possible, and not used for purposes of obfuscating information with the intention of misrepresenting the ‘facts’. Another problem with those ‘faithful to masters’ is the lack of reporting of what may be construed by them to be ‘damaging’ to the establishment. These sorts of ‘reporters’ (whoever they may be, and to whomever they are aligned), in Java’s view, are nothing more than propagandists in the guise of journalists who sell their integrity for the favours bestowed on them, or in the hope of something of value coming their way.

There are many journalists that have been brutalised and also killed by ‘unknown’ forces. Strangely enough, (or maybe not), all these murdered journalists were those who wrote and/or reported on issues and events that were either detrimental to the past or present government’s image or that revealed some shocking disclosures that pointed fingers at specific individuals in power. Some reporters that revealed sympathy for the Tamil cause have also been touted as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ and have been done away with – who by, remains a mystery to the law-enforcement authorities.

Lasantha Wickramatunge of ‘The Sunday Leader’ also had some harrowing experiences with more than one leader of the nation, being shot at and threatened with death due to his slant on the way things were being done by those in power. However, he is still at it – and love him or hate him, there’s no getting away from his courage and commitment to reporting what he sees as the blatant corruption and mismanagement of the country that is taking place – regardless of who is in power, or of the consequences.

Then, as Java pointed out, there are other types of journalists, some of who straddle the fence and play it safe. There are also those like the one that most kottu bloggers will be familiar with – the one who lifts other folks’ material without permission and publishes the stuff without blinking the proverbial eye. And a whole lot more as well – types of journalists, that is.

The thing about all this, as Java, pointed out, is that once a journalist’s integrity is compromised – and is seen by the readers to have been compromised – there’s little chance of gaining back any respect that may have existed before. ‘Prostitution’ is probably the term that fits those that would trade their integrity for something considered to be of value, so as Java observed:

Maaan, we gotta re-define dem red-lite zones in da city – startin wit dat ol house by da lake.

We’d heard about this band, Java and yours truly, having managed to miss their gig at the ATM gathering a coupla Sundays ago, being out of town and all. Anyway, when we heard from Naz that they would be performing at Barefoot last night, we had to make it. – just to see if they were anywhere near as good as some folk said they were.

And so we made it in there early, worried about the parking hassles, got the usual brew and headed over to Moe’s den for some chat and stuff – just to get into the groove like, and get some gen on the band. The crowd (not really ‘a crowd’, as ‘crowds’ go) was sparse, to say the least – probably also to do with the Poya coming up Tuesday, accounting for the absence of the main Jane and spouse, kicking back in the boondocks for a well earned sojourn with the offspring. The pre-show drizzle had the folk outside in the courtyard scurrying for shelter, but that soon passed, and when Harshan Gallage, all sixteen years of him, opened with a drum composition, it gave us an inkling of perhaps what was in store. This kid has got what it takes and the potential is enormous.

The opening number (after the drum solo) was ‘Invocation’, based on a traditional melody and rhythm and was introduced by Pabalu Wijegoonawardene on – I don’t remember if it was the getabera or the ruhunubera – and vocals. The traditional part of the number, however, soon evolved into a fusion of oriental and Chick Corea type arrangement that was as original as it was well crafted and performed. It was certainly inventive and a far cry from the usual fare served up by the usual bands.

Early on in the performance Java was struck by the technique and what appeared to be the classical background of the keyboard guy, Eshantha Peiris. There were certainly traces of Baroque chord structures and echoes of Keith Jarret in there somewhere – and it sounded oh so good. The arrangements for the keyboard were outstanding and the expertise was equally solid – so good in fact, that after the short intermission, Java sneaked up right by the keyboard, in the shade of that strategically placed clump of palms (Chrysalidocarpus sp.) and checked the scene out from there – brew in hand and ‘doing his thang’. Later he confided that he was tripping out on the hands of the player, ‘seeing’ the sound manifest, as it were.

Sarani Perera on lead guitar was also up to the task of matching abilities with his mates and his merging of the traditional melodies with the jazz-rock riffs and Al de Meola / John Mc Laughlin influences were very impressive.

Janaka Priyashantha on percussion added to the tapestry of sound and really got into the spirit of the more energetic pieces, whilst Uvindu Perera, another promising teenager – influenced by Jaco Pastorius – on electric bass, kept pace with the rest.

Unfortunately there was a ‘compere’ – the bane of Sri Lankan performances – who attempted to clue the audience in about the group and what they were about, instead of letting us read the (well there were no liner notes on the CD that came with the entrance fee) band from what they served up and feeding the audience the platitudes with all the good intentions of promoting the guys. Oh well!

And so, in the end, both Java and yours truly were well satisfied by the time spent Monday evening. The band was tight, original and pleasing to the ear – the bod reacted accordingly to the rhythms and the ‘spaces between the beats’ were discernible enough to appreciate that this group of young dudes could extend themselves into becoming a really fine ensemble. No matter that Eshantha is a classically trained pianist and has very little jazz or rock influencing his trip so far, or that Harshan is just sixteen and doesn’t even read music. I’m not all that sure about the others, but rest assured they could only get better.

Rapping with Chris Dhason, part of the ATM group that is responsible for the gigs that are getting increasingly frequent now and who is also a great supporter of Thriloka, it appears that efforts are underway to make these happenings at Barefoot and other venues more regular in order to get away from the apathy and depressing situation around us and to let those creative juices flow from talented artistes for the entertainment of folk like us.

So if you get the chance to see these guys do it – don’t miss out. They are really worth listening to.

Thriloka rocks – and jazzes up a fusion number to boot!

Exchanging views stemming from comments to our recent post on music appreciation , ‘speed’ came up, which flashed me back to a chat I had with Rhythmic when he was here some months ago.

We were captive audience to a troupe of dancers and drummers that suddenly appeared whilst we were having a few pre-dinner drinks with Mala at a Colombo hotel of RD’s choice. As expected, RD was taken by the drumming and proceeded to ask about various aspects. Fortunately I have a smattering of knowledge on the subject due to exposure to The Dancer’s realm and gave RD a brief rundown on the types of indigenous drums and that. He then asked about the particular performers and if I considered them to be ‘good’. And so I told him what The Dancer’s father had passed on to me regarding drummers. It was to do with the ‘space’ or ‘time’ between the beat.

So the way I see it, is that the quality of the drummer is determined by the speed combined with the precision that allows a definite and discernible space between each beat – however fast. Some drummers (and guitarists, for that matter) can be ultra-fast, but if really listened to with a discerning ear, the precision (or lack of it) will be apparent. And that, to me, is the measure of the musician’s ability and that which separates the good ones from the exceptional.

As Java postulated:

Heey maan, would there be rhythm without the space between the beat?

It’s like one of those cyclical things that happen so often. This one’s about music and songs in particular, starting when Java was requested to write a song for the astrologer Michael Bear to lay on one of his Hollyweird hopefuls. Then there was the tagging thing that RD got us involved with, which must surely have set the mood for the ‘Day in a life’ trip. Soon after, believe it or not, another mail arrives from The Bear, telling Java of a few suggestions with the lyrics to ‘Let slip the jagged edge’ and, almost in passing, asked for another effort. Seems like the ‘fresh talent’ liked what she saw.

Anyway, Java – when the mood fits – has no problem with putting words together and having got a bit more information about the singer, whizzed off another song. He called it ‘No substitute for that good ol rock ‘n roll’ and it goes like so:

She comes on hot
And sings so cool
She’s slicker than shit
She’s nobody’s fool
But oh her private life’s a mess
She’s just got too much soul
But it’s no substitute for that good ol rock ‘n roll

She sings with such panache
The coolest jazz and sultry blues
It’s not apparent she’s fucked up
On too much coke and booze
And her personal agenda’s
Got too much soul
And it don’t hold a candle to her good ol rock ‘n roll

She’s whacked out
She’s smacked out
She’s manic depressive
She’s strapped out
She’s blacked out
But she’s oh so expressive

The spotlight’s on her
She’s back again
Right out of re-hab
Don’t feel no pain
And her personal life’s so cramped
It freezes her soul
There’s just no substitute for that good ol rock ‘n roll

She’s whacked out
She’s smacked out
She’s manic depressive
She’s strapped out
She’s blacked out
But she’s oh so expressive

The spotlight’s on her
She’s back again
Right out of re-hab
Don’t feel no pain
And her personal life’s so cramped
It freezes her soul
‘Coz there’s no substitute for that good ol rock ‘n roll

Java’s back at the sound setup and gets an old Janis Joplin number going. Looks like it’s time to get into the music.

Lyrics – No substitute for that good ol rock ‘n roll  – Copyright – javamusik.ink.

I read the news today. Oh Boy!
Not ‘about a lucky man who made the grade’,
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh,
I saw the photograph.
He blew himself up in a car
He’d noticed that the lights had changed.
The crowd of people gathered round
They couldn’t find his face no more
So nobody was really sure if he was from the ‘other side’.

I watched the news today. Oh boy!
The army had just cleared the way
The mounds of corpses everywhere
But I just had to look
Having read the book

I’d love to turn you on

Woke up
Got out of bed
Didn’t hear what the radio said
Got the coffee going and drank a cup
Got myself together and set off for work
The roads were jammed, the checks in place
It didn’t work – I heard a blast
Someone screamed and I went into a dream
Aaahhhh…

I read the news today. Oh boy!
Four thousand graves in some small wilderness
And though the graves were rather small
I couldn’t count them all
So now we’ll never know
How many graves will fill the BMIC Hall

I’d love to tuuurrrnnn yooouuu oooonnnn

It must’ve been a couple of weeks ago I posted ‘New words for 2007’ and then Java provoked a post on ‘Using those new words for 2007’ in the form of a short story and using every word on the list. I got no comments, so have no way of knowing how it went down. Thanks?

Now with all this tagging reaching epidemic proportions I thought it may be a worthwhile exercise in spreading the virus to ‘tag’, say five bloggers with a penchant for this type of ‘creativity’. So the exercise is to use every word in that ‘New Words’ list and come up with something entertaining. The five picks are as follows (and we wish we could add more, but then maybe one of these five will pass on the chore?).

RD – of course!

Naz – so she could add this to her ‘assignments’

Darwin – bound to be ‘something else’!

Child of 25 – now that he’s older than before ….

Theena – it’s a toss-up if ‘cricket’ or ‘music’ will hold sway

I really hope this works – as if it does, results should be a gas!

All those ‘desert island’ music selection posts got Java and me wondering about how some folk get stuck in a particular era with regard to the music they appreciate. This, it seemed to us, is particularly relevant to ‘pop’, ‘rock’ and the other modern off-shoots like ‘hip-hop’, ‘rap’ and stuff. Needless to say, we’re firmly entrenched in the 60s and 70s rock, R ‘n B and fusion (fusion was pretty new in them days), with jazz and classics taking equal standing in the value system.

Of course the reason for the individual niche is pretty obvious – ‘conditioning’ being the name of the game, as in just about everything. A few of the younger folk I know are pretty heavily influenced by their parents’ collections and so slant towards that type of stuff, but for the most part it is has to do with what the peer groups are into. And then, it seems from our observations that as younger folk get older and possibly get turned on to ‘other stuff’ that influences and maybe changes their appreciation of what they considered to be ‘good’, their choices also evolve accordingly. I know there were some rock bands I thought were outta sight in them early days, won’t even warrant a listen now – amazing how tastes change! On the other hand, some of those early groups and the music they created will always stand the test of time and are listened to frequently even some twenty-plus years later.

As for what is listened to in any given piece or album – this would vary considerably based on (again) the early conditioning. RD, we know, listens closely to the drum rhythms – perhaps more than he does to other aspects – or at least is more aware of those rhythms than say the lyrics to the song. Others I know are very turned on by lyrics and how the music fits the mood that seeks to be conveyed by the words. Still others I know let the ‘spirit’ of the number get to them by getting into a total-absorption state of mind, being oblivious to all other peripheral goings-on. Some are blown away by the sheer energy of the group, the beat that gets the bod responding, the singer’s vibe and delivery, the backbeat and even the ‘act’ (if it’s live, that is). Then there are those that find certain lyrics tug at those heart-strings and put them on a trip that relates to their current personal dilemma or dream-state – awakening all sorts of emotions concerning the loves of their immediate lives.

We also found that music appreciation manifests in more than occasional ego-trips – in the sense that one will diss another’s choice as being unworthy of serious consideration due to this ‘n that reason. Looking down on someone else’s choice is by no means uncommon, as this drummer we know remarked the other day, referring to Zaney’s take on Elton. For sure, no problem with critiques, but then in the end it’s ‘to each his own’ isn’t it?

And so it goes.

Java’s got ‘Soft Machine’ doing ‘Out-Bloody-Rageous’ going and has a cold brew in one hand and neat looking pipe in the other one. So time to call a halt to these mullings and pay closer attention to the music – and stuff.

It’s no fun driving through the pissing rain around the curves of the hill country roads approaching Nuwara Eliya from Kandy. Now that the road has been ‘done’, the surface is great, but that still doesn’t help in the gloomy light. And with the pelting rain almost rendering the wipers useless, it gets to be a pain. Fortunately Runa’s doing the navigating, so I get to trip on the visuals and not concentrate on actually driving through vertical sheets of water.

At Nuwara Eliya I am told that the weather has been perfect all these days and that it was I that had probably brought it along with me! It kept coming down in varying degrees of force through lunch and then we proceeded towards Hakgala, heading for Flowerbook on the other side of the range. It rained all the way to Hakgala too and then, as we rode the crest – thank the Celestial Weather Director – sunshine over Uva!

The drive to Flowerbook was a breeze and although the earth and surrounding hills looked a tad parched and in need of moisture, it felt good to be out of the rain. And knowing that the monsoon will soon hit, eased the worries of drought and the effects it would have on all manner of aspects for those that lived in these parts. Soon the migrant birds will catch the changing wind-currents and find their way back to the very gardens and other habitats they left around April and the rain will be back. But that’s cool – it was just the driving through a couple of hours of near-blinding rain seen through a glass darkly that was the bummer.

So it’s back to base for now.

RD’s tagged Java again – this time for his choice of five albums that he would choose to spend time with on a desert island. Java’s initial response was to decide to take the IPod with his entire collection – less hassle with carting around the albums, for sure – and no ‘extras’ like a player “an sheeet like dat maaan”, and what’s more – more than five albums to listen to. But, in the end, he decided to ‘go with the flow’ and not be a spoilsport, so here they are – in no particular order of preference – just a choice for when the mood fits.

Weather Report – ‘Heavy Weather’ (the one with ‘Birdland’ in it)

The Beatles – ‘White Album’

Johaan Sebastian Bach – ‘Choral Masterpieces’

Diana Krall – ‘The Girl In The Other Room’

Bob Dylan – ‘Greatest Hits’

He didn’t want to get into describing why the particular albums turned him on in terms of their content, musicianship, creativity and all that jazz, but knowing his susceptibility to rhythm changes in the mindspace, I could understand the reasons for the choice. Of course if the island were one that was interesting with regard to the flora and fauna, there was a very good chance that listening to music would probably be confined to the sultry afternoons (this is a tropical island, okay RD?) in the shade of some appropriate foliage, lounging in the hammock that folds down into pocket-size, guzzling a home-made brew made from coconuts and their flowers and tokeing on the ubiquitous number, or in the sunset hour and later by the light of that tropical moon.

As for tagging five others:

Cinimod – an eclectic selection should be forthcoming if he bothers

Darwin – coz we don’t know her taste in music

Janusis – imagine if someone slipped in a ‘bana’ session at high volume in there!

Sebastian – who usually plays some nice stuff whenever he plays host

Jolly Lucifer – for that classical touch

That done, Java’s heading off for the early morning combo of (what else?) appropriate music and the catalyst to aid in the listening. And as he wafts out of the room I hear him mumbling that the selection was based on where his head was at that particular moment in time and that it would undoubtedly change, given different circumstances.

Come again?

August 2007
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Ephemeral Ruminations by Java Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
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