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!

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