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Archive for the ‘Politicking’ Category

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I have been on the fringes of Sri Lankan metal politics for nearly a decade. If I were to say it’ll be a sad day when a musician gives into petty power-politics and forgets his reason for being, then everyday would be a sad day for ‘pure Sri Lankan metal’.

I’m going to tell you my Stigmata story & my view of them over the last decade. I won’t go into the obvious & give you the history of the band that you all know, so I hope I’m able to bring a fresh perspective to the party.

My association with the Sri Lankan metal scene began way back in 2000 when Stigmata were just coming into the scene, I think. I started going for gigs at 80 Club where in the midst of the Kreb’s Cycle types, a group of youngsters called Stigmata were just beginning to come into their own.

A couple of years later while helping direct a school play, I heard a couple of the boys jamming to what sounded like this amazing melody during practices one day. I was instantly drawn to it. Nevermore to feel the pain, the heart collector sang. Nevermore indeed. Apparently Stigmata were covering it and it was all the rage. I downloaded the lyrics and within a week I had listened to the entire Dead Heart in a Dead World album. The first modern day metal album that I connected with. I was always more a classic Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Doors kinda girl until then. Maybe with the likes of Sabbath and Judas Priest thrown in for good measure, on occasion. I would go for gigs once in a way but never until that point had I listened to a metal album in its entirety and fallen in complete lust.

Needless to say I got the group of boys to take me to a Rock Saturday. I had heard Stigs a few times after that first time at 80 Club including at On-Stage. I heard their rendition of Andura that night and I was mind blown. They were still so young and yet so confident, bringing something original to the table every time I heard them. There were other bands at the time too. Taunt. Soul Skinner. Whirlwind. Tapas. And others whose names escape me. Some pretty darn good in their own way. Some not so much. Each had a following. Some were even venomously referred to as Stigmata Pataw. But when Stigmata took the stage, everyone would listen. They always sounded better. Tighter. Influenced by the right sound, lyrically topical & relevant, but most of all, talented. Not to say the others weren’t. Stigmata were just more so.

The people I made friends with were from other bands. Some are still my friends to date. We sit down occasionally over a drink or spliff and talk about the Rock Saturday days. Problem is, that’s all we do. I’ve done my share of what I can for them. Design lighting for gigs, stage sets, promote them, compeer, type out their proposals, sober them up when they were too high to go home and helped them nurse their hangovers the next day with steaming hot cups of Milo. They would come over with guitars and jam at my place. I would sit in the studio while they would record their originals and give them my 2 cents worth. But what has happened to those bands that were on a mission to give Stigmata a run for their money? I’m truly disappointed. If they were on a mission, why not take the Avis route and try harder instead of caving in to play for 3,000 bucks a piece at some hotel lounge? Like I said, the people in these bands are my friends and through the years and because of their opinions, I must admit with some sense of shame that I was swayed by them, not bothering to ask Stigmata if what they were saying was true. So I started to dislike them on site. At least on the outside. Within, there was this undeniable sense of acceptance that they were good. Really good.

There was something essentially beautiful about the core melodies of tracks like Love Lies Bleeding, Sylvia and so many more others. But somehow they don’t seem to have pushed their limits and seen where they could go with their music. I can’t say that about Stigmata. I love my friends but not the bullshit they’ve fed me through the years. And I will say this to their faces as well. They sold out. Stigmata didn’t. Obviously they didn’t have the conviction, nor the staying power to have lasted a decade. Correction. Not just lasted. Stigmata have got better. With every gig they’ve played and every album they released.

For reasons best known to my twisted little head, I turned my back on metal for many years. The music and the memories were connected to a bad time in my life and I think I let the music take the fall for my dark days. I should have known better. The last gig I attended was a Stigmata one. The album launch of Silent Chaos Serpentine. That was years ago. On the darkest of days a little Nevermore would creep into my playlist but that would be it. And then this year, something amazing happened. I went for a gig. A relatively new friend’s band was playing and so I thought I’d go. It felt so damn good to hear the drums thundering in my gut and the guitars playing pucks with my ears. I head-banged after years and the morning after sore neck felt like I was coming home. I remembered smoky days in the pit, sometimes on my knees, on the verge of snapping my neck. I can’t describe how good it was to feel that way again. One thing note worthy; there were very few women around back then. It’s nice to see so many more of them around. Metal is no more a sausage fest & I for one am glad. J

Since then I’ve been to 2 other gigs, including The Killing Joke. Someone asked me at the gig; just before Stigs began to play Do you really like Stigmata? I mean aren’t they slightly overrated? I smiled back and unashamedly said I love them. They are the main reason I’m here.

It has by far been one of the best gigs I’ve attended in years. The sad thing was the audience. I expected more. It was a Stigmata gig for fucks sake! Where the hell were you when they brought the house down? Where were you when they played music not only from their own past, but music that was a part of shaping who you are today? Where were you when they played their new numbers, displaying how much they’ve evolved and grown in the last decade? Where the fuck were you?

Strangely enough, I realized that so many Stigs tracks are imbedded in some forgotten corner of my head. Voices, for instance. I woke up the morning after the Killing Joke and I heard Suresh singing Daddy, Daddy… in my head. When they started playing My Malice from the Silent Chaos Serpentine album at the gig, I started singing peel the flesh off my bone, slowly condone, so I may crumble away alone and I didn’t even realize that I was mouthing the words until I was half way into the song.

You don’t have to like Suresh to know the man and his music are intrinsically interconnected elements in equal parts. The same goes for the rest of the band. Besides Tenny, I’ve never really taken the time to get to know the rest of them. It’s a darn shame, come to think of it. The little time I’ve spent with them reminds me of how like-minded we are in some ways. I was on my way to a Rock Saturday gig when I got a call informing me that someone as close as a twin had just died in a bike accident thousands of miles away. My family was a mess trying to figure out how to bring the body down for the funeral in the midst of letting the tragedy of it sink in. Instead of turning around & going home, I opted to go for the gig anyway. I cried all the way in the car and it took me a while to get myself together and walk in, but when I got there and when Stigmata started to play, I was fine. During their entire set, I was fine. To date I will be eternally grateful to them for that. I’ve mourned to their music, made love to it and healed with it. And I never realized it until I sat down to write this piece. It’s strange how the music playing in the background during some of the darkest or most intense milestones in your life will stay with you in your sub conscience until they’re ready to be played again.

The Killing Joke was evidence that Stigmata are still the tightest fucking band around. The most original. The only ones who knew where they wanted to go and opted stayed true to that vision. Too many of us have dreams and let them be just that; dreams. It’s the chasers who deserve the applause, not the dreamers.

So, to Suresh, Tenny, Andrew, Javeen & Tharaka, I just want to say that you can go ahead and have the last laugh, because the joke certainly wasn’t on you.

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Inspired after brilliant open mike night, my friend Buddhi’s performance and another on of WDR’s brilliantly worded posts… This is part of a huge initiative by the Times of India’s campaign called India Poised and I wanted to post one of the essential pieces of copy that made it such a huge success. This is an ad which replaced the front page of the Times of Inida on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday… It’s called D.O.

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This campaign, launched on independence day 2007 started off as a single press ad called “India vs India” and overnight turned into something even the client and ad agency didn’t foresee. As a result an unplanned second phase was launched called The Lead India movement, which called for people to take a stand for what they believed in for their nation and  saw 30,000 people from all walks of life stepping up to the plate as possible future leaders of their country. Through a rigorous process of interviews, tests etc they were narrowed down to 8 people who campaigned all over the country talking about what they stood for. Finally India as a nation picked one man to become their future leader. This man will be a registered candidate at the next general election and probably become the nation’s next prime minister.  

 

Here’s the first ad, which replaced the front page of the Times of India on Independence Day that started it all off…

 

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It’s quite easy to replace the word “India” with “Sri Lanka” which instantly evoke the desire to slam your head against a wall. Hopefully after that, we’ll also feel the desire to march.

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Is a nation truly the sum of its parts or merely the sum of its leaders? You could say that they are both intertwined in a sense. Our leaders, democratically or otherwise, are voted in by us, are they not? And we do so in thinking that they represent our thoughts and ideals. Sometimes even our hopes and dreams.

Over the past few days everyone’s in a bygones type of mood, it seems. A radio show host who thus far didn’t hesitate to throw an insult or two at the present government in the midst of his morning chatter said its time to forget all of it and look forward once more as one united Sri Lanka. That this independence needs to mean something. Peace after many moons in finally at out doorstep and so forth.

I couldn’t help but not get caught up in all of it. Is it a simple case of the cost of peace and the cost of the rehabilitation of this country been too great? It has taken its toll on me too sometimes. I lost a cousin and a friend both to this great battle. It may have been 13 years ago, but I still remember how I felt. A young girl wondering what this huge sense of patriotism they felt was that they both wanted a career in the air force. To date, I still don’t have the answer. And maybe that’s a fault of mine.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt very patriotic if patriotism is about what the great leasers of our nation tell us it is. What I’ve felt and still feel, I think is nationalistic. I don’t think there needs to be a desire to lay down your life for your country when it is a case of 2 factions within the country itself that are doing the fighting. Fighting for independence is one thing, but I’ll never understand the oxymoron of fighting for peace. For a time I understood both sides of the story. But a refusal to come to the peace table made me change my mind. It’s a time when one has no faith in either side. There really wasn’t a cause left for quite a while now. All I felt was the fact that the North and East coasts were opened for a while finally and I soaked in many beautiful sunrises in Trinco. And then it was grabbed away from me all over again. That’s what I mean about nationalism. I love this country. I will never live anywhere else. I have a purpose here.

I love exploring every corner of this island and meeting the different types of people. In a matter of hours from Colombo, you feel as if you have entered a different world. People talk different, live different. Towns and little hamlets are so diverse from one place to the other. Isn’t that a miracle? To have such extremes, such diversity all packed up in one little island?

And I want that preserved.  But at what cost? Do I want it preserved for my children, whilst someone else will never have children who will grow up to witness it because he died too young on a battlefield? I always have been and I always will be anti-war. And if that makes me unpatriotic, so be it, Mr. President.

We have all been called to action this Independence Day. But which form of action will we follow? I won’t play the patriot game. Because I don’t want to win this mad new competition of who flies the biggest flag outside their home on Independence Day. After all, are we called to celebrate independence or the government’s victory in this sad war? I just love my country. For her people. I refuse to judge a nation’s faults in the multitudes. We are all not collectively to blame for the errors of a few. Our biggest fault maybe ignorance. But in the midst of it, there is also unwavering hope and that immortal Sri Lankan smile. It maybe used by some for their own betterment, but lets not fault a nation for her innocence. Let’s praise her for her virtues and move ahead. If that is what it takes to be a patriot, then I am one.

Patriotism has never and will never be about a worthless war whose leaders on both sides let hundreds of thousands perish for their personal desires. Patriotism isn’t helping them live out their personal dreams and fulfilling their personal agendas, especially when it conflicts with that of the collective of the nation. The saddest part is that so many people in Sri Lanka are so unaware that they are striving towards someone else’s dream with the false hope that theirs will also be fulfilled. 

For me, patriotism, nationalism, or whatever it is that I have felt, is about wanting the best for the people of a country. It’s about letting those grudges go and hoping for a better life for all of us and for our children too. It’s about being able to wake up in the morning knowing that this country and its people have made it possible for you to chase your dreams and live them. Its about wanting the overall quality of life improved. Its about a collective adventure to rebuild a nation.

My one wish this Independence Day is independence of thought for every single human being in my country. And I hope I live to see the day it happens, because it surely must. 

FYI, from dictionary.com :

Patriot – a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion 

Nationalist – One who advocates national unity and independence

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The first ever Solidarity Gaymes was more than I expected it to be. I said in my previous post that it is probably the most significant thing I was a part of this year. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that my heart warmed to see so many people coming out to play with so much pride. There was no shame. There was only the freedom of expression. I’m posting one of my favorite pics of the day here. Its titled “Kelani Kumaris“. An entire netball team decided to come in drag, get themselves lavender costumes and actually win the gold. For more pics, please visit the Solidarity Gaymes blog.

P.s. Me…the most unathletic person on the planet also won 2 medals. A Silver for netball and bronze for 4×100. Can you believe it!!! And not to say the competition was easy. I ran against national players and gay games medalists, so I think I should rightly be proud of myself. My cousin snapped a pic of it on his phone so I’ll try and post it later. 

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I was just thinking. We spend a lot of time dissing the old boy when he is in fact very much the same as most of us. What was it somebody said of us… “Nava Gilunath Baan Choon” – Lets eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may not be in power. You get my drift, right? Aren’t we very much the same? He may not adhere to the entire Carpe Diem aspect of the thing, but in essence he is getting as much as he can out of it while it lasts.

Look at it this way –

* He is doing everything in his power to ensure that he is financially well off in the long run. Sorta similar to our rainy-day bank accounts and fixed deposits ya?

* He is looking to better himself overseas eventually. Quite a few people we all know have migrated.

* He’s been accused of nepotism, but then wouldn’t we offer a relative a helping hand?

* He dreamt of being able to fly and went ahead and opened his own airline. Now tell me which little boy didn’t want to be just like superman at some point?

* He wants the Sri Lankans to believe that he understands them and is one with them, sucking on a cow’s udders or something along those lines. How many of us have never wanted to belong to the ‘in’ crowd?

* He has the perfect sense of artificial patriotism. How many of you had a Coke in the last week?

* He smiles to cover up a lot. Isn’t Sri Lanka famous for her stoic smile that naver fades no matter what?

* He loves to have his own way. Anyone who practices turning the other cheek may throw the first stone.

* He wants war. Who hasn’t battled (how ever ineffectually) against something to make their mark?

* He continues to keep Mervin by his side. I know people who surround themselves with idiots to look good now and again.

* He discriminates. We all have at some point. Against people who are different from us in some way. It may not be big things like race or relgion or even sexuality. Even the little things make us so.

All in all, we are all very much the same. So I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Over & out.

(snigger)

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Have you got the forms yet? I have and I feel like a bloody refugee in Ratmalana. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me enlighten you. Last evening, the government officially revoked the CFA which has officially taken us into a war-torn state in its most extreme sense of the word. I returned home to a little white form called Emergency Regulation : section 23. It required me to fill in all my personal details, my reason for existence (as someone’s spouce in their minds ofcourse) and hand it in at the crack of dawn to the local temple. Why the temple you ask? Well, isn’t it obvious why not the regular channels such as a Gramasevaka or even the police station? I don’t really have to spell it out for you, do I? Either ways, this piece of paper will be used during various midnight raids to ensure that you haven’t lied. Ah yes, the regulation ensures that a score of officials military or otherwise may enter and check your house at three am and make you feel very violated by going through your most intimate posessions. Trust me on this, my mother-in-law’s house has been raided three times in a row.

All I can say is that I just wanted to sit down in a corner and have a long, loud cry. I realized that I don’t want to live like this. In this fear and panic every moment I’m alive. Soon it will effect my work and even my basic ability to function as a human being. Painc and fear does strange things to the human system.

So I did an on-line search for the safest cities/places in the world to live on my phone last night to discover that those places were Luxomburg and Vancouver. Unless I know fluent French or some other European language, can I really move there? Take the 2 four-legged rascals with us and live happily ever after cleaning toilets? Or have the cushy job here today and risk dying tomorrow…

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