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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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tbaf

Remember the book I was looking for since I was 17 which I found a few months ago? I started reading it and even quoted a part of it for you here. Since then I haven’t quite been able to read it until my many journeys to Unawatuna came about. I took the book along with me and realized that it was the perfect setting to read it. Usually I read a book a week and this one took me months to get through and as a result I haven’t been able to pick up another book. I’m finally ready to read again.

I finished The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach a few days ago. The book that I wanted to read as an optimistic teenager and finally read, albeit grudgingly as a cynical adult. A book about soulmates, written by a man who divorced his. I expected to find a bunch of bullshit in it considering that he and Leslie Parish said adieu to there so called discovery. But in the process I remembered one thing I held true through the years… who said soulmates were supposed to end up together anyway? Or even if they found eachother, who said they were supposed to stay together forever? In that sense the title is completely useless to me now and so is his explanation as to why the book was this titled.

But I didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water and found a few precious gems that even the somewhat cynical bitch I’ve turned into can like. Jotting a few of them down for you here…

  • We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile. What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure …not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth! Our century, they’ve changed clothes, of course. Dragons wear government-costumes, today, and failure-suits and disaster-outfits. Society’s demons screech, whirl down on us should we lift our eyes from the ground, dare we turn right at corners we’ve been told to turn left. So crafty have appearances become that princesses and knights can be hidden from each other, can be hidden from themselves.
  • The opposite of loneliness, it’s not togetherness. It is intimacy.
  • There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.
  • The only thing that shatters dreams is compromise.
  • That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.
  • Boredom between two people, doesn’t come from being together, physically. It comes from being apart, mentally and spiritually.
  • Why my weakness for, my joy in the singular turn of this one mind, in the singular curve of this face & breast in the singular merry light in her eyes when she laughs? Because those unique curves & sparkles, Richard, we carry them with us, lifetime to lifetime, they’re our trademarks, stamped deep in what each of us believes, and without knowing, we remember them! When we meet again!

There’s a lot more, some more significant than the ones I have quoted here even, but I don’t think I’ll be turning the pages of that book for a while. My thirst of 12 years is finally quenched in a way. So I suggest you get the book and read it yourself now.

I would have liked to say that the book returned all my psycho-babble, childish notions about love & soulmates and there being only one person for you out there in the big bad universe…but I can’t. What it did do was probably lower my armor for a little while and I sincerely hope it’s for the best.

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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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slippery

Before I get to what this ridiculously titled post is about, let me tell you that rehearsals are going fantastically. So much so that on a good high after a final run through of our songs, some of us thought of going out for a bite to eat last night. Pilla was crowded and everywhere else was closed so we decided to strut into Cinnamon Grand to have some munchies at the Coffee Stop.

We just sat down on one of their big comfy couches and were about to order and relax and talk about how the play was going and have a general recap of the rehearsal.

(On that note, I need to add an aside here. Everywhere I go, no matter what I do or who I’m with, I can’t seem to stop talking about the play. Non-stop. And I know I’m almost pissing people off to the point. It can get irritating, this obsession with theatre I tell you.)

Back to the story.

We were all tired and needed something in our stomachs desperately. One of my friends were in a pair of ¾. And as a result we were promptly asked to leave because he was in shorts. What bloody clothists I tell you! No one was indecently dressed or looked like ragamuffins for that matter either. We just wanted bloody food which we were more than willing to pay for! And when we argued that he was not in shorts per se, we were told to hop on down to Cheers who apparently would entertain our attire. So the area that costs more allows shorts vs a reasonably priced sandwich bar would entertain what we were wearing? Go figure.

Of course then we realized that most of us were in slippers and wouldn’t be entertained there either, so with a remark about the place also being slipperists, we stomped off. We did find food at Hot Shots and we did have the conversation we wanted.

A poor cast member and a wonderful friend, who plays Claude in the play was the main subject of conversation in that a scene of his that begins with the line “oh heavy deed” was something we all find particularly amusing. I know he’ll be reading this and probably kill us when he discovers that we spend our post rehearsal time imitating him, but he needs to know that our deed wasn’t all that heavy. 🙂

More tales about the folk from Elsie’s Bar will follow in the next few days. So stay tuned to this blog and the black lullaby in the lead up to opening night. A pre-production cat party is planned for tonight too. And probably a perfect night for it. When Friday the 13th generally rolls around, good things happen to me. 😉

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Thus titled, is a letter Richard Bach writes to his younger self in chapter 2 of The Bridge Across Forever. It reminded me of how we constantly tell ourselves that we wish we knew then what we know now. We’d always be able to handle younger situations better with our older wisdom neh? But I guess that’s just the point. We’d never learn the lesson if things happened that way. Someone asks Richard how he is going to send a letter to 20 years ago? He replies that we all know that at some point time travel will be invented, and when it happens, we’ll have nothing ready to send back in time. So he was concentrating right now on the package and will worry about the delivery later. Amusing.

Anyways that’s not the point of my post. The book I’m reading right now is. Once I had read Jonathan Livingston Seagull when I was 17, I was hooked. A Bach addict, so to say. I’ve read Illusions, the One, the Messiah’s Handbook and many more. But the one book my 17 year old self was really looking for was the one I managed to find this week, purely by chance at Barefoot, 12 years after my search began. Bach believed in soulmates. And he was on a quest to find his. The Bridge Across Forever is the semi-autobiographical tale of how he meets and marries her. Can you imagine with what vigour the my 17 year old self searched every bookstore in Colombo for it? Now its my slightly jaded self whose reading the book, but since I finally managed to find it, I thought, what the heck. I’ve only managed to get through 9 chapters of its 49, but I must admit that it isn’t as cheesy as I thought it would be. 

But I need to add to this story. In 1997, when I first came to know of the existence of this book. Richard Bach and his soulamte, Leslie Parish had been married for 20 years. I was amazed. You know, you hear these stories as a little girl about how some people rarely ever get to meet their soul mates and even if they do it only lasts a fleeting moment, or something as god-awfully corny like that. A few years later, as a working girl, I was online and was reading up on the Bachs and was punched really hard in the gut. They had divorced. So now a doubly jaded I, am reading The Bridge Across Forever. The dash of scepticism as I turn each page increases, I smirk a bit, but I still can’t shake the fact that what I’m reading, I find interesting. Even amusing. A few reluctant laughs escape my throat now and again. Hmmm.

You see, the whole concept of soulmates, even in my jaded kinda view is limited to a piece of fiction now. It’s a classic called Wuthering Heights. You may have heard of it. 😉 The only reason that still holds true for me is probably because it IS fiction. So its an image that has been preserved with no one being able to tarnish it. In the real world, everything’s a tad tarnished, is it not?

Anyway. I’ve only read 9 chapters, like I said. Let me get to the end of my 12 year search and I’ll tell you if I’ve changed my mind.

In the meanwhile, let me leave you with a tiny excerpt from Chapter 1 that caught my attention :

Why should it be that the most advanced of people, whose teachings, twisted into religions, last for centuries, why should it be that they have always been alone?

Why never do we see radiant wives or husbands or miraculous equals with whom they share their adventures and their love? They are surrounded by their disciples and their curious, these few we so admire, they are pressed by those who come to them for healing and light. But how often do we find their soulmates, glorious and powerful beloveds right close by? Sometimes? Once in a while?

I swallowed, throat suddenly dry.

Never. 

The most advanced people, I thought, they’re the ones most alone! 

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Across the Universe

Among the list of unknown films nominated for this years academy awards, a slightly bigger than little indie film called across the universe, full of new arrangements of 34 of John, Paul, George & Ringo’s originals, made the Oscar list. Ok, so it only got nominated for best costumes, I think and it didn’t even win that, but who thought a corny musical, contrived from one band’s music with a virtually unknown cast (its full of star-studded cameos), released in late October of last year would make it? Add to that the main casts names which were all derived from Beatles songs from Jude to Lucy… one wonders what the academy was thinking.

Enough of the crap. I watched it last night & as soon as it ended, I watched it again. There was just 2 somewhat corny bits of scenes that could have been directed better. Besides that, it was beyond fabulous.

The producers & scriptwriters had thought of every possible nuance from the 60’s in America that made the film far from contrived. Yes, I lied in my previous statement when I said it was contrived. It could have been but they never let it go there. Conceptually it seems it could be, but like I said – it was far from it.

From references to Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey, to a rock & roll couple that I can’t help but think were reflections of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, a Beatle-esqe rooftop protest concert, the war in ‘Nam, university protests, the 12th street riot, a “nasty” animation of Uncle Sam – the works – the movie really covered the turbulent 60’s. And don’t let me start on all the other subtle Beatles “propaganda” laced into it. Simply fab.

And the film has soul. Its about a group of friends who lived in The Village in New York during this time, who come from diverse backgrounds and seem to find common ground in the pursuit of their half-baked, broken dreams. Kind of like the La Vie Boheme lifestyle of Rent, but nicer, if its possible. And in the middle of it is a boy from Liverpool with a lovely lilted accent and an all-American girl who happen to fall in love.

And those bloody fantastic voices! I’m on the lookout for the album at the moment. I didn’t think I’d like The Beatles done by anyone else but The Beatles. I have to admit I was wrong.

Ah, and I said cameo didn’t I? Bono sings. Joe Cocker sings. Eddie Izzard does too. Selma Hayek dances in a kinky nurse’s uniform. They’re each in the movie for no longer than 3 minutes each, but they added to the flair and feel of the whole thing perfectly without standing out too much.

What I loved about this was something most musical movies made today lack (including Sweeny Todd). No one needed to suddenly burst into song like our local “bi-scopes”. The singing, when it happened transitioned from situations so naturally that it felt damn fine.

Enough of my yapping. Watch it if you can get a hold of a copy. Its worth it, even if you aren’t into musicals. There seriously should be more movies like this.

PS. Do NOT watch the trailer. It doesn’t do the film much justice.

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