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     Nuthana Geya Kawya Sanhitha by Sunil Ariyaratne   
     Author:  Anonymous
     Dated:  Wednesday, May 04 2005 @ 08:24 AM EDT
     Viewed:  2137 times  
    Book ReviewsUnderstanding modern Sinhala lyrics
    Reviewed by Prof Sunanda Mahendra

    For quite sometime the Sinhala terms gitaya, gipadamala, gipadarachana, gita rachana have been commonly used to denote the English term lyrics or the compositions that go into the making of a lyrical creation or a song which again lurk in varying meanings as used in the context of the country concerned.

    The words as sung to the accompaniment of the musical instrument lyre had been known as a lyric in the context of Greeks and handed down over the ages as a common usage.

    Today in order to either differentiate or clarify the difference between a poem and a lyrical composition the word geyapada or geya kavya had come to stay and now it is entering into the collections of lyrical compositions as is seen in the new collection of Sinhala lyrics of Professor Sunil Ariyaratna, who had been a scholar cum researcher of the subject area over a period extending to about three decades, wherein he had not only researched, but also had written quite a number of lyrics to various channels like radio, film ballet, television and cassette.

    He remains one of the constant prolific contributors to the medium as a lyric writer and most of his compositions are collected as anthologies. His anthology Makarandaya won a state literary award for the best collection of lyrics.

    In his latest collection of lyrics down the years, titled Nutana Geya Kavya Sanhita [Godage 2005] with a long introduction covers all types of lyrics written for various types of stage plays like nadagama, nurti gramophone records, radio programmes, films, audio cassettes and various other social events.

    The most striking factor in this collection is the very collection itself with forty-three creators who could be classified as professionals and another seventy-five writers classified as perhaps occasional creators or non-professional, if I am permitted to use the term taking absolute liberties from the classification.


    But I am at a loss to understand whether this classification is methodical or scientific, for the simple reason that a person may write one good lyric in his lifetime, and still remain to be a good lyric writer well remembered and need no reason why he or she should not be classed as professional.

    For instance, a person may have written thousand words for songs sung by popular singers or churned out lyrical compositions in thousands for the radio due to the fact that he or she happened to be engaged in that field.

    Should this be a criterion to be taken seriously? The compiler's intention, I feel is to represent the various periods and channels where the song had been used in order to make available the words for the sake of a study at various levels. As such I found the long preface surfing the trends of creativity originating from sources where the words and the songs had been used.

    His starting point is Pilippu Singho, the creator attributed to the very first nadagama, where he lays down three of his popular songs with abstruse verbal patterns yet when sung emerges to be a pleasing song.

    This, I think is a paradoxical situation for some of the songs with Hindi melodies have been dubbed into Sinhala or Sinhala words coined to suit the Hindi melody may look absurd meaningless oddities if the words are separated from the melody, yet when sung, pleases the ear as a result of the original tune. Passing several ages, the compiler traces the gradual development of the Sinhala lyric as it stands today in the popular cultural milieu.

    From another perspective the Sinhala giya or gitaya [the song] has its different connotations. One example is the gikavya genre like the classic kavsilumina. Why was that classic denoted as gikavy? The normal pattern of understanding is that the term "gi"[gitaya] is used to denote a song.

    But "kavi" is poetry. As such the term gikavya belongs to a genre of poetry but geya kavya may refer to words in songs minus the musical interpretation. But what exactly is a song separated from its musical component?

    In the Sinhala literary canons as found in textual interpretation the poet is the person who can even create a song and the classification into a narrow category is hardly possible. In this context of understanding and interpretation, the poet himself is qualified to be a lyric writer and the two terms are synonymous.


    One more intention of the compiler is to help the literary enthusiast to examine the words as written down in the form of lyrical compositions and their changing patterns in creative communications with the ensuing changes brought about by the growth of mass media channels. As such the words that go into the making of songs have to be considered as creative literary messages in mass media channels.

    In this direction the compiler leaves no stone unturned in his findings of types of Sinhala lyrics written over the years giving access to major and minor contributions, allowing the reader and the scholar to examine the various verbal patterns experiences and interpretations in the area of diction linked with the making of a song irrespective of its media.


    It is mentioned in the resume to the book that the introduction of the gramophone in 1904, the beginning of the radio broadcasting system in 1925 and the wide spread of the cassette towards 1970s enabled the growth of the Sinhala song over the years, making it a more effective and popular medium of expression. Today the song is one of the most popular forms of expression and one of the most controversial factors in the creative communication forms.

    This is visualized in such a manner that a major part of the music broadcasting is devoted by the FM channels and the television services both in the capacity of a commercial venture as well as other means.

    This careful collection of Sinhala lyrics [just a handful from thousands according to the compiler] over the years could be received by two major sections of our society, the popular song lover who is attuned to the popular broadcasting channels and the sensitive song lovers and academics who so wish to conduct researches on the subject of musicology.


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