About this Recording
GP785 - Ekanayaka: Twelve Piano Prisms
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The Genre

The twelve works/prisms on this album evolved between 2016 and 2017. They correspond to the twelve primary notes of the keyboard and have been inspired not only by classical styles and indigenous world music but also by contemporary pop, rock and film music. Collectively, they explore two concepts.

The first is an extension of the concept introduced on my debut album, Reinventions: Rhapsodies for Piano, where each work contains adaptations of indigenous Sri Lankan folk and traditional melodies. The album contains, among other melodies, adaptations of ten of the eighteen Sri Lankan vannams. Vannams are an ancient set of dances imbued with a rich percussive character dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, which developed in the courts of kings. Vannams are secular in character and most depict specific animal movements. The word ‘vannam’ is descended from the Sanskrit ‘varnam’, which translates as ‘descriptive praise’.

This album contains adaptations of the remaining eight vannams, as well as transcreations of several other Sri Lankan folk and indigenous melodies. Some of the works also contain adaptions of traditional and ancient melodies of other countries in which I have performed or with which I have been associated musically. In some instances, I have combined adaptations of a section of a Sri Lankan melody with adaptations of sections of a melody belonging to another country to form a new blend. The effort has been to create an organic union rooted in the present ‘moment’, and yet formed through the adaptation and conflation of melodies stemming from diverse socio-cultural and historical spheres. The countries represented in addition to Sri Lanka include Armenia, Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. The adapted melodies are simply a deeply personal re-presentation of, and tribute to, their original forms and their attendant cultures and people.

The second dimension of this album relates to the relationship between the works. They are completely organic and independent. However, it is equally possible to link any or all of the twelve works in any combination with connecting improvisatory motifs to form new ones.

This owes to certain features which are shared between the works. Not only do they each contain indigenous Sri Lankan melodies but certain motifs and techniques are at times referenced across them. Some of the Sri Lankan vannams also share similar melodic patterns which further enhance the connectivity.

The term ‘prism’ is intended to reflect the manner in which sounds stemming from diverse cultures, eras and the very core of my being, meld, transform and refract through the piano to emerge as new narratives.

E Flat – July 2016/17

The motif with which this work commences is built around the notes E flat, C sharp/D flat, G, D, F sharp and F, representing the dominant tonal centres of the seven works comprising my debut album Reinventions: Rhapsodies for Piano, while its concluding sequence echoes the conclusion of the album’s opening work Adahas: Of Wings Of Roots. The central part of this work contains an adaptation of a traditional Sri Lankan folk song. It evolved in the months of July of 2016 and 2017.

B Flat – Armenia to a Pearl

The transcreations of a traditional Armenian melody and a well-known song celebrating Sri Lanka titled Lanka Lanka by the Sri Lankan musician Sunil Shantha (1915–1981), are combined in this work. It developed in February 2017 and was premiered at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Armenia in May 2017.

C – Emerald Lapwing Karpet

This work pays homage to the Phrygian dominant scale associated with Armenian music and also includes the adaptation and blend of two Sri Lankan vannams, namely the Vairodi (‘Emerald’) and Kirala (‘Lapwing’) vannams. The inclusion of the Vairodi vannam in this work is partially connected to the fact that the Emerald represents the month of May during which time this work was premiered at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Armenia in 2017. It evolved in March 2017.

D Flat – Intuition, Auld Lang Syne & an Asian Sacred

Representations of two distinctly different melodies, namely, the iconic 19th-century Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne, and the Sri Lankan Surapathi vannam feature in this work. It evolved in August 2017.

G – With Paaru Kavi

A transcreation of the famous Sri Lankan chant or kaviya, the paaru kaviya representing the vocation and life of the traditional Sri Lankan fishing community, floats among other motifs in this work. It developed in the fall of 2016 and had its world premiere at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London in January 2017.

F – Renewal & Goyam Kapuma

Evolved in the autumn of 2016, this work contains an adaptation of the traditional Sri Lankan chant Goyam Kapuma associated with harvesting rice, the dietary staple of Sri Lankans. It had its world premiere performance in London in January 2017 at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

E – Arrow-and

The Eeradi and Uranga vannams representing the arrow and reptile respectively form the core of this work which developed in August 2017. The gentle lyrical tone of the work is intended to reflect the illusive tenderness of the often misunderstood and maligned reptile.

A – Zuni Sea

Beginning with two melodic formations which are echoed subsequently, A – Zuni Sea combines adaptations of the ancient sunset song of the famed Native American Zuni Indian tribe and historic Sri Lankan Gahaka vannam. The latter represents the conch shell. It evolved in June 2017.

A Flat Scintilla: Komitas Unto Childhood

In this work, an adaptation of Chinar es by the Armenian composer and musicologist Soghomon Soghomonian known as Komitas (1869–1935), pairs with an adaptation of a famous Sri Lankan song about childhood titled Ma Bala Kale by the Sri Lankan musician, C.T. Fernando (1921–1977). It was formed in February 2017 and was premiered at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Armenia in May 2017.

B – Of Vannam & Zhuang Tai Qiu Si

Combining representations of the Sri Lankan Asadrusha vannam and the Chinese song Zhuang Tai Qiu Si, this work, which developed in September 2017, also contains representations of the Pentatonic scale often associated with Chinese music.

F Sharp – Kitty & Bambaru

This work involves the interplay between a lyrical episode dedicated to a homeless cat who wandered into and has since become domiciled in my home, and an adaptation of the famed Sri Lankan popular song Wana Bambaru (which translates as ‘Jungle Bees’) by the Sri Lankan musician, C.T. Fernando. It concludes with a brief tribute to the famed Sri Lankan song Handa-pane by the Sri Lankan musician, Sunil Shantha. The central part of this work contains a brisk scale like pattern in the left hand intended to represent the flight and buzz of bees in their natural habitat, and this subsequently blends with an adaptation of the Wana Bambaru melody. Formed in the autumn of 2016, this work received its world premiere performance at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London in January 2017.

D – Hana Hare

This work contains a reinvention of the famous Japanese song Hana by Rentarō Taki (1879–1903) and an adaptation of the Sri Lankan Musaladi vannam which translates as ‘Praise of the Hare’. It evolved in June 2017.

Dr Tanya Ekanayaka

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