When I was on the bus going from one gorgeous beach to another on the west side of it island of Sri Lanka, the best island music was playing through the intercoms. I had no idea what the songs were saying - but it was vaguely reminiscent of reggae music you hear in the Bahamas, beaches of Mexico, under palm trees in Hawaii. Maybe all island music was the same, no matter what island you were on.
This podcast from AfroPop Worldwide basically confirms that and digs into the roots of India & Sri Lanka’s international origin. It is an amazing history of sounds, and makes M.I.A.’s second and third album international sampling a little less “exotic” and more “inherent” to the musical styling of Sri Lankan music.
African Sounds of the Indian Subcontinent
In this Hip Deep program, we explore musical connections between Africa and the Indian subcontinent. First, we hear the story of the Afro-Indian Sidi community. Starting in the 13th century, Africans arrived in India as soldiers in the armies of Muslim conquerors. Some were able to rise through the ranks to become military leaders and even rulers in India. Their descendents continue to live in India today, performing African-influenced Sufi trance music at shrines of a black Muslim saint named Baba Gor. Next, we dive into the swinging jazz era of 1930s Bombay, when African-American jazz musicians arrived by the dozen to perform at the glitzy Taj Mahal Hotel. They trained a generation of Indian jazz musicians who would become instrumental in the rise of India’s Hindi film music industry. Then, we head south to Sri Lanka, where Africans have had a presence for almost 500 years. We explore their history through the groovy Afro-Indo-Portuguese pop music style known as baila, popularized by 1960s star Wally Bastiansz and still performed at parties around Sri Lanka today. Last, we speak with Deepak Ram, a Indian jazz flutist who recounts his experiences growing up Indian in apartheid South Africa. Throughout, we speak with leading experts, and of course, hear fantastic - and often unexpected - music.
Also - check out the blog on the same subject: Baila for Dummies: A Quick Guide to Sri Lanka’s Afro-Portugese Pop Music.