Asian-European Music Research Journal (2020-12-01)

Hindustani Classical Music in Sri Lanka: A Dominating Minority Music or an Imposed Musical Ideology?

  • Meddegoda, Chinthaka Prageeth

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6
pp. 41 – 50


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In Sri Lanka, the various groups of Tamils are jointly the largest minority group who migrated from different places of South India and in different time periods. South Indian music is widely appreciated and learnt by both the Sinhala including by large parts of the Tamil minority spread over Sri Lanka. Although a number of Sinhala people prefer and practice North Indian music geographically, and probably culturally, they are much closer to South India than to North India. Some historical sources report that Sinhalese are descendants of North Indians who are believed to be Aryans who migrated from Persia to the Northern part of India in the 13th century and later. Therefore, some scholarly authorities believe that the Sinhalese ‘naturally’ prefer North Indian music as they also continue the suggested Aryan heritage. Nevertheless, some other sources reveal that the North Indian music was spread in Sri Lanka during the British rule with the coming of the Parsi Theatre (Bombay theatre), which largely promoted Hindustani raga-based compositions. This paper explores selected literature and opinions of some interviewees and discusses what could be the reasons for preferences of North Indian music by the Sinhalese. The interviewees were chosen according to their professional profile and willingness to participate in this research. As a result, this paper will offer insights through analysing various opinions and statements made by a number of interviewees. The research also considered some theories which may relate to the case whether Hindustani classical music is due to these reasons a dominating minority culture or a rather self-imposed musical ideology. The latter would establish an aesthetic hierarchy, which is not reflected in the cultural reality of Sri Lanka. This is a new research scrutinizing a long-term situation of performing arts education in this country taking mainly interviews as a departing point.