05 June 2014

A part-composed song

Who does not look back at schooldays without a smile?  Few, I would venture.  Schooldays, if we look back in sober reflection, wasn’t all about bright sunny days, fun and camaraderie.  Most school children have suffered their general quota of bad days where homework was not done, preparation was too poor to yield correct answers to questions directed at them by teachers, being bullied by class bullies and older students and so on.  And yet, by and large, we look back less with anger than with wistfulness.  There are times we wish we could go back. Time has a way of dulling the bad times and accentuating the happier moments.  We are left with nostalgia.

There are two songs about ‘school days’ which became very popular.  The first is Clarence Wijewardena’s ‘Sandak besa giya avara gire…’  Later, we had, Shalitha Abeywickrema’s ‘Sulange lelena'.  The latter was written by Vipula Dharmapriya Jayasekera.  It’s a simple song that draws from the ayanna-aayanna of memory as it pertains to school days.  It speaks of the innocence of that time of ‘Sama’ and ‘Amara’, the dreams that were dreamed (which naturally did not turn into realities later on) and observes that there were countless other ‘Samas’ and ‘Amaras’ from this class or that, who later occupied those very same seats in those very same classrooms, dreaming similar dreams.  It is a smile-provoking song.  Soft.  Just like the lyricists.

We know songs.  We know vocalists.  We rarely wonder who wrote which songs.  We know the names of ‘well-known lyricists’ simply because they’ve written so much and are talked about a lot.  But there are songs we love, songs that are part of our growing up, songs that mark key moment in our lives for one reason or another, songs whose words we know by heart and whose melodies we can and do hum now and then and yet the names of whose authors escape us.

Vipul is not known the way Mahagama Sekera is known, for obvious reasons.  Perhaps Sekera is not the person we should compare him with.  We know, however, that there are one-hit wonders, lyricists (just like vocalists) who are celebrated no end just because some song was a ‘hit’ (never mind the fact that it could be forgotten a few months later).  We know that mediocrity can be erased by the right kind of publicity. We know that being pushy and having money and contacts can help.  The better lyricists are known by the discerning but not always do they become household names.  Some are not helped by the fact that they are humble and self-effacing, but then again they are the type for whom work counts and reputation is of little value.  Like Vipul.

The near and dear know.  Colleagues know.  Those who have for one reason or another encountered them, they also know.  Vipul passed on a few days ago.  His facebook account is flooded with appreciation that clearly he did not enjoy while alive.  They celebrate his word and more so his ways.  They grieve his passing. 

He was simple and simple too are his words.  And yet, just as his life clearly spoke of profound understanding of the world around him and more importantly the human condition, simply on account of his simple ways, so too did his ‘simple words’ or rather their easy configuration gave us insights into the eternal verities.  He knew how to work music into the lyric.  His mastery of rhythm would have made the task of composer that much easier.  It is as though he was writing the rhythm of his world view and his preferred manner of engaging with world and human being had found in lyric a mirroring medium.  

He was relatively young, this unassuming man about whom many said ‘you would never forget his voice and ways if you ever got the chance to listen to him or meet him’.  He was so young that his passing shocked one and all.  And although he’s written countless songs, the youthfulness of his ways and the goodness that was apparent in countenance, voice, words and his doing as well as not-doing, probably provoked the following widely held perception: ‘oba liya ivara nethi kaviyaki (you are a song that is only part composed)’.  Such songs ironically and sadly make for constant commemoration that what might be called ‘completed work’.  His work was not finished, is the conclusion, but that’s only a reflection of commemorator’s grief.  Vipul lived.  Completely.  We, incomplete in many ways, lament his passing.