07 February 2015

Shall we write a new song about freedom?

There was a day in the year 1948 when a country was washed afresh by a new breeze.  It was called Independence.  Freedom was on everyone’s lips.  Every heart sang.  There were dozens of ‘freedom songs’ composed.  Most of them conflated ‘Sinhala’ or ‘Hela’ with what was then Ceylon or ‘Lanka’ in the Sinhala version.  ‘Chauvinistic!’ some would howl but not all who howled came from collectives that had suffered as much as that particular group had in the invasions and in the preservation of conquest. 

They were all beautiful songs.  Lovely lyrics.  Lovely melodies.  Beautiful rendering by artists who sang with heart. And it didn’t all evaporate in the years that followed when it became clear that what was given and taken was more frill than substance.  Throughout the rest of the 20th century there were many lyricists and singers who came up with catchy patriotic songs that inspired people to appreciate the land into which they were born, encouraged children to be good and productive citizens, and spoke of much better tomorrows for generations yet unborn. 

That country is not this country.  Those people are no longer the majority of the citizens.  Landscapes have changed.  Boundaries have been drawn, erased and re-drawn.  Invasion has not come as ‘invasion’, the conquistadores don’t name themselves as such.  Freedom has been given new meanings not so much in its affirmation but its denial.  Who would have thought back in 1948, after all, that ‘privacy’ had anything to do with freedom? Who would have thought that identities were up for theft? Who would have thought of tapping phones or grabbing date from files thought to be secure? 

Most importantly, if at that time the enemy had a color and friend had a different color, today color is largely a distraction, a decoy almost, and a totally misleading matter when counting friends and enemies.  Perhaps this is the biggest victory for those who wanted to plunder the resources of this island and enslave in one way or another its populace: we cannot trust each other and indeed we sometimes wonder if we can trust ourselves.  The enemy is no longer ‘out there’, but is happily resident in our homes and even in our minds. 

Those old songs are still lovely. The sentiments and hopes expressed still retain a lot of charm.  The melodies are picked up by children generation after generation.  But they speak of different realities, different challenges, different blueprints of edifices that may not make as much sense today as they did back then. 

So we have to write new songs of freedom.  We have to have new eyes to obtain a better view of the challenges we face.  We have to stop and ask ourselves if the paths taken lead us to the future or a tomorrow of a different kind of slavery. 

We must not forget those other and older songs, though, and this is not because they are lovely, pieces of our cultural archaeology and conjure for us the times of fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers and the idyllic times one associates with generations long gone. No, we must revisit because in those songs there is heart wrought of everything that helped us survive the terrible blows dealt by numerous brigands that invaded this fair land.  It is that heart that will help clear confusion, help us obtain the true size of the new invaders and invasions, and most importantly forge methodologies that make for a life practice that is wholesome, affirming and enhancing of everything that makes us feel blessed to have been born on this land regardless of its many ‘insufferable’ oddities and even cruelties. 

We must write new songs of freedom.  We must write with a heart that is truly ours.  As ancient as those which inspired those first lot of freedom songs written 67 years ago and as new as  the songs that will no doubt be written 67 year hence. 


Anonymous said...

aptly described. hope that right thinking and judicious lyricists will pen songs of freedom for the future without being influenced by socio economic & political culture prevalent today! It will indeed be a difficult task but doable.

Anonymous said...

Writing a new song ? Yes . wordings of a beautifully balanced new song surely come by you .Hope you will think about it, Malinda .