Garrett Field, in The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, vol XXXIII, No 1, 2012, pp. 1-24.
This article highlights commonalities of regional nationalism between the poetry and song of two Hela Havula (The Pure Sinhala Fraternity) members: Rapiyel Tennakoon and Sunil Santha. I reveal how their creative works advocated indigenous empowerment in opposition to Indian cultural hegemony, and against state solicitations for foreign consultation about Sinhala language planning and Sinhalese music development. Tennakoon challenged the negative portrayal of Sri Lankan characters in the Indian epic, the Ramayana, and Santa fashioned a Sri Lankan form of song that could stand autonomous from Indian musical influence. Tennakoon lashed out against the Sinhala-language dictionary office’s hire of German professor Wilhelm Geiger as consultant, and Santa quit Radio Ceylon in 1953 when the station appealed to Professor S.N. Ratanjankar, from North India, for advice on designing a national form of Sri Lankan music. Such dissent betrays an effort to define the nation not in relation to the West, but to explicitly position it in relation to India. A study of Tennekoon’s and Santa’s careers and compositions supplement the many works that focus on how native elite in South Asia fashioned a modern national culture in relation to the West, with an awareness of the regional nationalist, non-elite communities—who also had a stake in defining the nation—that were struggling against inter-South Asian cultural hegemony.
Keywords: Regional nationalism; Sinhala poetry; Sinhala music; Linguistic politics; Song text; Modernist reforms.
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