A brawl involving dozens of people ended a media event centred on a seemingly minor aspect of Sri Lankan popular culture. Yet the incident is seen by some analysts as indicative of the growing cultural chasm between academics from International Non Governmental Organisations (INGO) and the “common man”.
At the heart of the fracas is Wally Bastian‘s famous Baila song “Surangani Ta Malu Genawa” (video of modern version with risqué dancing below).
The title of the song translates literarily as “fish has been brought for Surangani” though the truer meaning would be “we have brought fish for Surangani” The event was well attended by journalists, Wally Bastian fans, recording industry representatives and students of popular culture. As a result the Rural Up Country Mango Cultivation Ministry Media Centre Auditorium on Mudervugura Road was packed beyond capacity.
The media event was called by the Ms Surangani referred to in the song’s title and lyrics. Its goal was to ” formally confirm and accept the delivery of the fish that is also mentioned in the song”. The conference began with a statement read out by Ms Surangani’s spokesperson Mr Vahenathikata. In her statement, Ms Surangani formally stated that she did receive the fish mentioned in the lyrics but did not consume it as she is a life long vegetarian. She then went on to state that she will no longer accept further deliveries of fish and appealed to the public to consider vegetarianism as a humane dietary choice.
Despite successfully maintaining her anonymity, Ms Surangani said that her family used the song to humiliate her away from vegetarianism. She attributed she ability to stay true to her vegetarianism through the “sheer power of will”. Made possible by meditation and observing the 8 precepts every full moon poya day.
Ms Surangani said that she will not be seeking any kind of legal action against the Wally Bastian estate or the recording industry. The announcement brought an audible sigh of relief from recording industry representatives and their legal teams.
The statement went on to say that Ms Surangani’s non consumption of fish was a personal choice and not a negative judgement on the fisheries industry or those who are engaged in it.
The second item on the agenda was meant to be a cultural appraisal of the song’s significance “tailored for the lay person”.
Critics have generally viewed the song as merely an excuse for a highly danceable tune. Its near half century of popularity is also attributed to simple lyrics which are easy to remember when drunk. The speaker, Professor Pandithamuka of the Foundation for Analytical Research and Teaching had a different interpretation. An interpretation that turned a sedate cultural evening in to a destructive bar fight.
In a paper published in the Journal of Neo Post Colonial Re-contextualised Identity Culture and Gender Studies, the professor argued that the fish mentioned in the song is a meta signifier. Representing both the objectification of female gender roles and rationalising of fish genocide vis-à-vis capitalist consumerism. The professor expanded his paper’s claims by denouncing what he described as “Nihilistic Chauvinism” ingrained in Sri Lankan culture. He stressed the need for “civilised pacifism” which he said is critical to conflict prevention.
He called the government’s war on the LTTE similar to the “mistake” the European powers made by going to war with Hitler. “Carnage of WW2 could have been avoided if Hitler was allowed to do what he wanted”. Similarly he said that the best way to end terrorism is to “give the terrorists what they want”. He then tore down the picture of Wally Bastian placed on stage calling him and his songs “enablers of warmongering fascist hedonism”.
The audience which had been listening to his speech in growing unease tried to reach the stage to save the picture. They were led by several Wally Bastian fans who had come to the event in hope of catching sight of the illusive Surangani. They were obstructed by iPhone brandishing supporters of the professor. In the ensuing fisticuffs traditional oil lamp toppled from the stage onto electrical equipment shorting out the auditorium’s state of the art sound system. The ensuing smoke triggered a panicked evacuation resulting in smashed chairs and a few thankfully minor injuries.
The professor was seen being escorted out of the building via the stage door just as the fighting began. However he appeared in a you tube video wearing a bandage cross his head denouncing the “average Sri Lankan’s intolerance of free speech”. It was subsequently reported that the professor had left for the UK to accept the William Joyce medal for free speech in a “challenging climate”. The professor who is a fellow at the John Amery Institute for Peace and Media Studies is not expected to return to the island in the near future.
Spokesperson for the Department of Cultural Recreation and Popular Music who organised the event expressed shock and outrage at the professor’s behaviour. She also promised that the department will do everything it can to assist members of the audience injured during the incident. Police are seeking to interview members of the professor’s unregistered organisation Militant Pacifists For Peace.
The deputy non cabinet minister for Rural Up Country Mango Cultivation has cut short his official visit to Liechtenstein with the departmental dance troupe. He is due to arrive in the island shortly – flying business class as a demonstration of ministerial austerity. In a media release, the minister has expressed his shock and disgust at what he called “the despicable behaviour” of the professor whom he branded a “terrorist”. The minister ended his message with “Despite these shocking events we will recover, we will rebuild and we will prosper”.
-Dissociated Fake Press-