The developing world exports musicians, but it rarely imports them. Sri Lankan origin M.I.A. and Somalian born K’naan have both broken big on the international scene, the latter recently penning World Cup hit Wavin’ Flag.
Some expat musicians, however, are returning south, including Bangladeshi born Kohinoor. She will be performing at Colombo’s Warehouse Project next week. Since leaving Bangladesh, Kohinoor settled in Norway. It is now the Norwegian Embassy that’s bringing her to Sri Lanka to tour and conduct musical training as part of their programme of music cooperation, an emphasis on music that will culminate in the Jaffna Music Festival in 2011.
They have previously brought Norwegian jazz and reggae groups on tours of Sri Lanka and now they, along with local NGO Sewa Lanka, are bringing the self described Rasta/Hip-Hop artist to the island. According to her MySpace page, “The typical Rastafarian has African roots, is critical to a one-sided western system, has dreadlocks, is a vegetarian, smokes herbs, and worships Haille Selassie. Kohinoor scores only 50 per cent on this test.” She leaves the reader to guess what fifty percent. Kohinoor is a singer, but her songs like Voodoo Tango and Sweat and Sour are backed by world music/hip-hop type beats. One song called Shake Our Pom Pom could easily be a call to objectification of women but includes lyrics like “what we need is gentlemen to treat us well for being ourselves, what we need is gentlemen who treat us well and pretend we are dancing when we shake our pom pom.”
She is openly critical of the ‘western system’, saying “How can we stop talking about apartheid when decisions of the globe’s future still is governed by a white minority?” She remains, however, a Norwegian brought down here by the Norwegian government, presumably part of the western system. She could be addressing this theme in Deal With The Devil Radio, though that seems to be more a reference to the usual lure of fortune and fame, ‘stage became my cage, trapped in my music trapped in my rage… Now I have to sing to break free.’
On her tour of Sri Lanka, Kohinoor will be holding free concerts around Colombo and conducting a workshop in Matara. Her group is holding free performances at Town Hall, Negombo at 7 pm (November 12) and a workshop at Sanasa Hall, Matara at 10 am (November 7). The main concert for concert goers in Colombo will be at the Warehouse Project, a refitted warehouse near the Elphinstone Theatre in Maradana. That show will be on Wednesday the 10th at 7 pm. Kohinoor’s music is danceable, listenable and the lyrics — despite covering the hip-hop gamut of shaking apendages and voodoo — are generally family friendly.
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