By Indi Samarajiva
On December 18, Sri Lanka will host the Electric Peacock Festival in Negombo. Sri Lanka has seen pop acts from the past (Cliff Richard) and the present (Sean Paul) but the Electric Peacock Festival will bring down a batch of independent bands for the first time.
This type of music, loosely called indie rock (among other things), often looks and sounds like the classic bands of yore — The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds — essentially guitar, bass and drums. On the other end, the festival is also bringing down modern hip-hop and beat based electronic music which is still more organic and diverse than the waves of house that have been repeating at Sri Lankan beach parties for over five years now. As a preview, this section will review some of the acts scheduled to arrive as well as providing links where you can listen to their music online. The Duke Spirit: This is a band band. On the recording you can hear depth, guitar fuzz, human drums, plucked bass, and how it all comes together. Led by a leggy blonde backed by hairy men in tight pants they are a rock band above all else. The sound is pure instrumentation, more peacock than electric. (myspace.com/thedukespirit)
Trophy Wife: This is one on the more emo (emotional) end of the rock spectrum. Here, the same instruments (guitar, bass drums) are more ethereal and — though they would shudder at the comparison, Coldplay-eque. This type of music is danceable, but without the fuzz and rough edges of bands like The Duke Spirit.
Covert Boom: Putting the guitars down, Covert Boom begins the line-up of DJs. This London based electronic act combines everything from hip-hop to electronic in a rough but still beat driven mix. Some tracks on their MySpace mix rapper Jay-Z with drums and bass, among other things.
Funk Royale Soundsystem: Also DJs, this act, however, is more organic than covert boom. Despite using samples, the sound they seem to emulate is 1970s era funk, bass-driven, lyrically loose and eminently danceable.
Finally, as perhaps the headliner, BBC’s DJ Nihal will also be performing. Nihal Arthanayake, born to Sri Lankan parents in the UK, has emerged as one of the main cultural ambassadors for Asian/Desi hip-hop/electronic fusion music. He hosts an Asian music radio show, the Bombay Bronx and will now be DJing back in Sri Lanka. Other acts include Maldivian guitarist Fasy Live and DJ Maz.
The Electric Peacock is bringing all these acts down to Negombo on December 18 for what promises to be a unique event. While Sri Lanka has been exposed to global pop culture, this is its first major connection to the independent, creative music culture that drives the cosmopolitan youth worldwide. Even if President Mahinda Rajapaksa can’t speak to the Oxford Union, we can still hear what the students are listening to this December. For more information check out www.electricpeacockfestival.com, and almost all of the artists have music available online.