Music Analysis:
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Nil Nuwan - A Lovers' Romance.A Nature's Dance
Album: Akuru Meki Ne, Sinhalese

Do you ever wonder why some songs just capture the better of you and linger in your heart and mind forever - those songs that inevitably become your favorites? Well, I have my share of favorites and often, they have turned out to be allegory that showcase a deft use of language to flesh out a concept and the dramatic portrayal of the concept with creative musical expression. The hidden messages these songs reveal can be both emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating, which, in my opinion, is the essence of any great work of art. The Sinhalese song, Nil Nuwan (Blue Eyes) sung by Edward Jayakody is a worthy example to explore the subject of optimizing the creative experience.

Verse 1 - Sinhalese
Nil nuwan pengena andura gala, nuraven weli,
Mal pipena sulanga neela wala thulata guli wevi,
Sanda horen sinawee nil diya mathata pavemin,
Hade doratu vivara kalemi sondura obe namin

Verse 1 - Translation
As the darkness that drenches blue eyes falls, wrapped in desire
flowers bloom, as the wind cuddles with the blue (night) clouds
the moon shyly smiles as she floats over the blue waters
and in your name, my love, I opened the doors of my heart

Verse 2 - Sinhalese
Amba thurin thurata mal muvarada pireela
Simba thutin sitithi samanal pela geseela
Kiri kavadi sinawe pelahara dakinu risin
Mage sitha golu wela

Verse 2 - Translation
Flowers on the many mango trees are full of nectar
kissing them, butterflies remain lined up in joy,
anticipating the magic of the white limestone like smile
my mind has become mute

Verse 3 - Sinhalese
Lema hasun rangum pa manamath kalado?
Ratha tholin tholata dee senehasa rakeedo?
Sitha sathuta genawe obamaya, mage sithath
Oba langa nevathila

Verse 3 - Translation
With enchants of the swans’ bossom, did they (you) enthrall?
By pressing red lips, did they (we) preserve love?
It is you that has brought joy to my heart, and my heart,
it seems, I have left behind with you

Nil Nuwan paints a romantic episode between lovers with the beautiful colors and events of nature that it virtually generates two movies in your mind that can be enjoyed separately, but for optimum experience, need to be viewed in conjunction. This song was written by Amarasena Kankanamge and sung by Edward Jayakody, who is one of my favorite singers blessed with one of the most romantic voices in Sri Lanka. Music by maestro Rohana Weerasinghe is very melodic and, accented by Jayakody’s voice,  captures the feel of romance in the air, while dramatizing the concept of the song with his arrangement. The only downside to the song is its brevity and overly simple arrangement, which, unfortunately, seems to be the case with so many Sinhalese songs rich in melody and lyrical quality. This tradition-imposed trend tends to make them less grand than they really are, but that topic warrants examination by itself. That being said, I would not want anybody trying fancy remixes with this gem of a song now!

The poetry of Nil Nuwan has incredible fluidity that generates an obvious motion of events both inside and outside the bedroom while allowing the lyricist to seamlessly borrow events from nature to describe what is happening in the bedroom. Every event is expressed in the present continuous tense inviting the audience to witness the drama as it unfolds. At times the lyrics are so fluid, it is not clear what the exact events the lyricist is trying to portray are; though strangely so, that too adds to the charms of each verse creating multiple simultaneous impressions in your mind. This deft and economical use of words and tense is present throughout the lyrics although its use seems to gradually lessen as the song evolves and expressions become more clear and direct.

For example, to make sense, the first three lines of the first verse and the last three lines of the second verse can be interpreted as they are phrased musically producing the general interpretations. Then consider the revised interpretations by swapping the subjects who are experiencing the events described. This sharing of events between subjects is facilitated by the inherent fluidity of the lyrics through the use of the present continuous tense and is absolutely the highlight of the poetry.

Verse I - General Interpretation:        
Wrapped in desire as the darkness that drenches blue eyes falls,
The blooming flowers’ scent cuddles with the blue clouds,
The moon shyly smiles as she floats over the blue lake,

Verse I - Interpretation II:     
As the darkness that drenches blue eyes falls,
flowers bloom wrapped in desire,
as the wind cuddles with the night clouds,
the moon shyly smiles as she floats over the blue lake

Verse I - Interpretation III:
As the darkness that drenches blue eyes falls,
flowers bloom wrapped in desire,
cuddling with the blue clouds, moon shyly smiles (wind is omitted)
as she floats over the blue lake

Verse II – General Interpretation:
Kissing them (flowers on mango trees), butterflies remain lined up in joy, 
anticipating the magic of the white limestone like smile
my mind has become mute   

Verse II – Interpretation II:
Kissing them, butterflies remain lined up in joy, 
Anticipating the magic of the white limestone like smile
my mind has become mute   

Now, these impressions (and possibly more) will appear to an earnest music enthusiast simultaneously, maybe not on first hearing, but over repeated listenings. The highlighted lines indicate the main emphasis on each revision, which act as the catalyst for creating the varying sensations. Let’s examine them.

In the general interpretation of verse I, the mind, at times, hears the clause mal pipena sulanga (blooming flowers’ wind) as mal pipena suvanda (the blooming flowers’ scent) because the general association of a flower is with pleasant aromas and not with the wind. So with deft use of words, the lyricist not only succeeds in creating the scent of a woman, but he carries the scent up, into the skies, and fills the air with it! Similarly, the lyricist might have used the adjective nil nuwan pengena (that drenches blue eyes) with the clause andura gala (darkness falls) to also sound like kandula gala (tear falls) to add a touch of purity and innocence, but it is not clear if this was intended. In the third verse, the word lema hasun (bossom of swans) can be imagined as lema asun (couch or rest of your bossom) to enhance the duality of mental impressions that is so prominent throughout this song.

In the second interpretation of verse I, the subject experiencing the event ‘wrapped in desire’ switches from the lovers to the flowers, which in turn emphasizes the blossoming woman in receiving love; juxtapose that with the third interpretation of the shy moon coming out of the clouds smiling, and it completes a very fulfilling event with amazing touch. In the two interpretations of verse II, the lyricist, with clever placement of subjects and events, again makes a spectacle of the charming event of the woman’s smile. While the general interpretation describes the man in anticipation of his lover’s smile, the second interpretation has the butterflies (used poetically to describe the man himself), joyfully intoxicated by the flowers’ nectar, waiting lined up in anticipation of the woman’s smile; and that, in the listener’s mind, makes a spectacle of the event.

Another prominent feature, though not a rarity in most poetry, is how rhyme and rhythm are used to maintain structural coherence and lyrical flow respectively. While rhyming sounds, words, and clauses gives the song a sense of color and structure, the intrinsically fluid lyrics taps into a natural tempo which effortlessly carries the song forward, without a doubt, to the music director’s delight!

The primary consonant sounds that stand out in the song are n’ and l’ and they create the splendor of night with dark night blue (almost black) as the primary color touched with green (mango trees), yellow (moon), red (lips), and white (swans).  The use of the sound n’ decreases considerably once the night atmosphere has been created in the first verse while the l’ sound colors all three verses almost equally giving them the freshness, gentleness, and beauty they need to maintain. Silent sounds such as, nd in andura, sondura, sanda; ng in pengena, sulanga, rengum, langa; (and to a certain extent mb in amba and simba), are extensions of the n’ sound and they also add to the fluidity of the song with the driving quality of silent sounds.

Rhyme, as in many songs, is used to establish form and gel verses into a coherent song. In each verse, lines 1 and 2 - nil nuwan pengena and mal pipena sulanga (verse I), amba thurin thurata and simba thutin sitithi (verse II), lema hasun regnum and ratha tholin tholata (verse III) - as well as line 3 – sanda horen sinavee (verse I), kiri kavadi sinave (verse II), sitha sathuta geneve (verse III) - builds the structural foundation of the song. Then each verse builds its own structure on the common foundation. For example, andura gala and neela wala, nuraven weli and thulata guli wevi in lines 1 and 2 as well as mathata pavemin and sondura obe namin in lines 3 and 4 forms the complete structure of the first verse. Similarly, in the second verse, mal muvarada pireelasamanal pela geseela, and mage sitha goluwela; and in the third, pa manamath kalado and dee senehasa rakeedo complete their structure. The second and third verses share similar forms with distinctly common features in lines 3 and 4, that is, pelahara dakinu risin mage sitha goluwela (verse II) and obamaya mage sithath oba langa nevathila (verse III).

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