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

It is these repeated nuances and structural integrity that creates the rhythmic quality that is appealing to the music director. If you take the common structural foundation described above and count the number of syllables common to each line, you essentially get the rhythm maestro Weerasinghe finally ended up with - a simple, but a rather fast, waltz beat. The faster tempo of the song can easily be attributed to the need to maintain fluidity, which a normal waltz tempo would have hindered due to heavy pausing. The song starts off beat as the first word in each musical phrase consists of two syllables (except for nil and mal in the first verse, which are made to linger to get the same effect) as shown below.

|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|
|x- nil~-|nu-wa-n’|pe-ngena|an-du-ra|ga-la-~-|nu-ra-~-|we-n’-we|li-~- ~-|
|x- mal~-|pi-pe-na|su-langa|nee-~-la|wa-la-~-|thula-ta|gu-li-we|vi-~- ~-|
|x- sanda|ho-re-n’|si-na-~-|wee-~ ni|l’-di-ya|ma-thata|pa-~- we|min~- ~-|
|~- ~- ~-|ha-de-~-|do-ra-tu|wi-wa-ra|ka-le-mi|so-ndura|obe~- na|min-~-~-|

|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|
|x- am-ba|thuri-n’|thura-ta|mal-~ mu|va-ra-da|pi-ree~-|la-~- ~-|~- x- x-|
|x- simba|thuti-n’|si-tithi|sa-ma-na|l’-pe-la|ge-see~-la- ~- ~-|~- x- x-|
|x- ki-ri|ka-va-di|si-na-~-|we-~- ~-|~- ~- ~-|~- ~- pe|la-ha-ra|da-ki-nu|
|ri-si-n’|ma-ge-si|thago-lu|we-la-~-|

|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|1- 2- 3-|1– 2– 3-|
|x- le-ma|ha-su-n’|rengu-m’|pa-~- ma|na-ma-th|ka-la-~-|do-~- ~-|~- x- x-|
|x- ratha|tholi-n’|thola-ta|dee~- se|ne-ha-sa|ra-kee~-|do-~- ~-|~- x- x-|
|x- sitha|sathu-ta|ge-na-~-|we-~- ~-|~- ~- ~-|~- ~- o-|ba-ma-ya|ma-ge-~-|
|hi-thath|o- balan|ga-ne-va|thila-~-|

Now, with meter and tempo addressed, the composer can move onto melody and harmony, although in reality, these may not necessarily take place in the same sequence with some areas also needing to be revisited for fine-tuning. Melody is the primary mode of musical expression in Indo-Lankan (and most Asian) musical traditions, and it undoubtedly takes prominence over harmony, which is usually used to support the main melody (although western influences have shown to entice young composers to go out of the standard triads into four and even five note chords allowing for more complex harmonic movements, which is another topic to elaborate on later). Rohana Weerasinghe, by far the most accomplished music director to dominate music direction in Sri Lanka over the past two and a half decades, is well above par with his use of harmony as a means to support his melody.

The song is about love and beauty, therefore it has to exude a sense of romance and longing. While Edward Jayakody’s romantic voice brings a world of love to the composer’s ears providing a lot of the emotional flavor, to Weerasinghe’s credit, I have to point out the impressive attempts he has made to bring about the changes in mood and scenery through his music. For example, in line 1 of verse 1, he does a descent with gala to signify nightfall to turn around and do a crescendo for nurawen to build up lovers’ desire, following that with another wave-like ascent to carry the scent of flowers up into the skies (line 2), and putting the finshing touches to both phrases with a tightening of the words weli and guli (wevi). Also, listen carefully, and you can hear how a sense of longing and fluidity is being established immediately in the first 4 bars (lines 1 & 2, verse 1) by making words like nil, mal, and nuwan linger momentarily, to slow down motion while driving the silent sounds of words like pengena, andura, and sulanga. These not only establish the essence of the song, but within the context of the first verse, provide amazing contrast to the crescendos and decrescendos that follow.

From a harmonic perspective, the most striking changes come in lines 3 and 4 of verse 1 and in lines 2 and 3 of verses 2 & 3, where the composer embosses the change of scenery and mood with some clever chord changes. In sanda horen (line 3, verse 1), he contrasts the same chord change, from the root D major to the sub-dominant G major, used in the F#-G semi-tonal melodic movement in mal pipena (line 2, verse 1), but creating a completely different feeling by going to a lower pitched A-B movement. It enhances the image of the woman as she smiles shyly as well as the moon as she comes out of the clouds to light up the lake with her charms. Then, in the fourth line, hade doratu opens on G# to an E major chord, elevates with vivara kalemi into A major to rest back in the home key of D as the man makes his love known. The E major chord (the only use of a chord outside the D major scale in which the song is rooted) is the dominant chord of the key of A major, which in turn, is the dominant chord of D major; so, this is also a prime example of the use of the western harmonic concept of the Circle of Fifths to bring about change and resolution. After the above introduction of the E chord in the first verse, it is used to great effect in the song to bring about the man’s joy and sensual elevation in simba thutin sitithi and ratha tholin tholata (line 2, verses 2 & 3) with the chord progression E-A-A-E-D-A-D-D.

The next significant chord change which stands out as a catalyst for emotional movement is the use of B minor in the progression D-Bm-G-A-G-G-A-A (line 3, verses 2 & 3). This coloration is used to setup the platform to create the heightened sense of anticipation and the cry of joy and happiness that Weerasinghe brings to life with melodic twists and turns in sinawe and genawe that span four measures. These four measures stretch time, makes the listener lose track of rhythm, and virtually merges lines three and four into one musical phrase to beautifully set up the subsequent tranquility in the man’s mind. Then, he ends the fourth line with only four measures (half of the standard 8 measures present in each of the other musical phrases) to bring out the feeling and meaning of the words goluwela and nevathila.

The arrangement and instrumentation, by far the least impressive component of this song, is very minimalist, though the limited number of instruments are used symbolically to portray the concept the lyricist had in mind – nature’s dance to the love of a man to his woman. The instruments used are a string section, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass guitar, tabla, and suspended symbols. The song begins with the lyrical sound of the flowing strings which symbolizes nature as she waltzes leisurely and gleefully over a gentle strumming of a D-G-D-A harmony on the guitar; then they rise into a higher octave for an encore of the melody before the mandolin takes over with its optimistic sound touching the canvas of dark night blue painted by the strings with the brightness of the moon and its yellow-tinged lighting of the lake. Acoustic guitar, gentle bass, and suspended symbols drive rhythm and meter without overpowering the main melody. Then the strings come back for a short introduction to the chorus as if to tell the audience, “so here begins a story of love.”

The most striking aspect of the transition from the introductory interlude to the chorus is the tabla assuming rhythm from the suspended symbols in the percussion section. This may have been used to contrast the move from nature into the bedroom and give it a more human feel such as, to signify the beating of the heart, which the suspended symbols cannot provide. Edward Jayakody renders the chorus effortlessly, supported on harmony by strings, guitar, and base. The second interlude brings back the nature’s waltz to the sound of strings and mandolin before a gradual fading of the strings takes you back into the bedroom commanding the audience, “shhhh…keep quiet, keep quiet” as Jayakody and the tabla comes to the foreground again. It is fascinating how, in line 3 (verses 2 & 3), the underlying rhythm on the tabla comes dancing out of it’s peaceful waltz groove to support the man’s cry of joy before all, but a very soft string section and a mild strumming of the guitar, go mute for the last three measures’ mage sitha goluwela and oba langa nevathila (line 4). The song ends with a rendition of the full chorus and a run on the mandolin to end on an unfulfilled B minor chord, which is probably nature’s expression of dissatisfaction with a cute little “ohhh..” at seeing the end of an enchanting story of love it symbolized with a joyous waltz!

Great songs like this cannot be manufactured, like they are being done in current circles of popular music composition, not just in Sri Lanka, but around the world. Yes, at 3 minutes and 28 seconds in length, the song is too short and perhaps, too simple with its musical arrangement to provide a sense of grandeur like you feel when you listen to Hotel California, the next song I have chosen for discussion; but those, I feel, are restrictions imposed by long-standing, tested and accepted Sri Lankan musical forms, the link to which the lyricist and composer have failed to sever (I will discuss this at length in a later chapter). However, despite these shortcomings, there is a sense of perfection in the song that can only come from a clear desire, not to cash out a one-hit-wonder and retire, but from an insatiable urge to inspire an audience with genuine craftsmanship. The creativity is so overwhelming that you cannot help but wonder if Weerasinghe was just so moved by the poetic genius of Kankanamge and simply could not let him down, or maybe, he was simply saying “huh, you think you did good? Now then, look what I can do!” Whatever their sources of stimulus were, in the end, both are clear winners and due to their inspired teamwork, it is the audience who derives the optimum satisfaction; and that qualifies this song as a great work of art.

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