THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

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Umara is a singer originally from Sri Lanka who now lives in Hong Kong, and this gig at Peel Fresco on Friday night was, I think, her first gig since giving birth.

Her cheering squad were in full force, and Umara is very good with a repertoire comprising the usual crowd pleasers for those who needs its fix of the all-too familiar Top 40 staples, plus a few surprises- far more percussive material and where the backing band and her became one.

For a venue like Peel Fresco, it all worked.

Can it work elsewhere?

In Hong Kong and venues like Backstage, yes, but I am stumped as to how far an artist like this and this hodge podge of material can travel.

As I said, it’s good, but covering songs by Adele and Beyoncé is not exactly ground breaking. And ground breaking is what’s needed today.

What can be groundbreaking?

Well, when you hear it, you know it- Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Adele, Lauryn Hill, Lorde, and Malaysia’s amazing Yuna come to mind.

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Having said this, it was a pleasant evening with a backing band made of three Sri Lankans playing with a fervour not heard in a long time.

Frankly, I have not heard drummer DC play with such passion. He was in his comfort zone and which only proved that seasoned musicians should stay in their groove and, despite needing other paying gigs, if at all possible, stay true to your craft and do what you do best.

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What I would dearly love to hear is a group of musicians from Sri Lanka stop being copyists and lounge-type singers, and, instead, taking all those rhythms- especially those Kandyan dance rhythms- from one of the most beautiful, but politically mangled and corrupt islands in the world, and create a new sound, but which avoids being labeled “World Music”.

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I am talking about some spicy “Rainbow Music”- as spicy as a typical Sri Lankan meal- where there are great melodies and lyrics, yes, but set in a “new environment” of unique rhythms accompanied by a show that captures the sights, and sounds of what is my birthplace.

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What I’d love to see is something that provides a powerful new voice to those wonderful local people in the South, and Up Country, especially, who have lost so much to foreign opportunists and, worst of all, those Sri Lankan con artists now living abroad, who make fleeting trips “back home” to take even more than they have while only pretending to give.

And some of us know exactly who they are- and their cons.

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