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The Asia Society prison. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Ligue Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. About 9000 miles from New York is a country which many people consider one of the loveliest in aid yet it is Ceylon. It has an area of about 25000 square miles and a population of about 11 million people. And as most of you probably know its capital is Colombo. We have on our program two very attractive and interesting people from Ceylon and their names are in fact they're husband and wife. Their names are A.J. guna Vagana and his wife just yet going about Annette. Mr Goh Nevada I know is here on leave from video diet University in Ceylon where he lectures in English. The present time he is studying for his doctoral candidate at York
University and he is assistant editor of the drama review there. His wife is an actress and singer in fact is studied at one point with Ravi Shankar. She's well known in her own country and many recitals. They're going to talk about Ceylon from the point of view of the culture which has begun to re-emerge as a country of an ancient culture about as you know Ceylon did not achieve its full independence under nine hundred forty eight. At which point it became a member of the British Commonwealth nations and emerged as a country completely on its own. Mr. going to vote and we're not these lovely dances and songs performed while the British and the Dutch and other people occupied your country. They were there. Performed as much as they were today. But the suffer. It was that the intellectuals by and large
taught them inferior to the Western forms that were introduced by the Dutch and Portuguese and English over the years things to be the snobbery that all people feel about when other people do. So you have a greater sense of freedom and fulfillment now. Yes it's going to OT why did you come to the United States to take a doctorate degree. What made you choose this country. There were two reasons one I have been in this country in 1961 and I spent several months at Harvard and then I decided that for me it would be better to come to the United States than go to England which is the traditional place that most salamis go to for their post-graduate work. Because I sense that the teaching here
is more suited to our times in terms of the structure of the programs and the scope of the syllabus. I understand that in Ceylon most people first we have a very high rate of literacy in your own main language of SA that is Sinhalese isn't it. Yes yes and then your other language says Tom he'll come along. Yes but that many people speak English as well. Yes that is entirely due to the fact that so long as nearly a hundred and fifty years by the English and English was therefore the language of the government of the courts of justice of education necessarily and it became economically important to know English because otherwise you're going to get a job in government service which is the main source of
employment and it's useful anyway whether the British are there or not so it was no harm done in that respect. This is going to vote and is it unusual for a woman to sue not to be an actress other very few. I've been saved by. It's not and that's to see women acting like it. But just a few women. Professional professionally. Yes but that there has been no taboo of it forgot to take part in theatre. Cinema Amagansett in other parts of Asia and there are no objections from husband. You know except in the domestic context as
years if any beyond the sort of marriage you fear works out best. But apparently your husband is going to find it takes great pride in your honor and he wouldn't have the temerity to object. Do you like films or do you like live performances. Are you are basing it on all these people. Yes. How long did you study with Ravi Shankar. This was only for one semester. A city count when he came over here are you not in India. I didn't go to him when he came to you when you know. When we give this. History of Indian music at city hall when I was the only time I could study and going to India and studying under him I would have been a problem. Where did you learn to play and dad saying in your own country. Yeah. Later on I'd like artists know that you are going to play and sing
and we will get to that shortly. But I thought maybe we should go to our main topic which is the folk culture of Ceylon which is still not too well known to the west and we're afraid India has got more attention and I think you want to talk about some of the customs for example the fact that your country is primarily agricultural it's not too industrialized and yet you may be sorry but you want to be a go ahead. And there were some harvesting songs that I think this is going to vow to not wanting to sing. Or would you rather talk a little bit about the aquaculture and then get to the songs. Yes the songs are connected with the cultivation of rice which is a staple food. Women do a great deal of the harvesting itself and this thing this sort of song when they harvest the when they reap the party.
And these are actually books songs that said basically them which helps them endeavor that has that. So if Tulisa is ready to be nice to hear her now. Oh. And he. And. I. And. I do. I did and did. Oh yeah. Yeah.
Oh yeah. Oh.
Boy. Oh boy. I did. With the song song and single. Yes yes. Is that
similar to any of the Indian languages. Yes it is. Belong Singhalese belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and therefore it is a letter to several of the North Indian languages like Hindi and Bengali and others that have derived from Sanskrit which is the language for most of these in dealing with the contents of your songs and this is going about in what was a song by which people cheer themselves up while they are well you just you know it's supposed to relieve me or help themselves you know. As you said. Yeah do women do most of the heavy work in Silom in harvesting it's not the heavy work I would see but in collecting the grain.
What other kind of a parody that the kind of work is done by women. Do women work outside the home much aside from that. Oh yes they work in offices and you mean to say yes yes yes yes I'm not going to endorse their work in the plantations they work in Revlon plantations. And in any other area as I said before there is no poor about women working. What sort of work do the men do that they're more in government service. Partly but the vast majority of the population is engaged in farming of some type and other. I understand that one of your special celebrations as it is in many parts of the world is the new year the lunar new here and yours it comes out at a different time because of the calendar. Or was that always in April. Getting there but it's in the second week of April 13
that in 14th of April do you do anything which is on usual that we might not know yet. It's very much like Christmas but without religious associations it would matter then if the person was a Hindu or a Buddhist or Moslem he would celebrate this new year. Muslims wouldn't. This is essentially Hindu and Buddhist I see. Yes Muslims don't. Now there are some songs also connected with this which relation good about me is going to sing out. Yes these songs. Basically related to the festivities it is customary at this time to put up swings on branches of trees and for boys and girls and even grownups to sing. And by this wing they also sing and
the songs that you will hear now want a little of this activity. Oh. God. Now if that is at all you're going to sing in this group sing song.
Yes all right. Well then suppose we go on with some more talk about still on and then we'll come back and hope to hear you once more. I understand that you have the most venerated Buddhist temple in the world in sit on which is situated in Condi K and candy. K. and the Y that is was about to form a capital C. Yes it was a Basque capital of Salaam before. Yes yes and this is called the temple of the tooth. Right. Yes. Why what is the significance of that really do you suppose in trying. And I took off the book and it has a history that goes back to the time of the builder and it is believed by most 70 years and we're just all all over the world that the dis is a genuine relic and they come from India or from Burma from tide and in other places to
worship here and it has also been associated with kingship kingship into law so that the person who is discussed already and off the second he's automatically entitled to the crown. If there is a dispute still you are no longer Monica you have no going Who is your chief officer the Governor General of Police. If he wants to represent the queen no he is appointed by the Queen that is to say by the prime minister of sort on the left and head of the government. It is it is exactly similar to the system of training in Australia or Canada. But you no longer have a monarchy you don't know don't have a game going on as you do in Thailand.
Oh yes and at one time you had a woman prime minister. Yes quite a while ago I wondered whether women therefore are active in politics generally speaking. Yes there are many women hold elective offices quite intimate at one time we had about five women members of parliament and we had a minister cabinet minister with whom. Yes it's universal suffrage. Yes we have had that for almost 40 years now I see. I know that there are many aspects of your culture which we naturally cannot cover on the program but I think you know this word candy be such a pretty word and being the name of a city a form of capital that that there are dances connected with this they call the candy. That's right you know as I was the considered the outstanding dancers of Ceylon. Yeah that's the that's the one dance form that we have
which is. Classical in its orientation and it is indigenous to so long. All that acid that's destroying India has most of a cultural artifact. But like any man like some Indian dances What would they be like it would be similar in certain respects but it is authentic Alysa the knees and its title is altogether different from and think about a book that it would find in India with them and this is going about in a way that these dances of course must have music I guess doing opening them and there are some songs I think you are going to sing seven of those. The song I'm going to sing it because they're
the walk of the negate the cost to men and women perform you know not just women not only men and women. Yesterday a five but we would enjoy hearing those now. So saith. The. Gun and then bang
them. In. Then. And I. Thought I won the game. That.
That was that was very very nice. You know the there's a very great fascination to the rhythms of the song. Would you be saying another one going to Wagner or that be it anyway if we could just ask Miss to go to Wagner for a moment. The Performing Arts the main part of the culture of salon or the Creative Arts also playing a part you know such as painting in the composition of music so all of these all of these in fact I would say that what you call the creative. Equally important in our culture we have some of the finest sculptures in the world. Two thousand years old. No but I mean these days other people use humanitarian creating today although the theatre at the present time is the
most popular form about new plays being written or Germany the classic support for new plays are being written all the time and Western players translated that that is also a certain amount of film work going on isn't there. You're making quite a few movies. Yes yes. Well I thank you both very much for coming it does gives us give us a glimpse of a country about which we'd like to know more I think more and more tourists are going to sit on. If I'm not mistaken guess perhaps this will induce more people to visit your land and I'd like to say that our guest on this program have been aging Vagana and his wife truly mystical in about an assistant editor of the drama review at New York University where he is taking his doctoral candidate in where he is a doctoral candidate in Seattle. Too late you're going to vote in a is an actress and singers you studied with Ravi Shankar together I think they make a very marvelous
husband and wife. This is Lee Graham saying goodbye hoping you've enjoyed this edition of the Asia Society presents and ask you to remember that. Well the east is east and west is west. We do think the time has come for the twain to me. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. The series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
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Asia Society presents
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
Talk Show
Global Affairs
Race and Ethnicity
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:25:08
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