Bustin’ the Tunes

Guilty pleasure: A still from the video for Oba Tharam by Theekshana Anuradha

Taking public transport is always one of the best ways to get a feel for a place. On buses, trains and trams across the world, I’ve had fun, enlightening, bizarre and scary experiences. Some of my most memorable were on my trip to Sri Lanka just before Chrimble. One journey, in particular, I intend to incorporate into a future post. For now, I’m just going to put up a couple of clips of the Sinhalese pop tunes that scored my experiences of long-haul bus trips, north and south.

The lush, rather overproduced strings in this first song remind me of some of my Motown faves. It’s clearly from a different era and it stuck in my head because it was one of the first songs they played on my very first journey north to Dambulla. Another reason I remember it is because, minutes earlier, a young lad in the seat in front of me had just chundered a rivulet of luminous green gunk out of the window.

Realising what was about to happen, the fellow in the seat next to me leaned across and – with the speed of a striking mantis – pulled my window shut before the slime could reenter and completely drench me. I say completely because I still got a fair coating along my right arm. I’d just given the boy and his brother some Doraemon stickers that didn’t stick. That’s how he repaid me. He turned and smiled sheepishly through the gap in the chairs, as his mum dabbed at his mouth with a tissue.

This second tune was in rotate on the bus south from Bandarawela to Matale. The flutes and the vocals of the chorus bumped around my head for weeks afterwards, but it was only last week that I tried to find out what the song was called. I uploaded the clip to YouTube and posted it up on a Sri Lankan entertainment forum but no one responded. Then a kind chap gave me the answer in in the comments under the video.

Below is the full song. It’s unmitigated pap and the video rammed that home. Like an attempt to rekindle a holiday romance on home soil, outside its specific circumstances, it is stripped of everything that made it special. Yet, paradoxically, it will forever exist for me somewhere beyond space and time – a Platonic ideal of pop crappery.

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