Sunday, February 13, 2005

Two tsunami songs mentioned in the British parliament with kudos to Nimal Mendis

Article published in the 'Sunday Island' newspaper in Colombo
13th January 2005

by Nan

I mentioned in a previous article the fact that Nimal Mendis was so moved by the destruction and destitution caused by the tsunami that he inspirationally composed a song of the sea-caused tragedy. That was his way of coming to terms with what had happened to his homeland, which he loves so well. Nimal, needless to mention, is the composer of both the lyric and music for that wonderful plea of a tea plantation worker for justice from his British Periaya Dorai. Master Sir was the theme song of the film Kalu Diya Dahara (correct me if I am wrong on the film’s title), which song has remained perennially popular. In fact a popular singer uses it as the title of her concerts, with no by-your-leave, copyright permission or whatever from Mendis. Such are the liberties taken by our folk, through sheer inconsideration or ignorance. I tend to feel it’s the former for we as a nation are thick-skinned about appropriating what is not ours, for our benefit. So intellectual property rights are cast overboard with no compunction.

Feelings that prompted NM’s song

Coming back to my subject, Nimal Mendis composed his tsunami song as his way of saying he felt one with the people who suffered. This is his family’s special contribution. The song has already won fame. It has been translated to Tamil and Sinhala and would soon be heard by us.

According to Nimal: "I was stunned by the tsunami. Even though I was not there, I underwent the trauma of a man losing his grip on his child and the child being swept away by the water. That is what led me to write the song in ten minutes. I did not write the song for myself I wrote it for them who suffered and even as I say this, my eyes fill with tears.

"I now think of men getting drunk, taking to drugs, and isolating their women because of the suffering in their minds. I think of children and mothers and another extra great tragedy they have to cope with now, greater than the poverty and struggle they always went through in their lives, whether they be in the south, the north or east or some parts of the west. They are all our people and they are suffering and its time people do not tempt fate. As I ask in my song, ‘Did you need the Tsunami to leave wars behind?’ Each and everyone must ask this of oneself irrespective of ethnicity. It is to awake from this great slumber some Sri Lankans indulge in more than others. Do we need war and do we need another tsunami?

"As I told you, being here I prefer to crawl into a hole and cover my head and think it all is a bad dream. My only wish is that however small the funds got from my song are, it will go towards easing, if it ever can, the fragile minds that have been shattered by this disaster suffered by all - young and old, men, women and children. All of them who have been left behind to cope with bereavement that will linger on in their lives until memory fades. In an apparition of The Blessed Virgin, She once said: ‘There will come a time when the living will envy the dead."

That was Nimal speaking his heart out, not expecting to be quoted in print. But I got his permission to write about his song and the other.

The motion in the British Parliament

On February 6, it was reported in the media that British MPs deplored the racist Tsunami Song aired over Hot 97, the hip hop radio station in New York.

"Parliamentarians of all parties have objected to the tsunami song aired for over a week on Hot 97 and sung by Miss Jones and a team. Two members of the team have been fired by Emmis Radio. The song has angered people all over the world — including tsunami hit countries.

"British MPs of all parties have signed the early day motion 638 sponsored by the highly influential British Parliamentarian, Linda Perham, MP for Ilford North. EDM 638 reads thus:

‘Hot 97’s Racist Tsunami Song

That this House deplores the racist Tsunami Song aired on Hot 97 radio station in New York, calls upon Richard Cummings, President of Emmis Radio, to take firm action against those who aired the song beyond the temporary suspension, and commends the heartfelt tsunami song composed by British-Sri Lankan Nimal Mendis.

Let’s repeat that last section in the decision taken by that most prestigious body of legislators, the British Parliament: "commends the heartfelt tsunami song composed by British-Sri Lankan Nimal Mendis". Isn’t that a great honour for the composer and his country?

Many are calling for the resignation of Miss Jones. The US President has been urged to take action over Emmis Radio and Hot 97 as they have brought America into disrepute.

The two songs

I will give you the two lyrics.

The first is the Tsunami Song, aired between 18 and 27 January with DJs Miss Jones and Todd Lynn.

There was a time, when the sun was shining bright,

So I went down to the beach to catch me a tan,

Then the next thing I knew

A wave 20 feet high came and wash your country away

And all at once, you can hear the screaming Chinks.

And then no one was save from the wave

There was Africans drowning, little Chinaman swept away.

You can heard God laughing, swim you *(censored)* swim

So now you’re screwed. It’s the tsunami.

You better run and kiss your ass awake, go find you mommy

I just saw her float by, a tree right through her head

And now your children will be sold to child slavery

(imitating Michael Jackson)

Oh no, please not the kids. I’ll pay for all the kids.

All the little Indonesian kids, the little Asian kids, the Chinese kids,

The black, oh well, not the Black kids.

The white kids, the Puerto Ricon kids.

I love them all. I’ll pay for everything.

I promise, I won’t touch them."

Disgusting racism, innuendo and sheer bad taste. Thank goodness a vigilant British MP brought the disrespect to light and had the offenders duly punished for their incredible bad taste; and the song withdrawn.

In contrast is Nimal Mendis’ song, composed as he said in ten minutes. His son Paulmarie had come over for a weekend to Paris from London and was on Internet, when Nimal, getting up from an afternoon nap, told Paulmarie to word process what he was going to say. And thus was the song written with no later editing.

First verse

Oh see the foam/ The foam-crested wave

Everyone is dying/ No one to save

Rising terror thirty feet/ Crashing on the shore

Rolling horror on the land/ Destroying door to door

Did you need the tsunami/ To leave war behind

To come together/ Love each other

My child I cannot find


Tsunami tsunami / Can I forget this day

My hand has lost its grip /My child is washed away

Tsunami tsunami/ From the bottom of the quake

Why have you done this?

Hundreds and thousands to take.

The sea speaks to you man/ The sea speaks to you

I’m cleansing your sins man /And all of your motherland

2nd verse

I was watching the sea gull/ Diving for the fish

It caught the swimming eel/ Out of the deep

I remembered the bullet/ Past my ear with a swish

I grabbed my child, saved ourselves

With one mighty leap.

Give me an answer/ You transgressed the law

What is in your mind now /My child is no more.

And what are we doing?

I have a rude answer to that of two words "b...a...!"

Its disgusting, disturbing.......


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