Kandy City and the suburbs in 2001 – if the blurb is to give you a lead, Music. Death. is a story of several interfused threads that are anchored on that year, almost a decade and a half from the present time: a time not too far away from where we are, but a time which belongs to a world running on the last cogwheels of the expiring “analog age”. What can one say of Kandy – the Hill so-called Capital – at a time where the first pirated CDs were still fresh on the shops of record bars, and Kandy’s first (better than) Majestic City type shopping mall was ten years from coming? Music. Death.is partly an effort to retrieve an ambiance and impulse of a late 90s and early 00s, through the movements of a group of adolescents, all ready to take the world.
When I first started writing the book, it was simply meant to be a retrieval act of innocence and vulnerability: a way of narrativizing a culture, a way of life and an atmosphere which wouldn’t have known the next decade to be; both, for me and for those around me. The story is delivered through the perspective of a mid teen school boy with poetic and musical preoccupations, and deals with his close and not-that-close milieu with whom he moves from one millennium to another. Part of the story is about music – the kind of cultish occupations of the above cliques, for music is what binds them and energizes their interaction. References are made to the seriousness with which some of these persons took their music and the time and energy they put into it, improvising and rehearsing.
In the year 2001, the present Arpico Super Mulgampola was a decade from its origins. Alliance Francaise de Kandy was at 412, Peradeniya Road, couched between the Excise Office and Hameedia’s. Mobile phones were still quite 1G, reality was more tangible, and dreams were all the more real. Sri Lankan Rugby heartthrob Fazil Marija was sitting for his O-Levels, Romesh Sugathapala was already a musical genius while still in his A-Level class, Mirshad of Paranoid Earthling was at the threshold of that decade-and a half-long musical journey and Nalaka Weerakkodi was kicking goals from his left foot and his right: all within the Kandt city limits. The people referred to in the novel have, by now, grown steadily and surely out of shape from what roles they were playing in that different planet, and those that have taken their places on Mother Earth would hardly ever be that tender to play the same roles of 2001: Music. Death. is about a diverse music and a varied death across layers and levels, in a self-consciously slim novel capturing that escape-unworthy past.
Among the early respondents to the book are my good friends Lakshan Bandara – who calls it an “ambitious project to relive lost innocence” – and Nipuni Ranaweera, who is generous in calling the text “tender” in its retrieval of a “nostalgic” past. The avatars of their adolescent selves have been inspirational in casting some of the characters and in creating some of the situations. The Mulgampola suburb, Primrose Hill, Anniewatte and Katukele sidewalks, hotels, eating joints and hang out spaces of the city center, music stars, rugby legends, Kumar Sangakkaras, and teenage tempers: these threads were, at one point, a bit too convoluted for my own liking that, for the management and aesthetic cohesion of the narrative, four chapters had to be removed – to be thrown into the “deleted scenes” bin. But, for readers who like to read what I write as autobiographical confessions and such, Music. Death. (I dare to presume) could be the missing limb.
(Music. Death. will not be in bookshops since I have, for the time being, given up dealing with such people. But, the book will be delivered upon request. It is after all not 2001, but the zenith of communicational genuis. To let us know is all it takes)