The Sinhala Commercial Music Industry and Its Development

  • Gowri NanayakkaraEmail author


Sri Lanka claims a rich traditional folklore. Nevertheless the country’s commercial music industry only emerged around eight decades ago. This chapter focuses on the trajectory of the Sinhala commercial music industry, from the emergence of music in the country to its contemporary commercial position, and examines the impact of this process on the Sinhala commercial singer (gayakaya) [Etymologically, gayanu means, singing or playing a musical instrument—W Geiger, An Etymological Glossary of the Sinhala Language (Asian Educational Services 1941). Gaya means ‘verse or stanza’, while gayakaya (noun), translates as singer or chanter. Gayanakaranawa (verb), translates as ‘to sing, chant; play on a musical instrument’—C. Carter, A Sinhalese English Dictionary (The Ceylon Observer Printing Works 1924)]. Such a focus on the progression of the country’s music and its commercialisation is useful in understanding the concerns expressed by vocalists (gayakayan) that this book examines, namely cover versions and secure position. This will further demonstrate that the historical influences that have shaped the industry and the practices of its singers have contributed to the vocalists’ perception of contemporary problems as reflected in the qualitative data gathered.


Sri Lankan musical history Indian music influence Colonial influence Gramophone industry 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawCanterbury Christ Church UniversityCanterburyUK

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