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Maestro T. M. Jayarathne performs in historic
Minnesota Twin-Cities concert

June 25 2005 marked six months to the day since the Great Asian Tsunami. The Minnesota Sri Lanka Friendship Foundation marked this day with a concert of music featuring Maestro T. M. Jayarathne, at the Metro State auditorium in St. Paul. The event was organized to raise funds for the the Foundation is building as part of the project in Hikkaduwa,Sri Lanka.

The concert itself made history. This was the first musical concert by a Sri Lankan artiste in the nearly four decades long history of the Minnesota Sri Lankan community. A large and appreciative crowd was on hand to witness this memorable event. The choice of Maestro T. M. Jayarathne was an inspired one. T.M has entertained and inspired Sri Lankan song lovers for decades—giving musical expression to Sri Lankan culture and raising Sinhala song to a new level. T.M’s gentle and subtle evocation of image and emotion showed us why his music inspires those affected by the Tsunami and those helping rebuild the country. We had glimpses of the man behind the maestro, his humility, gentle humor and simplicity. T. M. invited Viranga Atukorala to sing a duet—the popular ‘Ran Tikiri Sina,’ engaging her in light banter after the song. Christina Robertsen sang a duet ‘Chandikamata,’ with Maestro T. M. She did quite delightfully too.  Christina learnt to speak Sinhala and to appreciate T.M’s songs while she was with the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka. The chemistry between these two ladies and T. M. was palpable. Memories were surely made by gestures such as these. 

The performance part of this superbly organized event began with a Puja dance. This ceremonial dance is performed to invoke blessings on artistes and audience alike. Nandani Corea’s skillful and graceful interpretation drew spontaneous applause from the audience. 

 The event began with the lighting of the traditional Sri Lankan oil-lamp by the guests of honor and by board of Directors of the Foundation. The guests of honor: Twin-Cities business people and philanthropists Kay and Dan Shimek and Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hammon-Roland; have played key roles in the Foundations’ fundraising efforts.  Mayor Mary Hammon-Roland inspired all with a moving speech, comparing the rebuilding of the Tsunami devastated village to the creation of a pearl. Sriyanka Harrison and Gabrielle Guneratne presented Kay Shimek and Mary Hammon-Roland with flowers.

 Duluth native Becky Guneratne and her daughters were spending time with family in Sri Lanka when the Tsunami struck. She acted as the Foundations’ liaison with the Government in Sri Lanka. Becky shared her experiences in a short presentation, which included images, film clips and doses of humor necessary when dealing with the Government.

 In another brief presentation Pioneer Press photographer Ben Garvin shared images and memories of aftermath of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. Ben accompanied Foundation president Ananda Srilal Liyanapathiranage (Lal) to Sri Lanka in January 2005. His pictures record physical devastation and sadness as well as the humor, strength and resilience of the people in Sri Lanka.

 The musical entertainment began and ended with the band ‘Siha Sara’ who also accompanied Maestro T. M. throughout the evening. Based in Washington D. C., their youth, exuberance and talent augur well for Sri Lankan music in the U.S. Jayantha Atukorala emceed the event with style and panache. The Foundation’s spokesperson Mithula Perera gave the vote of thanks and invited event organizer Viranga to receive a bouquet of flowers presented by Samantha Guneratne.

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