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 filmís 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 itís 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
Feelings that prompted NMís 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 familyís 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, ĎDid you
need the Tsunami to leave wars behind?í 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: ĎThere 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 ó
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, W for Ilford North. EDM 638 reads
ĎHot 97ís 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.
Letís 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". Isnít 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
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
And all at once, you can hear the screaming
And then no one was save from the wave
There was Africans drowning, little Chinaman
You can heard God laughing, swim you
So now youíre screwed. Itís the tsunami.
You better run and kiss your ass awake, go find
I just saw her float by, a tree right through
And now your children will be sold to child
(imitating Michael Jackson)
Oh no, please not the kids. Iíll pay for all the
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. Iíll pay for everything.
I promise, I wonít 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 Mendisí 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
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
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
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
Iím cleansing your sins man /And all of your
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
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
Its disgusting, disturbing ó whatís happening in
this second worst hit country in the world. The LTTE is lying
about aid not reaching them, laying down all sorts of impossible
conditions and even threatening war. The government is doing no
better and one newspaper voicing the government, or one of its
Ministers, is again on a witch-hunt of the opposition leader and
I mean to say, is it appropriate, leave alone
decent, to headline in red the word BETRAYAL and say that Ranil
W is stopping aid coming to SL; that he is persuading the
international community not to assist us. Are we confounded
idiots to think that countries will listen to him, even if he
went on such a mission (impossible though he seems partial to
We are bickering, we meaning those who have
power in their hands and who are the ones authorised to help
tsunami sufferers who are still suffering horribly in temporary,
makeshift lodging, with no means of livelihood and mourning the
dead, almost 40,000 in number. And here are our leaders either
boasting they did this and that single-handedly, running down
people and parties of the south and not protesting at all about
the tactics of the LTTE. .
Countries and individuals have poured sympathy,
goodwill, goods, money and manpower to our country and what are
our big shots doing ó squabbling over petty (non)-issues. There
has been talk of corruption; of misappropriation of goods and
money sent as relief. Reading Nandithaís article in 'The
Island' ó 9 February ó a perception I made is proven
correct. The Indian film actress says we in this region have got
hard hearts and seem to be too used to death and destruction
while foreigners have responded more heartfeltly. As I said, it
is proven again and again that Sri Lankans living abroad are on
the whole more affected emotionally and moved to help, than we
resident Sri Lankans. I generalize, but reading the newspapers.
One comes to this conclusion, even though on the 26th itself and
thereafter, there was an immediate and sincere outpouring of
sympathy and help from all peoples of the Island. Now here we
are, one month after the tragedy, getting political mileage out
of the tragic situation and some getting rich too on whatís been
sent to the destitute, for rebuilding purposes.
We are back to our former disgusting selves.
Those who were hit by the tsunami are again being battered by
inefficiency, corruption and terrible lack of concern. The worst
is the mouthing of platitudes and preaching about loving thy
enemy and working unitedly for the good of the suffering Sri
Lankan. The preachers and the one who claims nothing was done to
tackle the tsunami struck situation till she arrived are the
very ones who are not committed enough to rapid, steady,
unprejudiced reconstruction and rehabilitation.
I suppose what we need is an atom bomb to wipe
us off the face of the earth.