Ceylon African Manja perform in Colombo

Over the many generations Afro-Sri Lankans have lived on the island many aspects of African culture have been lost as they became assimilated in to Sri Lankan society. Some however remained especially in the form of music and dance. This trend remains consistent throughout the African diaspora of South Asia with all communities having their own unique music and dance that has real similarities to styles on the African continent.

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

In fact, not only is their music and dance totally unique in Sri Lanka but it has become a very important source of income with them, often being hired to perform around the country at events ranging from weddings to official functions.

On one such performance I followed one such group from their homes in the village of Siriambadiya to Colombo where they had been invited by the Ministry of Culture to perform at an event celebrating traditional music from around the island.

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

But what makes Afro-Sri Lankan music so special is that it is still sung in Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole, a language that developed only on Sri Lanka and used exclusively by African slaves, all coming from different tribes and countries, as a common language. Today this is one of the last musical groups that still know the old creole songs.

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

The Ceylon African Manja group perform in Colombo on 21st September 2017. Copyright Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project

Here is a sound recording I made of one of their songs on 21st September 2017 during that Colombo performance.

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