Sri Lanka has largely been inspired by various cultural traditions of eastern and the western world due to many reasons. Most importantly, being an island that has been a crucial economic center since the ancient period, as a result the process of being influenced was highly stimulated.
Also Sri Lanka had been colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch and
later by the British, almost for five hundred years, the cultural variety of Sri Lanka can be recognized with respect to the language, religion, customs, food and arts. Though, there were specific traditional culture, food and art forms in villages of Sri Lanka much prior to the coming up of various invaders in the country.
The history of Sri Lanka can be dated back to more than 2500 years, but no definite record of ancient musical tradition of Sri Lanka could be found. Due to unavailability of the right evidences, it has become really difficult to define
the features of ancient music in Sri Lanka.
An ancient tradition of music can only be understood through the chronicles, folklore, archaeological information, traditions of art and other literary works. Trans-border flow of information and cultural interactions had helped Sri Lankan entertainment industry to build up strong hold over the music and film industry.
All classic folk melodies and lyrics that belong to these categories are related to the daily happenings of the village people. The melodies included lullabies, play songs (Keli Gee, Olinda keliya , Mewara keliya, Saturan Thereema). A shared characteristic of Sinhala folk songs rests on the first beat that is known as “avagraha”.
In comparison to other countries, melody constructions of these melodies are narrow. On the other side, the Sri Lankan custom of music has a great variety of ritualistic songs that are also conveyed orally. Some songs are written on palm-leaves and are preserved by the chief masters of each generation as their legacy.
These songs also originated under the background of traditional dancing and can be classified as Kohomba Kankariya (ritual for offerings to god Kohomba). Although music is utilized in different ways in everyday lives of people, the value of music depends on their usages and this usage may vary from person to person, place to place and, time to time.
Sri Lankan cinema is more than 70 years old. In 1946, Indian Tamil S. M. Nayagam made his first Tamil film, Kumaraguru and the following year he produced the very successful Sinhalese film, Kadawunu Poronduwa (Broken Promise) in 1947. Based on a play, this was the very first Sinhalese film, and it marks the birth of Sri Lankan film.
The local film industry was heavily influenced by India. There was an early development when Shanthi Kumar directing ‘Asokamala’, the second Sinhala film, boldly used Mohamed Ghouse to direct the music with Amaradeva (was known as W. D. Albert Perera then) singing some of the well-known Sinhala film songs, the trend of using Indian musicians continued for quite some time.
The mid 1950s saw things changing gradually and the Sinhala film taking a more meaningful path with Lester James Peries giving the lead with ‘Rekawa’. The local film industry got recognition with the inauguration of the Sarasaviya Film Festival in 1964 when the best films, actors and technicians were selected and awards given.
According to Keheliya Rambukwella, (Former Minister of Mass Media and Information) it is necessary to create a new generation with high creativity and knowledge in modern technology for the betterment of the Sri Lankan entertainment industry. He had also said cinema and television technologies are also developing. A sound educational training is important to grasp the new technologies which are coming into the industry.