The Localist

Papare music


There are quite a few places in Sri Lanka, and Colombo in particular, where you could go to listen to some good live music, depending on your taste in music. However, if you are looking for a musical experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, all you have to do is go watch a cricket match. Yes, that’s right a cricket match!

It doesn’t matter who is playing who, if there is cricket in Sri Lanka, there is music. Most games, from school cricketing encounters to international test matches, will feature a Papare band.

Papare music is said to have originated during the church festivities of the western coastal city of Negombo. It is a very lively form of music, and a Papare band at a cricket match can put an army of vuvuzela-bearing fans to shame.

The music will generally start about 5 to 10 overs into the match, as we Sri Lankans are not known for being on time, but it won’t stop until the very last ball is bowled.

The Sri Lankan national team was a late bloomer on the international stage and it wasn’t until the World Cup was won in 1996 that we finally lost the tag ‘minnows’, or ‘small fry’. Cricket has played many roles in Sri Lankan society over the years, from being a unifying force and a distraction in a country at war to playing its part in the ongoing reconciliation efforts in the post war society. It has attracted legions of unwavering supporters and enthusiastic fans while becoming an important part of Sri Lankan culture, and the Papare music is a vital part of that cricketing identity.

The non-stop music and the party that it fuels in the stands goes on irrespective of whether the home team is winning or losing, showing that there is more to the game and life than winning. This nexus between cricket and Papare music reflects the way Sri Lankans live, enjoying life to the fullest during the good times and keeping the mood light and merry even when the going gets tough.





Image. Photo by Tashya De Silva.

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