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"Their Language and Music will never die" – Part 1

Portuguese Burgher musicians from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka taken by David Jackson in January 1974. Inset - Dr Mahesh Radhakrishnan.

Dr. Mahesh Radhakrishnan has been involved in documenting the language and the cultural and expressive practices of Portuguese speakers in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Portuguese is a Portuguese-lexified creole language resulting from the contact of Portuguese with other languages particularly Tamil and Sinhala and it is one variety of a family of creole languages known as Indo-Portuguese. His research work largely focused on the Portuguese Burgher communities in the east and north of Sri Lanka, particularly Batticaloa and Amparai districts, Trincomalee and Jaffna.His work particularity focused on the tradition of song, music and dance known as the ‘káfriinha’ which has had a strong influence and historic connections with Sri Lankan ‘baila’ music. Several recordings were made of Portuguese Burgher performance traditions. In addition, one recording was also made of a performance by Afro-Sri Lankans from Puttalam who no longer speak Sri Lanka Portuguese but maintain the use of it in their song, music and dance tradition known as ‘manja’.The recordings of music, dance, song and speech are available on the Endangered Language Archive (https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1035102#items).Dr Mahesh Radhakrishnan talks to Kulasegaram Sanchayan about his work. This is the first of this two-part interview.

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