2 Radio Features/ Documentaries
- Bridging the social gap with music (15 mins)
- Life after the tsunami – Overcoming the Waves of Destruction (20 mins)
Why am I doing this?
When listening/watching the news, or reading about it on the papers, the very little there is about Sri Lanka is mainly about politics, or the war that didn’t end very nicely. Sri Lanka is mostly represented as a poverty-stricken country, with lots of political violence. However, there is so much more to Sri Lanka that has not been shown to the international community.
When I searched ‘Sri Lanka’ in the BBC World Service website, here are some of the headlines that came up:
Post-war Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port ‘not deep enough’
Sri Lanka abandons round-up of military deserters
Sri Lanka blocks websites for ‘maligning’ president
Herbert (2001) writes: “International reporting of the life of countries and people should be about more than disasters and wars. It should give outsiders an understanding of the people of a country…”
The audience that listens to the World Service are interested in international affairs and different cultures from around the world. Through my documentaries I want to give the audience the essence of Sri Lanka through sound. I want to educate them about the parts of Sri Lanka they haven’t heard of before.
I have decided to produce a documentary rather than a news report because in a documentary you can “edit words into ‘poetry’”, manipulate and even manufacture sound… Not in news. “News by and large, focuses on the actions of the powerful and the famous. It delivers facts about politics, war and public policy debates. The works of radio documentaries, by contrast, tends towards the intimate, the small-scale” (Beiwen 2010). By creating a documentary I can definitely bring out the hidden essence of Sri Lanka.
Target Audience: listeners of the BBC World Service
I chose BBC World Service because it has openings for the type of feature’s I am planning on producing. Programmes such as ‘The Strand’ – “Takes you on a worldwide journey through arts, culture and entertainment” (BBC World Service programme description) – will be an ideal programme to broadcast the documentary about the music of Sri Lanka. Also, programmes such as ‘Witness’ broadcasts stories of people who were there at the time of a defining moment or event. This will be the perfect programme for the documentary on life after the tsunami.
Documentary 1: Bridging the social gap with music
The Sri Lankan music industry is quite diverse and it has evolved through the ages. Through this feature I will investigate how the modern music industry of Sri Lanka has evolved. The music of Sri Lanka originates from cultural traditions, deriving from three main influences, the Practices of Buddhism, the after effects of Portuguese Colonization, and the influence of Indian Culture.
Portuguese Colonizers arrived in the mid 15th century and brought with them cantiga ballads, ukulele’s and guitars. Sri Lanka also has descendants of Africa, historically referred to as Kaffrinhas who brought their own style of music. The people of these two regions and their musical traditions gave Sri Lanka the most popular form of music in the country: Baila.
The Modern music industry of Sri Lanka has been quite creative in integrating Western Influence into traditional Sri Lankan music, creating Sri Lankan Pop and Rap.
Through this feature I will investigate the pros and cons of integrating western forms with traditional music; does this diminish the cultural value of this music or does it work to close a gap in the society?
Sources to be utilized
Interview with Sri Lankan music duo Bathiya & Santhush
Bathiya and Santhush were at the forefront of integrating western music with traditional Sri Lankan music. They faced problems for mixing classical music with pop and rap, however this made the song ‘Sirisangabodhi’ even more popular amongst Sri Lankan youth.
They have produced 8 albums and are internationally recognized and have produced and performed some of Sri Lanka’s biggest hits since 1998. (www.bnsmusic.com)
I interviewed Bathiya Jayakody about the inspiration behind integrating western music with Sri Lankan music and how it can contribute to the international music industry, and does it really bring the urban and the rural societies together?
Interview with Sunil Perera from the Gypsies
Baila can be defined as Sri Lanka’s folk music. It has been around since the mid 15th century and still remains one of the most popular genres of music amongst Sri Lankans. It is interesting how young and old alike enjoy the fast beats of baila music.
Sunil Perera is the leader of the band ‘The Gypsies’ who have been around since 1969. They have produced some of the most popular baila songs, which remain popular even amongst the young generation.
I spoke to him about the history of baila and his take on how young and upcoming artists are integrating western music with the folk song of Sri Lanka.
This documentary will have a modern style to it with the story told solely by the interviewees. I have planned to begin it with music that demonstrates the theme, a song that has both an element of baila and hip-hop.
To enhance the lightness of this documentary there will be music throughout which will demonstrate the music of Sri Lanka to the listeners.
Chris Brookes (2010), creator of the documentary ‘The Letter S’ writes: “The beauty of radio is that the listener actively creates his or her own images with our help. For this reasons it is vital to leave space in a program: room for the listener to walk in and take part.” I have decided to take this approach in both documentaries, as it is important that the listener has the time to process what he/she is listening to. Unlike television there is no images to guide the listener, however what radio does best is “stimulate the imagination”.
Documentary 2: Life after the tsunami: overcoming the waves of destruction.
The 2004 Tsunami left the coastal villages of Sri Lanka with colossal human and environmental devastation, where more than 40,000 people were believed dead and 2.5 million displaced.
“The sea that for millennia has sustained numerous fishing peoples — most of them poor, vulnerable and in remote places — showed its cruel side, bringing unspeakable tragedy to millions.” (http://www.lankalibrary.com/news.htm)
The coverage of the tsunami in 2004 outlined only the facts, the hard news and the statistics. What it failed to do was to bring out the intimate details, the stories that will “shake awake the world’s conscience” (Seib 2002).
Now, after 7 years of this catastrophe, the after effects still exist. However there are a few who have chosen to overcome the loss and devastation these waves brought to their lives and choose the path of progress.
This documentary will feature two young Sri Lankan teens from the rural town, Seenigama, which was badly affected by the tsunami. It will highlight what they witnessed on the day and the life they chose after the tsunami.
Sources to be utilized
Interview with tsunami victims
I interviewed two young teenagers from a coastal village in Sri Lanka on the 7th Anniversary of the tsunami. Despite how the tsunami affected their lives, one has chosen a career diving 42m in the sea and the other follows his dream of joining the Sri Lankan National Cricket Team. I will tell their story of survival; where they were on that day, what they felt at that moment, and how they survived.
I will also highlight how their lives have changed since, and what they did to get it back on track and the support they received from the ‘Foundation of Goodness’.
Kushil Gunasekara – Founder of the Foundation of Goodness
This foundation existed even before the tsunami and was also affected by the tsunami, but the goodwill of its founder and those who sponsor the foundation has helped thousands of victims to get their life back on track. This interview will show how beyond the destruction and devastation lies compassion and benevolence, and how the foundation supports the victims up to date.
This documentary will begin with the sound of the ocean, which will create a context for the story. Scott Carrier (2010) writes: “Without context there is no meaning. Reality happens, the events of the world go on around us, but there is no meaning until we provide a context.”
Since this is a story based on hard news, it will follow the style of a news documentary in which I will be reporting the story with illustrated clips, which will add colour and authenticity to the documentary. It will also include music to create the atmosphere and bring out the theme of the story.
The tsunami victims I interviewed related their story in Sinhala (their first language); the clips will start with their voice, which will fade out, bringing in the English translation spoken by actors.
Plan/ schedule of work
September – December 2011 – researching, and establishing contacts.
December 2011 – Interviews based in Sri Lanka
17 December: Interviewed Sunil Perera of the Gypsies
24 December: Interviewed Bathiya Jayakody of music duo ‘Bathiya and Santhush’
26 December: Visited Seenigama to talk to tsunami victims and supporters
From January 2012 onwards – Additional Research
Editing and finalizing documentary
A few additional sources
The Broadcast Journalism Handbook – Gary Hudson & Sarah Rowlands (2007)
This book is a valuable guide, from what makes a good story to preparing for an interview, doing the interview, how to deal with emotional interviews and how to tell the story. There are also important guidelines about preparing packages and editing.
Practicing Global Journalism: Exploring reporting issues worldwide – John Herbert (2001)
This book gives a unique overview of journalism practices worldwide including issues that international correspondents may face and how best to deal with it. It also includes case studies from different continents of the world.
BBC World Service
Regularly listening to the programmes of the BBC World Service has given me useful knowledge about the structure of documentaries and features, the language used, the style, content and much more.
Corner, J. ed. (1986). Documentary and the Mass Media. London: Edward Arnold
Bathiya & Santhush (2010). Biography [online]. Available from <http://www.bnsmusic.com/V2/about> [15 November 2011]
Burns, L. S. (2002). Understanding Journalism. London: SAGE Publications.
Ebrary, Inc. (2010). Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press
Fleming, C. (2002). The Radio Handbook. New York: Routledge.
Herbert, J. (2001). Practicing Global Journalism: Exploring Reporting Issues Worldwide. Oxford; Boston, MA: Focal Press
Hudson, G. and Rowlands, S. (2007). The Broadcast Journalism Handbook. Harlow: Pearson Longman.
McLeish, R. (1978). The Technique of Radio Production.
Owen, J. and Purdey, H. eds. (2009). International News Reporting: Frontlines and Deadlines. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Seib, P. (2002). The Global Journalist: News and Conscience In A World Of Conflict. Oxford : Rowman & Littlefield.
Virtual Library Sri Lanka (2006). Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster [online]. Available to view at <http://www.lankalibrary.com/news.htm> [15 November 2011]