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This article is about the Sri Lankan, Indian Konkani speaking Catholic music genre. For Senegalese village, see Baïla. For Romanian village also known as Băila, see Leordeni. For other uses, see Baila (disambiguation).

Bayila (also known as baila) is a form of music, popular in Sri Lanka and parts of India.[a] The genre originated centuries ago among the 'Sri Lankan Kaffirs' or Afro-Sinhalese communities (mixed communities of Portuguese, African and native Sinhalese people). It primarily utilises European instruments and rhythms found in Spain/Portugal, Sri Lanka, Africa and India. Bayila songs are played during parties and weddings in Mangalore and Goa, accompanied by dancing.

Bayila music, as a form of folk art, has been popular for centuries in Sri Lanka. During the early 1960s it entered into Sri Lanka's mainstream culture, primarily through the work of police officer turned singer Wally Bastian. He began adapting the 6/8 'kaffirhina' rhythms to accommodate Sinhala lyrics. By the 1970s musicians including MS Fernando and Maxwell Mendis had helped Bayila grow into a well known and respected style of Sri Lankan popular music.


The term ‘bayila’ is adapted from the Portuguese verb 'bailar' meaning 'to dance.' Historically, Bayila was a popular folk tradition along the coastal districts where Portuguese influence was strongest. These communities (consisting of Portuguese traders and the slaves that they had brought with them from the western coast of Africa) gradually combined with communities of native Sri Lankans. The musical style now referred to as "Bayila" emerged from this cultural interchange. The genre was quick to spread around the whole island of Sri Lanka and was even influenced by Cuban 'habanera' music, a form of dance music popular in the 1800s. The kafirs, particularly in Puttalam, view Bayila and Kaffirinha tradition to be as intertwined with wedding ceremonies as wine and cake. Sri Lankan Burghers (the descendants from Portuguese) are the other group of inheritors of Bayila and Kaffirinha, particularly in Baticaloa.[1] Along with some rhythmic elements, the often light-hearted comical lyrics and the wada (debate) bayila tradition appears to be uniquely Sri Lankan. With a history of over five hundred years, it is older than other relatively recent semi-classical traditions.

The popular Bayila singer Wally Bastian was known as the "Father of Bayila in Sri Lanka". There is a popular Bayila song by Saman De Silva in tribute to him.

M.S. Fernando A.K.A. "Bayila Chakrawarthi" was a key figure in Sri Lankan Bayila history.[vague] Nithi Kanagaratnam also started Bayila's in Tamil in 1967 and was the key figure in the development of the same.

Contemporary Bayila[edit]

Today, this kaffirhina style (often referred to by its "6/8" time) has been adapted from violin, bongo drums, mandolin, box guitar and honky tonk piano to accommodate modern instruments — specifically the electric guitar and synthesiser/workstation keyboards, octapad, and drum kit. Due in part to this evolution, it is most often heard during parties, school reunions, charity dinner dances, hotel concerts and weddings. Contemporary Bayila is also characterized by comical lyrics, often loosely adapted from themes derived from Sri Lanka's history and/or folklore.

There are three subgenres of Bayila:

  • Chorus Baila — typical Bayila song.
  • Waada Baila — this is a contest between several Bayila singers, often spontaneous. Judges give them a topic and competitors must compose their own lyrics for the specific Bayila rhythm. Marks are given in different criteria including quick-wittedness, meaningfulness, flow and rhyme.
  • Papare Baila — instrumental baila usually played outdoors using trumpets and trap drums influenced by marching bands. Popular in carnivals and cricket matches, the crowd joins in by singing and dancing.

Popular Bayila artists include M.S. Fernando, Anton Jones, Paul Fernando, Desmond de Silva, Nihal Nelson, Maxwell Mendis, Sunil Perera (The Gypsies), Saman De Silva, Danapala Udawaththa, Rajiv Sebastian, Claude de Zoysa, Marriazelle Goonathilake, Nithi Kanagaratnam, A.E.Manoharan, Dalreen among others.

Bayila has also influenced the music of many popular artists such as Annesley Malewana, Clarence Wijewardene, C.T. Fernando, Anil Bharathi, Christopher Paul, Priya Peiris (La Bambas), Super Golden Chimes, Los Flamingos, Sunflowers (band), The Gypsies, even Pandit W. D. Amaradeva.[2]

Moratuwa has produced a large number of these artists and is often referred to as the unofficial home of Bayila.[3]

Radio broadcaster Vernon Corea has been credited with having helped to spread Bayila music to the English-speaking world via English-language programmes aired on Radio Ceylon and BBC Radio London during the late 1960s and 1970s.

In December 2006 a nonstop dance CD with greatest Bayila hits titled Sri Lankan Open House Party was released in Sri Lanka. The music was directed by renowned composer Suresh Maliyadde while the music on the CD was provided by Niresh Perera (The Gypsies) on drums, Mahinda Bandara Fortunes) on guitar, Tilak Dias on bass, Tissasiri Perera on keyboard, and Visharadha Monaj Pieris on percussion. Singers who were empowering these all time evergreens are Kanishka Wijetunga, Ganesha Wijetunga, Mariazelle Goonetilleke, and Suresh Maliyadde.

There are Baila songs in Tamil, which were popularized by Nithi Kanagaratnam, Ceylon Manohar, M.P.Paramesh, Ramachandran, Amuthan Annamalai, et al.[4] song "Chinna Mamiye" (or "Sinna Mamiye") is popular and the rhythm is a lot like some of the konkani songs. Nithi started Tamil Bayila in 1967 and was dubbed as the "Father of Tamil Pops" in Sri Lanka. These songs are popular in Tamil Nadu, India and countries where the Tamils live.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In India, bayila is popular in Mangalore and Goa, especially with Konkani-speaking Catholics.
Notes are weird

External links[edit]