A chat with an icon in the Sri Lankan music industry 

By Oshadi Seneviratne


Folk songs have been a big part of Sri Lankan life for centuries, creating a significant part of both work and entertainment. From providing a rhythm for manual tasks to giving a chance to share grief with others, Sri Lanka’s folk songs are a significant part of its musical heritage. 

Even though we all say “Ayubowans? We say Ayubowan to welcome a particularan”, do we know why we say it and what it me person. The meaning of this greeting is that we wish the person would “have a longer life expectancy”.

Sahan Ranwala, a musician, composer, presenter, and actor, recently spoke a lot about such local elements in the folk music of Sri Lanka. Below is the interview conducted by the media society of Royal Institute International School, Gampaha Branch, via Zoom under the guidance of Ramith Dheerasekara, Natasha Abeygunawardana, and Sithara Kahandawala.


Sinhala folk songs are a valuable part of our culture. Can you please explain what Sinhala folk songs are?


Sri Lankan folk music has a longer history than any other type of song. Sinhala folk songs are the poems that our ancestors used to sing when they were doing their regular activities. This has come from generation to generation, to this day.  


Can you tell us a little bit about the value of these folk songs?


Folk songs are important because whenever we represent our country, we could show our identity from this folk music. Folk songs or jana kavi in Sinhala, have for centuries been a creative form of art connected with village life, its people, and their work. Unlike written texts, Sri Lankan folk songs and singing have been passed down the generations through oral tradition.


There are more beautiful ideas in folk songs than in ordinary songs. Please tell us, in the production of folk songs, from where do you get these beautiful ideas?


From ancient times, farmers used these folk songs for their day-to-day activities, to show their ideas. We also keep that idea, that base, and produce these folk songs.


What kind of international recognition do you receive for these folk songs, as well as for the Ranwala Foundation?


All the other countries in the world respect our folk songs, and we have something that we can give good competition to other countries. 


What kind of inspiration did you receive from your father?


All this work I do is mainly all the inspiration that I received from my father, Mr. Lionel Ranwala. The most important thing that I learned from him is the thinking pattern, the way he looks at things. 


What is the feeling, the experience you get when you sing these folk songs?


The feeling that we get when we sing a folk song changes from the way, the tone, in which we say it. We have to always consider why the farmer sang this folk song.


Everything has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the whole world. Sahan sir, how does the Ranwala Foundation cope with and face this situation?


I think we are the best cultural group that is coping with this situation and facing this situation well. From 15 March 2020, we started to release a new Youtube video related to folk music, daily on our Youtube channel. While doing that, we also started to create a forum for children around the world to sing folk songs, we also produced some folk songs, and we did a virtual music show, in which people from all around the world participated. We are also conducting virtual exams for the students in the Ranwala Children’s Foundation. 


If someone would like to join this Foundation, is there a way that they could contact you or the Ranwala Foundation?


Yes, if anyone wants to join our foundation or get more information about the Ranwala Foundation, they could visit our official website,, or they could also contact us through our telephone number, +94 76 933 3666, to receive more information. 



About the writer

Oshadi Seneviratne is a grade 10 (Cambridge) student from the Royal Institute, Gampaha. She is also the author of the book: The Adventures of Alex and Amanda and is a passionate writer.