The roots of Sri Lankan music are based on four main influences. They include the historical and commercial influence by Indians, European colonization, Buddhism and ancient folk rituals. Out of these influences, folk music is based upon ancient folk rituals.
Jana Kavi, which are also known as folk poems originated when people in ancient Sri Lanka were engaged with their day to day activities. They wanted to express their feelings while working. To express those feelings, they used folk poems. It was the most popular method of cultural expression back in ancient Sri Lanka as well.
People who lived in Sri Lanka also used to spend their time with folk music in order to get rid of tiredness, sadness and loneliness. There is no author for folk music. People created these poems as groups and they were passed down from one generation to another. These poems are still being performed by the folk musicians who live in Sri Lanka.
Folk music in Sri Lanka can be divided into three main categories. They include folk poems based upon occupations (mehe gee), folk poems based upon beliefs (adahili gee) and folk poems that were created for social needs and entertainment purposes (samaja gee).
People in ancient Sri Lanka were engaged with a variety of occupations. All those occupations were not easy and they had to work hard throughout the day. In addition, they had to do the same thing over and over again as well. To get rid of the tiredness and loneliness, folk poems based on occupations were created. These poems are specific to the most prominent occupations that existed in ancient Sri Lanka. It is even possible for you to see some of those occupations in today’s world as well. People who were protecting the paddy fields from wild animals used pal gee to get rid of their loneliness. These poems helped them to stay awake throughout the entire night. Likewise, people who travelled on bullock carts for long distances used gal gee to keep themselves engaged while travelling.
It is also possible to find a large number of folk poems that were based upon beliefs. Shanthikarma gee holds a prominent place out of them. People believed that these folk poems have the ability to bless them with a good life. Shanthikarma gee can further be divided into several categories based on the main provinces that existed on ancient Sri Lanka. Thunsarane Gee is another example for a kind of folk poems that were based upon religious beliefs.
People used folk poems for entertainment purposes as well. These poems play a major role during the Sinhala/ Tamil New Year period, which falls on 13th to 17th of April. Lee keli gee, olida keli gee and raban gee are some of the folk poems that you can hear during the new year season. Moreover, people linked folk poems with some of their traditional games as well. Mewara keli gee and eluwan kame gee are perfect examples to prove the above-mentioned fact.