Video: Sri Lankan Baila Music

Baila today isn't the same Baila I listened to as a kid.

A keyboard can never replace real instruments. To me Baila is a three, or four piece band. An acoustic guitar, a bongo drum, a Maraca/Rumba Shaker, and a Violin if you want to go all the way.

At this point you know I'm not talking about Papare. No trumpets involved. Papare is the type of Baila you hear at the cricket, and not the Baila I'm talking about here.

I'm going way back. Back to Baila from the 40's, 50's, and 60's. From the Wally Bastian era.

Wally (a.k.a. Wellington Mervin Bastian) is the undisputed king of Sri Lankan Baila. A form of music which has evolved from a mix of Portuguese, African, and Sinhalese influences. Baila further evolved with the arrival of the Europeans and their instruments.

When you listen to Baila for the first time, what stands out is the lack of Indian influence in the music. The island of Sri Lanka which belongs to the Indian sub-continent is heavily influenced by Indian traditions and culture.

Sri Lanka's music, cinema, and every other form of entertainment is heavily influenced by it's neighbour.

Baila remains unique to the region.

I stumbled on the video below while browsing through Youtube's recent uploads. It's the 'King of Baila,' the one and only Wally Bastian. The audio is the original. Not the horrendous Torana re-mastering with keyboard audio and Wally singing in the background.

The song is called 'Irene Josephine'. It has such a Spanish feel to it, and always reminds me of the beach.


Wellington Mervin Bastian (died 1986) was a Sri Lankan singer who developed the style of chorus baila in the 1940s.

Bastianz was a police officer who played in a marching band when he began his music career. Drawing from his orchestral roots, he transformed the tunes of standards like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Inky Pinky Parlez Vouz" into classic baila songs.

His songs dealt with everyday life and simple people. One of his hits was an ode to a nurse named Nona and another covered the trial of jilted lover Eric Bacho. He sang several songs in English.

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