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A goodwill fest : Peace Rocks

In the Seventies the 'Whall Gang' were Colombo's rock'n'roll outlaws. Their wild hair, 'hippie' clothes and loud, fiery music provoked alarm, amusement and outrage.

Back then, rock almost unheard of in Sri Lanka. Apart from Mahes Perera and a few other pioneers at the SLBC, nobody played rock on radio. Most people listened to pop or country music. The Whall Gang stood out by being different.

For nearly a decade, the only rock concerts in Sri Lanka were Whall Gang productions. They were loose, fiery and well attended, full of good vibes and the spirit of community.

Many Gang members were expert musicians. Prasanna Abeysekera and Cancer, Coffin, Nail Gabo and the Breakaways, Gobbledegook and Sweetie Pie, Imtiaz Hamid, Kumar Navaratnam and Friends, Raj Seneviratne and the Unwanted Generation were pioneers who introduced local audiences to music styles such as heavy blues, 'acid' rock, folk-rock, jazz-rock and punk. A multi-ethnic multicultural group, the Whall Gang were full of the ideals of the Woodstock Generation peace and love, an end to victimisation and discrimination.

Back then they were rebels, they are successful men and women with families and careers. Many emigrated during the troubled eighties and nineties, finding success in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. From their domiciles abroad, they did what they could to support peace and development at home. Now with the peace process gathering momentum, the Gang, is reuniting in Colombo to hold a major rock festival to promote peace.

The festival is called Peace Rocks. It will take place on Saturday March 29 at Vihara Maha Devi Park. An audience of about 5,000 is expected. Because of the limited capacity of the venue, free passes will be available at a variety of locations. In keeping with the ideals of Woodstock, Peace Rocks will be a Free festival. Costs are being borne by the Gang and a few generous commercial sponsors. The line-up for the festival will include such Whall Gang legends as Cancer, Imtiaz Hamid, and Unwanted Generation, as well as some of the best contemporary Sri Lankan rock bands.

At time of going to press, Wilderfire, Kreb's Cycle and Independence Square were provisionally booked to perform. Other acts appearing on the bill will be confirmed shortly. While the festival is primarily intended as a goodwill effort, audience members will be encouraged to make donations to selected charities involved in the peace effort. These charities will be represented at the venue.

The Whall Gang believes that rock music is a powerful force that can unite people from all communities and walks of life. Peace Rocks will allow people to make a statement in support of peace just by being there. It will promote peace, rehabilitation and communal fraternity through the electrifying good vibrations of the twentieth century's most popular and persuasive musical form.

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