There have been many versions of this song, recorded originally in Sri Lanka, the most popular being undoubtedly the Wally Bastiensz version which was sung in Sinhalese, as expected. The tempo in which the song was recorded was of course Wally’s favourite, being the “Baila”

          For those of you who do not know what Baila is, it was a type of party music first brought into what was then Ceylon, by the Portuguese who invaded the little Island, then being ruled by Sinhalese Kings, in 1630.

That was about 306 years before I was born, so let’s make that another story.

          I am not a 100% certain about who composed the song, quite possibly, Wally (the Original King of Baila) himself. It’s all about a certain party drink consisting of probably parts of Arrack,Toddy, Kassippu & Orange Barley water, to kill the smell of the liquor. Most Sri Lankans know the above drinks very well, but for those who don’t, let me enlighten you.

Toddy & Arrack are akin to the Wine & Whisky drunk by Europeans. Drink too much, and you get unsteady on your feet. Kassippu is a blend of RAW toddy, arrack, wine, whisky & any other liquor you would care to think about. 20 mil of this drink neat, would not have you unsteady on your feet simply because you would be lying inert on the ground, unconscious. Orange Barley is fine though. So everyone now knows what the “drink” is.

          Here is where I come into the story. Although I am proud to say that I was born in Ceylon(as I prefer to call it), and did sing baila with Wally B., when I was knee-high to grasshopper, there came a time when, according to the Sinhalese Government of the era, I suddenly turned into a Karapottha or Cockroach, and had to migrate to Melbourne. I did not leave the baila behind though, brought it here together with Emily, in that I started writing English introductions to all my Sinhala favourite songs such as Wadakaha Sudiya, and Emily features in it, as you will hear, if you listen to the song. 

If anyone dared to take this drink however, especially during an eclipse of the sun, you would probably end up with Emily in an infirmary. She is quite possibly, still in there.   

          What is REALLY the best feature of this particular version of the song is that, together with my backing band, my singing group, the Semitones, and myself, of course, I taught the very first Australians ever,  to sing along with me, in SINHALA. 

 This group was called “The Midnight Five”. They sang very well, despite their Aussie accents, and the folks back home loved it. We recorded the song on the Melbourne based Crest Label, during the mid Sixties. 

          I am happy that I accidentally came across this original version of the song, and hope that all my Lankan/Aussie friends will enjoy it, for what it’s worth. This one is also dedicated to the Midnight Five, wherever you are.

Buy the song for less than a cost of a cup of coffee – click here https://www.elankashop.com/shop/digital-download/the-drink-3d-by-desmond-kelly/

Desmond Kelly

Desmond Kelly.
(Editor-in-Chief) eLanka.     

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