No visit to Kandy is complete without attending an evening ‘culture show’ – the best way to experience the region’s spectacular local forms of music and dance.
Accompanied by ranks of energetic drummers, performers take to the stage in extravagant traditional costumes comprising elaborate beaded chest panels, silk-edged sarongs and intricate silver headgear.
There are five distinct forms of dance, each slightly different in tone and requiring a variations in dress. By far the most commonly performed in Kandy is ‘Ves’ – the liveliest, most acrobatic style. Expect dramatic leaps, backflips, pirouettes and high kicks. No less virtuoso is the drumming, which lays down intricate rhythms building to a frenzied climax.
Kandyan music and dance were developed in the courts of the local kings, where troupes of fifty or sixty people would typically perform. In time, as the style evolved, it became part of the ritual arts associated with the Sacred Temple of the Tooth, and an essential ingredient of the annual Esala Perahera festival – which it remains.
Culture shows in Kandy last for around one hour.