Music and Dancing in Sri Lanka are still closely tied up with religious ritual. Kandy or ‘high country’ dance has evolved from village dances performed by the complex rhythms of several drummers who use a percussion instrument called the ‘gatabere’ – a wooden drum with leather heads of monkey skin at one end and cow-hide at the other, which make contrasting tones.
Dancers, usually women, go through a routine of sinuous pose and flowing arm movements. ‘Low Country’ or ‘devil-mask’ dancing is also accompanied by drummers, who use a special ‘demon drum’ to enhance the steps and movements of dancers wearing the grotesque masks which represent the 18 demons of disease. These dances were and sometimes still are performed with the intention of persuading the demon to leave the afflicted person.