While at first glance Country Roads, South Asia’s longest running concert series, is a nostalgic musical ‘trip down memory lane’, now turned country fair, where the whole family comes together to enjoy a range of music; at its heart the event has, most importantly, raised millions of rupees over its 20 plus years for a number of children’s charities, from education to tsunami relief to mosquito nets to displaced children using a cost effective model whereby over 90% of all proceeds goes towards annually selected causes that display the greatest need, most recently recommended by long-time partners Save the Children UK
Since 1988 the CMF has organised a range of activities, the most important being an annual concert titled “COUNTRY ROADS”.
• To promote country and western and folk music in Sri Lanka.
• Raise funds for needy and destitute children — through music – in Sri Lanka.
• Associate with UNICEF, Save The Children or other children’s groups in the selection of suitable projects for funding and subsequent implementation. The CMF works with local, village-based groups through these two agencies.
• The pioneering creative force who conceptualized the organization
• He is also the key driver and the motivator of all initiatives.
• The technical marvel behind all efforts
• Exceptional organizational capabilities to manage and coordinate with all musicians
• Coordinator of all events organized by the CMF.
• Annual concerts of country & western and folk music held usually in and around February/March
• There have been 18 annual concerts from 1988 to 1994 (six); 1998 to 2002 (five) and 2004-2010 (seven).
• Mainly Sri Lankan artistes. We have also featured musicians/singers/artistes from the US, Britain, Germany, the Maldives, Canada, Australia and France among others.
• Regular performers have been Dirk & the Mavericks from Germany and British duo Astrid & Amelie while from local artistes, the Cosmic Rays, the Country Revival Band with Noel and Mariazelle have played at many concerts.
• All the performers have donated their services/expertise at these events. Not a single performer has charged for his or her services since 1988.
Ministry of Rehabilitation, UNICEF, Save the Children and several community-based organizations working with children.
Cargills Ceylon Ltd, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Ceylinco, Dialog, Mobitel, US Embassy, SriLankan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Oman Airlines, First Choice Airways, Sri Lanka Tourism, Trans Asia Hotel, Cinnamon Grand – Colombo, Mount Lavinia Hotel, Colombo Cricket Club, Dutch Burgher Union, CR & FC, the Sunday Times Business Club, Aitken Spence Hotels, Serendib Hotels, John Keells Hotels, Three Coins Beer and many more.
An annual concert of country and western and folk music usually held in a Colombo hotel, cricket ground or garden.
Money raised so far
More than 5 million Sri Lanka rupees (over $40,000) over a period of 22 years.
• No annual budget.
• Every event has a budget, which is worked out closer to the day.
• There are no full-time workers on the CMF payroll.
• The entire proceeds of the concert – ticket sales and sponsorship fees – goes to charity after deducting costs which are kept to a bare minimum.
• Thousands of needy and destitute children of Sri Lanka. The proceeds from the CMF concerts have been channelled to UNICEF-Save the Children projects that have included simple but crucial needs like drinking water, pre-school buildings, books and libraries.
• Two Wild West (Cowboy) Shows in 1993-94. These were two open-air concerts in a cowboy & carnival atmosphere at a cricket ground in Colombo.
• A CEO’s breakfast meeting focusing on children which was initiated by the CMF and jointly organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, UNICEF and CMF in October 2002. It was intended to urge Sri Lanka’s business community to provide funds for Sri Lankan children, through UNICEF.
• A collaborative effort by the CMF, UNICEF, Cargills group – a major supermarket chain and the Sunday Times Business Club to raise funds for a children’s library in the southern town of Hambantota in 2004 January.
• Part of the funds came from the Country Road VII concert, sponsorship from Cargills and the Sunday Times Business Club underwriting the project by raising the balance through a public workshop on management issues.
• At one of the concerts, CMF organisers had kept a small box wrapped in white paper with a “Help” tag near the entrance to the hall where patrons were encouraged to donate money as a means of helping the children in addition to patronising the concerts. That money went into the children’s project for that year. The following year, organisers completely forget about the “little white box with the Help tag” and were reminded about it when two old ladies came looking for the box – at the end of the concert – to contribute their mite towards the kids!
• Several years back, the UNICEF build two tube-wells in water-scarce villages in the northwestern region with money raised from one of the concerts. Many years later – at a time Tamil militants were battling government forces – during a visit by CMF and UNICEF officials to check on these tube-wells, officials found one well being well cared for by the community while the other well, in rebel-held territory, they were told was also cared for by the LTTE and the community. Officials didn’t cross to the other side to check this out but the information on the other well came from credible sources.
Future work/Way forward
Continuation of CMF’s annual concerts and launch of ChildAid – a series of World concerts for children. Making the world a better place for our children.