Happy International Country Music Day!

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And Happy Birthday Hank!

Feizal Samath of CMF-Sri Lanka:
Helping the Needy Through Music

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By Andoni Urkiaga

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka

We know that country music is a universal language, and that is why we celebrate the International Country Music Day: to promote country music internationally and to unite fans all over the world. Yet sometimes we are surprised Xabout how far country music has gone and how it can touch people’s hearts with its magic.Sri Lanka´s Country Music Foundation (CMF) was launched in that country in South Asia in 1988 as a non-profit organization with three objectives: promoting country/western and folk music, raising awareness on children's rights and raising funds for children in need.

This outfit was founded by Feizal Samath, a part-time country/folk singer and professional journalist then working for the Reuters news agency, who, having visited children in several refugee camps across that island nation as a writer, wanted to help these children and brighten up their lives. He was joined by his music colleague Juragan Majid, who is now responsible for the tasks of music production and concert organization.
All through these years, the CMF has heralded a range of activities, the most important being an annual concert titled "COUNTRY ROADS". The CMF acts as a bridge, bringing together the business community –as a socially responsible group-, UNICEF and Save The Children, and the public to work towards improving the lives of underprivileged and deprived children.

The concerts promoted by the CMF have helped to raise public awareness on children's rights and needs through music in addition to raising funds for these projects. Perhaps the most important message of these concerts has been the need to help children, particularly those affected by war or poverty.

This link between country music and charity in a distant country like Sri Lanka has amazed us, so we recently interviewed Feizal Samath for the new ICMDAY website.

ICMDAY: How come you have a passion for country music in a country like Sri Lanka? Do you identify yourselves with country music? I mean, your culture seems to be rather different from American country & western...

Feizal Samath: Yes. However it’s not quite amazing. There is a lot of interest in English pop music and in the 1950-60s, the most popular singers were Jim Reeves, Ricky Nelson, Elvis, etc, who were mostly country/country rock artists. In the 1990s, while there is a segment of the English-speaking population who enjoy all kinds of western music, country music and jazz have come to stay as popular forms of music enjoyed by many. Shops are filled with country cassettes and CDs. It’s not difficult to attract a 1,000-person audience for a good country show with top billing artistes. However there are very few bands here as not many hotel lobbies (where most bands get work) prefer to use country music artistes which is still not commercially popular. It has its own following.

ICMDAY: You are a journalist that loves country music, but one day you decided to launch the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka… Why did you have the idea to organize the Country Roads Festival?

Feizal Samath: I grew up on the music of Jim Reeves, Ricky and the guys in the 1960s and started playing a ukulele before progressing to a 6-string guitar and now a 12-string guitar. If I didn’t go into journalism as a profession (I have been a journalist for more than 25 years), I may have ended up as a professional musician! However in the late 1980s when I worked as a journalist for REUTERS International News agency in Colombo I traveled to many parts of the country covering the war that has ravaged this land. I regularly visited refugee camps and wrote about them, got a nice byline and many of the stories were carried across the world in newspapers. When I go back to these camps a few weeks later however I found that their plight (particularly children) hadn’t changed despite bringing local and world attention through my work as a journalist. This was the turning point: I thought to myself “I get a nice byline and a pat on the back for writing a nice story” but what about the plight of these kids, their life doesn’t change.

Since I was doing music as a hobby, I thought maybe I’ll do a small concert for children to raise some money for them. It was just meant to be one show, a feel-good show for me – to get the feeling that I have done something for them.

ICMDAY: How has this festival evolved through the years?

Feizal Samath: Continuing from my earlier response, the first concert in 1988 was an unbelievable success. We raised 30,000 Sri Lanka rupees (small change then and just US$300 according to current exchange rates) and donated this money to the government to help in a home for children orphaned by the war. A UNICEF official who came for the concert was impressed and asked whether UNICEF could get involved. I said yes and that’s how the show has evolved over the years into 16 concerts (with the March 16, 2008 event) and in which we have brought musicians from across the world to perform for needy children in Sri Lanka, playing side by side with their local counterparts. For the past two years our partners are Save The Children.

ICMDAY: Children are the innocent victims of many disasters. Do you think that music is a way of moving the wheel of positive change?

Feizal Samath: Definitely yes. Our message is using music to cut across all barriers and blocks and bring children into the spotlight in terms of their rights and needs. My work as a journalist has helped me spread this message through music. It has been a very enriching and rewarding experience for everyone who has been on the COUNTRY ROADS bandwagon. We have created change by helping children to read, write, study, acquire knowledge, make sure other non-victims of conflict emphathise with those affected, build schools so that children won’t be idle, etc. MOST IMPORTANTLY WE HAVE ALSO WORKED IN ALL THREE COMMUNITIES OF SRI LANKA – SINHALESE (MAJORITY COMMUNITY, TAMILS AND MUSLIMS, AND ALSO BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER TO WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM, AS A COMMUNITY.

Another aspect is that the Mavericks band from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK have no problems coming to Sri Lanka and say they want to help in spite of concerns about conflict, etc ... that might deter other tourists. Their position is that terrorism is happening in many parts of the world and that they want to help children here.

ICMDAY: Tell us about your collaboration with UNICEF.

Feizal Samath: In 1989, we began collaborating with UNICEF where we raise money through the show and handed over all these proceeds to UNICEF for a project that was designed with our input. UNICEF also contributed some costs. We would either have a separate project – building water wells; pre schools, workshops of rights; libraries, etc and join up with a UNICEF on-going project and sponsor a particular aspect of that project. This partnership worked for many years until 2005 (a total of 14 concerts) when we moved onto a special project of providing 15,000 mosquito nets to children and their families in remote areas, and then to work with Save the Children since 2007.

ICMDAY: Save the Children is another humanitarian organization you are collaborating with…

Feizal Samath: That’s right. We partnered Save the Children who have also been impressed by the work of the CMF. In 2007 together with Save the Children’s local community partners, under a 3-month project many events were held. These included providing libraries and books, child rights seminars, health camps, two day camps, etc. The children came from the northwest district of Mannar – in the heart of the war – and the northcentral district of Anuradhapura. At the end of the 3-month project, TAMIL children from Mannar came to Anuradhapura to join their Sinhalese colleagues in a joint 2-day camp. We hope to show the activities under this project on screen at the next concert. It was I would say one of our most productive years in helping children.

ICMDAY: What are your next projects to help children?

Feizal Samath: This year for the 16th annual concert, we are continuing to work with Save the Children, UK and the project this time is to raise money to provide a library and books to 14,000 children in a village in eastern Sri Lanka which has been cleared of terrorist activity. The village wanted a library and that’s how we have got involved. We are also continuing support to the village in Anuradhapura as they have a few unfinished work.

ICMDAY: This year you have done it again, and the Country Roads Festival will have another exciting group of artists playing on its stage. Tell us about them.

Feizal Samath: Yes, the concert will be held on March 16th, 2008 at the grand 200-year old Mount Lavinia Hotel and features the Mavericks from Germany, folk singers Astrid and Amelie from the UK and local artistes.

Astrid Brooks and Amelie in 2010 Country Roads

The german band, Mavericks, in 2010 Country Roads

The Mavericks (4-piece band) will be one of the star attractions. You could view them on www.mavericks.de for details and how they have helped Sri Lanka. The band has been playing in Sri Lanka for the past 10-12 years. In addition we have two folk/country female singers from UK, Astrid Brooke and Amelie. Local bands include the COUNTRY REVIVAL BAND (with myself on 6-string ukulele/12-string acoustic/vocals and four others two of whom are playing banjo and harmonica – we generally do some good, old country songs), and two bands – Cosmic Rays and ANNO DOMINO. We try to change the flavour every year by introducing different instruments. This time we’ll have – in addition to guitars and drums -, ukulele, banjo, pedal steel and dobro. On occasion we have also brought in an east-west fusion set up like an acoustic guitar player backed by Indian traditional drums called TABLA OR GHATAM which provides a rich east-west sound!

ICMDAY: What is the future of Country Roads?

Feizal Samath: Very good – though its getting more difficult for me every year as I am getting on the years (started this show at 34 years and 20 years later, I am now 54 years). Because of my solid contacts as a journalist and now a Business Editor at a local newspaper, I have many contacts for sponsorship and financial support. Without that, we wouldn’t have gone this far. We have solid backing from the US embassy in Colombo too. My involvement in everything – organizing local/foreign artistes, getting hotels/airlines sponsorship, financial sponsors, etc – is paramount as I have all the contacts. Thus I am compelled to get involved in every issue or organization. Every cent we raise goes to children. All costs are kept to a minimum. The CMF doesn’t change a cent for administration and organization.

I am hoping to run it as long as the 25th concert (in 2016) and then maybe hand it over to a TRUST to take it along – that’s if it is physically impossible in terms of my active participation. In the past 2-3 years, every year we raise between Rs 500,000 to Rs 750,000 per year (that’s about US$5,000 to $7,500) which is sizable in local terms and a lot of children benefit from this. God willing this will continue.

ICMDAY: Country music is listened to, danced to, and enjoyed around the world. What is your message to the world for the next International Country Music Day?

Feizal Samath:
Country Music as Sri Lanka has shown is being used to show the world that we need to care for the underprivileged and the needy. Our message is, and always has been – Dedicated to helping the needy of the world through music.

Country Music, as we have also proved, can be any form of music; traditional, eastern, western – reflecting the cultures of the people; the values of society. Country music, unlike any other music form is easily reflected in its name itself “COUNTRY”. Where there is a country and people who are friendly, there is country music.

ICMDAY: Good Luck and Ayubowan (May You Live More), Feizal.

Feizal Samath: Ayubowan.



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The International Country Music Day was created in 2003 in order to bring together all artists, musicians, and country music fans all over the world, as well as to promote our music worldwide. Since then associations, magazines, radio stations, websites, artists and fans all over the world support this celebration.

This wonderful family is growing, and so we would like to invite you to join the medias, the associations, and websites that want to celebrate this day, enjoying country music across the world, getting united and promoting this great music.

There is no cost at all, and there are three kinds of memberships, depending on who you are:


It is ideal for associations, foundations, and generic or specialized websites.

You are able to vote and opine about the development and activities of the organization. The important decisions are taken by the majority of the associated members.

You must release two press releases in your web and upload our logo, from July 17th to September 17th at least.

We will upload your logo, link to your web, and release your main press notes (in English) throughout the year.


It is a good way of compromising for medias and websites with no information or news.

You are able to opine about the development and activities of the organization, and we will listen to you when it comes to making the important decisions.

You must upload our logo, from July 17th to September 17th at least to support the goals of the ICMDAY, and you must also upload a link to our website.

We will upload your logo, a link to your web, and release your main press notes (in English) throughout the year.


You are an individual country music fan or an artist and you have a personal website, a group, a blog, or a profile in MySpace, Facebook, etc. Please support the International Country Music Day by uploading our logo in your site and linking to our web.

Please let us know when you do it. You will be collaborating with a good cause. You will be promoting country music all over the world and getting in touch with thousands of country music fans no matter how far they live and listen to country music.

We will try to recognize and mention your support. We would like to THANK YOU VERY MUCH in advance and encourage you to KEEP IT COUNTRY!

The International Country Music Day is held on September 17 every year, commemorating the birth of Hank Williams, one of the foremost legends of country music.

(*) Please note that both the Associated and Collaborator Memberships will require the approval of the ICMDAY Organization.

Hank Williams Tribute in Montevideo, Uruguay

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The second edition of the Hank Williams tribute (La Noche de Hank Williams) was held last September 16 in Montevideo, Uruguay, paying tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter, and celebrating a new edition of the International Country Music Day. Uruguayan artist John Fisher opened the night with his acoustic renditions of such Williams' classics as "I don´t care (if tomorrow never comes)", "(Last night) I heard you crying in your sleep", "I´m so lonesome I could cry", "Lonesome whistle", "There´ll be no teardrops tonight", "I´d still want you", "Lovesick blues", "Hey good lookin´", "I´m a long gone daddy", "There´s a tear in my beer."

Invited to perform on this night, Argentinian duo Hard Travelin´ covered more of Hank's compositions, which included "Alone and forsaken", "Nobody´s lonesome for me", "I´ll never get out of this world alive", "Swing wide your gate of love", "My main trial is yet to come", "Wedding bells", "Howlin´ at the moon", "I just don´t like this kind of living", "I can´t help it (if I´m still in love with you)", "You´re gonna change (or I´m gonna leave)", "Be careful of stones that you throw", "I want to live and love", "Take this chains from my heart", "Moanin´ the blues."

The five-piece band Honky Tonk Blues, also from Uruguay, was in charge of the second part of the tribute. Honky Tonk Blues is a band which specializes on the music of the unforgettable Williams and therefore, they offered their personal renditions of "I can´t get you off of my mind", "Long gone lonesome blues", "Cold cold heart", "You win again", "Honky tonkin´", "Move it on over", "Mind your own business", "Why don´t you love me", "Settin´the woods on fire". Singer Andrea Pochellú was their special guest to perform on such classics as "Honky tonk blues" and "Your cheatin´ heart". The show closed with Fisher, Hard Travelin, Pochellu and Honky Tonk Blues performing "Jambalaya" . The event took place at the prestigious Shannon Irish Pub in Montevideo, Uruguay, where the two-night Tribute to Elvis Presley by Uruguayan band Bel Air was held in August. All these shows have been sponsored by the Country Music Association of Uruguay (Asociacion de Musica Country de Uruguay, AMCU) and Zona Country Prod.

Raúl Tejeiro
President of AMCU, Association of Counrty Music of Uruguay

Elvis Presley’s “I Forgot To Remember to Forget” Chosen as Official Song of the Internacional Country Music Day 2007

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“I Forgot To Remember to Forget has been chosen by the readers of http://internationalcountrymusicday.blogspot.com/ as the song that brings together country music artists and fans all over the world, as well as representing the values that our music stands for during the International Country Music Day, which is held every year on September 17.

This year, the associations and websites that are taking part in the event: Country Music Association of Spain -CMA-Spain-, Country Music Association of Uruguay –AMCU-, country2.com –Argentina-, Country CD –France- (fomerly FACM), Country Music Association of Greece –CMA-Greece-, United States Hispanic Country Music Association and Dímelo Country –DCWR-.have decided to pay tribute to Elvis Presley on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his passing, thereby honoring his outstanding contributions to the country music field.

Country fans all over the world have made their choice among a list that includes Elvis’ 11 best country numbers. The winning song, “I Forgot To Remember to Forget” got 32 % of the votes, just in front of “Always On My Mind,” which came out second with 20 % of the votes, and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” which came out third with 16 % of the votes.

Jessi Colter on the Internacional Country Music Day

Country singer Jessi Colter, wife of the late country great Waylon Jennings, has praised the celebration of the Country Music Day: “I think it’s a very good idea. Country music fans all over the world are always very kind and really appreciate the music. They deserve something like this!”

International Country Music Day Keeps Growing

New associations and websites such as TISBA (The International Singing Brakeman Association, devoted to the promotion of the memory of the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers) and the Hispanic country website latonky.com have decided to support this non-profit celebration starting next year. The organizers of the International Country Music Day invite everyone interested in promoting cooperation between country artists, professionals, and fans worldwide to join the celebration.

The International Country Music Day is held every year on September 17, commemorating the birthday of Hank Williams.

Come celebrate with us and enjoy country music!

The stories behind these country songs by Elvis.

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2007 marks the 30th anniversary of Elvis' passing, and therefore, the country music associations and websites that celebrate this special occasion would like to honor the legend of the King.

By his own admission, Elvis was not strictly a country artist, but he always showed a great deal of respect for the genre and went on to record countless country numbers, giving country music his own special touch. That is why we have decided to honor Elvis and his musical legacy by designating one of his songs as the Official Song of the International Country Music Day 2007.

Vote for your favourite song. The winning song will come out of votes cast in Argentina, Spain, the United States, France, Greece, Uruguay, and the rest of the world.

Blue Moon of Kentucky (1954)
Released as his first single, it was the song that Elvis chose for his only appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, where he was greeted with light applause. However, even Bill Monroe would eventually update his early version inspired by Elvis’ reading of the song.

I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (1955)
The first Elvis song that made it to the national country music charts, peaking at number 5 on Billboard in July 1955.

I Forgot to Remember to Forget (1955)
Like the previous songs, this one was released on the Memphis-based Sun label, and it delves deep into the hillbilly side of the style that was flourishing at the beginning of Elvis’ career, which would be known as rockabilly.

(Now and Then) There’s a Fool Such as I (1958)
This Hank Snow original is a good example of how Elvis understood country music when he switched labels and started his tenure with RCA, where he would cross paths with legendary country guitarist and producer Chet Atkins.

There’s Always Me (1961)
Rock’n’roll, the music for which Elvis became known, represented an important threat for country music. Therefore, the genre looked towards pop in order to broaden the market and thus the Nashville Sound was born. On this recording, Elvis shows his ability to assimilate to the new style.

Guitar Man (1967)
Elvis waxed many Jerry Reed originals. This number was initially included in one of his movie soundtracks and became a highlight of Elvis’ career when it was performed on his 1968 NBC-TV Comeback Special. In 1981, it rose all the way to the top of the country charts, which is ample proof that Elvis’ popularity and importance did not diminish after his passing.

I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago (1970)
This song was divided into twelve small sound bits that were placed at the end of each track on his 1970 Elvis Country LP, turning it into an unusual concept album. The song would not be heard in its entirety until two years later, when it was finally restored and included in the album Elvis Now.

Little Cabin on the Hill (1970)
Another Bill Monroe number (co-written with guitarist Lester Flatt) covered by Elvis. Although it sounds close to the original, Elvis still manages to give it his own personal touch.

Always on My Mind (1972)
Elvis’ recording of this song only peaked at number 16 on the country charts, yet it is one of his best-known songs. This is perhaps due to the fact that his divorce from Priscilla was very near, and so this song had a special meaning for him, which shows through in his performance.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1973)
Elvis never forgot his roots, and Hank Williams was one of his foremost influences. Recorded live in Hawaii, his version of this song became a mainstay of his live performances in the 1970s.

Moody Blue (1977)
Elvis’ last country number one hit, which charted not long before his passing. The style with which he began his career would eventually earn him his last hit.

Artists and Country music personalities talk about the International Country Music Day

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“Music is life, or a good way... Don’t matter if you’re talking about country, blues or flamenco. If you can discover a new kind of music (that is, a new world) to any man, that’s great. I think it’s good news that people all over the world get together for the love of country or of any other kind of music. There are already too many people who get together to kill one another.”

Kris Kristofferson

"It is a very good idea (to celebrate in on Hank Williams’ birthday), because he was the one who really made people notice this kind of music. There were guitars and perhaps similar music before him – Jimmie Rodgers, we had the old sounds of bluegrass, but he was the one who brought it to the fore.”

Wanda Jackson

“I am honored as his daughter, and I know that if he was alive today he would be honored.”

Jett Williams

“I think it’s fabulous because Hank Williams has a huge influence on my music. My parents lived country music, and they always had… well, we always had country music playing at home, and a great deal of it was by Hank Williams, so there can’t be a better day to celebrate it.”

Billy Yates

"It’s a good idea. I like it. There are great country music fans everywhere. And great country music bands. Some people think that country music is only made in the US but I have realized that there are incredible bands in places like France or Germany. It’s great that all those country music fans can celebrate this feeling together.”

Gail Davies

"It’s wonderful! I believe that everything that’s made to promote country music and bring it to more people is good. It’s sensational that the country music fans worldwide have a link in common. And in addition, Hank Williams!!"

Heather Myles

In the words of Raúl Tejeiro, president of AMCU: “We are proud that the International Country Music Day has been an initiative of a Spanish-speaking country and that others embrace this idea. This shows the universality of this music that we love and that has surely crossed frontiers and language barriers.”

Gustavo Laurino, country2.com manager and promoter of the San Pedro Country Music festival (Argentina) thinks “there is no doubt that this idea, which brought us together with friends living far away several years ago, may be extremely helpful in spreading country music to those countries that have not been very acquainted with the genre. So far our experience has been fabulous since it has enabled us to get in touch with people all around the world. I hope most of you will stay in touch with each of the organizations that have eagerly come together in order to celebrate this special event.”

Florent Dufour, President of the French Association of Country Music considers this date highly appropriate: “The international country music day is a great opportunity to bring country fans all over the world together. And for sure, country music is the best way for that. It offers a great chance to promote country music, to help people discover country music. Thanks all of you for helping country music grow up. And united we stand.”

Areti Traka, expresident of the Country Music Association of Greece expressed her opinion about this day: "Country music is an inspiration. Events like the International Country Music Day bring us together in an effort to spread this inspiration all over the world. As of this year, we are happy to be a part of this and many other efforts. On September 17, our hearts will beat to the rhythm of country music!".

Maritza Baca, president of the U.S. Hipanic Country Music Association said: "I salute the International Country Music Day for it's efforts in extending Country music to fans worldwide. I do not believe that Country music has borders. I have met many Hispanics who perform Country music in many cities accross the U.S ., I have been to Mexico and have seen people there listen to Country music in English and Spanish. I believe Country music is very universal. Que viva la música country!" .