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Sri Lanka’s ‘Hellfire’ music festival to go ahead as planned amid religious outcry

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ECONOMYNEXT – An electronic dance music (EDM) festival named ‘Hellfire’ to be held at Sri Lanka’s recently opened Lotus Tower will go ahead as planned, organisers said, despite opposition from religious quarters and the Colombo mayor for allegedly promoting satanism.

However, unconfirmed reports said that the name has been changed to just ‘Fire’ at the last minute.

Security has been tightened in the vicinity of the Chinese-built Lotus Tower with the support of Sri Lanka’s military, the event’s organiser who identifies himself as Thorz said.

On Thursday September 28, Thorz leaked a video recording of a telephone conversation between himself and Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake who could be heard expressing strong opposition to the name chosen for the festival, on religious grounds. She was heard urging that the name ‘Hellfire’ be changed.

“I will not allow you to venerate Satanic music for Satan in my city,” Senanayake was heard saying.

“I will get the Buddhist clergy and everyone else against this concert. Please change your [theme]. A lot of people are writing to me and asking me to stop this concert. I have the power to endorse your tickets or not endorse your tickets,” she said.

Senanayake was evidently not interested in Thorsz’s protestations, ignoring his insistence that there was no such intention behind the name.

“Please change the theme. I don’t want to see a hell fire concert in my city where I have control. And I will do everything in my power to make sure people will [not come to your concert],” Senanyaka was heard saying.

Thorz was previously associated with the Electric Mask Festival (EMF), another EDM festival he had reportedly organised in March 2022 that was held at the Chinese-built Colombo Porty City, not long before Sri Lanka’s youth-led Aragalaya (Struggle) protest movement began against what turned out to be the country’s worst currency crisis in decades.

His phone conversation with Senanayake was part of a longer video Thorz had posted to his Facebook page explaining the incident. He claimed there was an attempt to cancel the event at the last minute due to some religious groups wrongly portraying it as a gathering of devil worshippers.

“Some people think that we are organising this festival to bring in the youth to worship Satan.  Some people are making me out to be Satan,” Thorz said in his video statement.

He said there were already rumors prior to the call about a campaign planned against the event though the organisers nor the concertgoers had taken it seriously.

“We saw there was a campaign against us but we didn’t take it seriously. But on Wednesday (September 28), we got a call from Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake, which made us realise how seriously people were taking the theme we have chosen for the festival,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Thorz posted several pictures of people gathered in different locations over the past few days protesting the theme of the festival.

The organisers said the festival will continue as planned as all payments have been made and legal clearance has already been given by the authorities.

The mayoral protest notwithstanding, Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has also authorised the festival in a document signed by Commissioner Badrani Jayawardena.

In the permission letter, the organisers have been advised not to conduct any activities that can be harmful to any religion, belief or a way of life in the country and that the name ‘Hellfire’ not be displayed. (Colombo/Sep30/2022)

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