Baila music is a staple of Sri Lankan culture.

The genre originated as a blend of two Sri Lankan communities: the kaffir population – descendents of enslaved African brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese – and the Portuguese-descended Burghers. Baila is characterized by its distinct beat, taken from colonial influences, mixed with traditional Sinhalese or Tamil lyrics. The lyrics are often comical and reflect daily realities, with ballad topics ranging from marital fights to fresh fish.

The genre has shifted and changed since its inception, adapting to global influences. More recently, spinoff genres like bailatronic have become popular, mixing traditional baila beats with electronic dance music.

Baila’s upbeat, percussive sound doesn’t take itself too seriously, and its infectious energy has made the genre widely popular among Sri Lankans and Sri Lankan diaspora communities. Like the name suggests, baila is known for bringing everyone together on the dance floor. The silly lyrics and compelling rhythm make baila a must-have at Sri Lankan parties.

I’ve put together a playlist of some of the uncle- and aunty-favorites mixed in with newer baila styles, all great additions to a summer mix.

Enjoy the variety that these Sri Lankan hits have to offer!