The three biggest sources of influence in Sri Lankan music originate in the cultural traditions deriving from Buddhism, from the aftereffects of Portuguese colonization, and the commercial and historical influence of Indian culture.
Buddhism is said to have arrived in Sri Lanka after the Buddha's visit to the island in 300 BC. Though it is debated as to how the Buddha made this journey, many believe that he did so by traveling across Rama's Bridge (the land bridge that is believed to have once connected the two present-day nations of India and Sri Lanka). Following this visit, it is believed that many of the local populus began converting to the Theravada sect of Buddhism, and it is the influence of this faith that continues to manifest itself in Sri Lankan music.
Portuguese colonizers arrived centuries after the Buddha, in the mid 1400s, bringing with them cantiga ballads, ukuleles and guitars; as well as African slaves (referred to, historically, as kaffrinhas), who brought with them a style of music now referred to as baila. The people of these two regions, and the musical traditions they brought with them, served to contribute further to the diverse musical roots of modern Sri Lankan music.