December 21, 2011

Amaradeva the Lure of a Maestro - The Name is still Magic

By Dee Cee (Kala Korner)

(By courtesy of, 26th June 2011)

The name is still magic. The fact that hundreds who turned up at the BMICH on Sunday evening had to go away disappointed without tickets is ample testimony to the maestro's lure. They had come even from far off places like Trincomalee and were keen to enjoy what was publicised as "a rare musical treat with Pandit Amaradeva". It was titled after one of his most popular songs –Sasara wasana thuru and introduced as Amara gee rasoghaya.

The Channa-Upuli team set the pace for the evening with a glittering presentation of dances for a medley of Amaradeva numbers starting with Aetha kandukara himav arane – Mahagama Sekera's creation for Chitrasena's ballet Nala Damayanthi for which Amaradeva composed and directed the music over four decades ago. Renowned musician Rohana Weerasinghe provided the music for the medley which brought back the haunting memories of the Amaradeva touch. Channa Wijewardena excelling as the foremost innovator in today's dance scene, had cleverly created the dances to suit the themes of the different songs. The fast moving spectacle was well executed.

The presence of a highly talented tabla exponent, Parthasarathi Mukherjee (he has had the distinction of playing in the orchestra at the opening of the Athens Olympic Games a few years back) and a promising young sarangi player, Farooque Lateef Khan – both from India added colour to the evening's performance. The tabla and the geta bera duet between Mukherjee and our own Ravibandu was a treat. How they understood the musical language of each other's instruments was amazing. It was good entertainment.

The evening was more a felicitation to Pandit Amaradeva with a number of top level artistes contributing songs which either he had created for them or on a rare instance, one of them had composed for him - as was the case with Sanath Nandasiri, who confessed that it was with unease that he was singing Maha vessata pera….kabaaya irila which the maestro had sung in the 1980s.

Then there was a golaya – Edward Jayakody who was Amaradeva's pupil in the College of Music. He remembered the days when he used to get a lift from the teacher. Often Edward would accompany him to the Broadcasting Corporation and sing in the chorus at his concerts. An unforgettable incident was when the teacher asked him to sing a number over the radio when he heard him humming it and was impressed. "A moment I will never forget in my life," Edward said.

When Sunil Edirisinghe prompted the maestro to join him in the duet Patu adahas which both of them had sung for a Madhuvanti programme, he was most willing. Even though somewhat feeble, the maestro was in his element when he sang Sasara vasana thuru – the theme song of the evening and many more including Chando ma bilinde – the popular lullaby based on a Rabindranath Tagore creation he had sung with the Indian singer in the mid- 1950s.

To wind up, he insisted on playing a violin solo and to back him invited tablist Mukherjee who willingly obliged.

Bouquet for the Foundation The Amaradeva Foundation deserves a big bouquet for organizing the musical evening. Of course, the person behind the operation was the maestro's son, Ranjana who spent sleepless nights to see that a show worth his father's name was put up as a tribute to Pandit Amaradeva's contribution to Sinhala music.

Ranjana was also instrumental in getting down Mukherjee to conduct a highly successful five-day training workshop for up and coming players at the Jana Kala Kendra.

It is good to see the Foundation which was set up a few years back quietly moving into action. The Indian High Commission has collaborated with the Foundation to award a scholarship to a student for post-graduate studies at Bhatkande University. The Foundation is under the Public Trustee who accepts contributions to it.

A keep-sake publication

An attractive souvenir designed by Wijayabandara of 'The Design Master' was also released that evening. The well laid-out, high quality production carries a series of rare photographs. Several admirers have contributed articles.

Describing Amaradeva as "the colossus in the field of Sinhala music since the middle of the 20th century", Prof. K.N.O Dharmadasa summarizes his career in an informative discussion. He analyses "the fruits of Amaradeva's labours in musical creativity" lucidly.

To Carlo Fonseka, "beyond any manner of doubt the greatest man in the history of modern Sinhala music is W.D. Amaradeva (b.1927) who is still blessedly with us and musically active". Listing some attributes of the man, Carlo refers to his phenomenal creative talent; his unique singing voice; his wide knowledge of musical traditions of the world; his sheer virtuosity as an instrumentalist; and his profound and sensitive grasp of the language of Sinhala poetry.

The souvenir also carries Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne's moving address at the felicitation to Amaradeva on his return with the Magsaysay Award.

12 Cellos to play for you

The cellists of the Cantando Cello Ensemble are busy rehearsing for their next concert on July 7 at the Lionel Wendt. The Cantando Ensemble consists of 12 cellists who are led and directed by Dushy Perera, well-known soloist, teacher and principal cellist of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka.

This year the performance will include Johann Strauss’ ever-popular ‘Overture to Die Fledermaus’, Elegiac pieces by Grieg and J.S. Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concerto No. 3’.

They will also perform music in lighter vein, with the second half of the programme showcasing the instrument’s versatility and flexibility in Claude Bolling’s ‘Suite for Cello’ and ‘Jazz Trio’ and the Tangos ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Libertango’ by Jacob Gade and Astor Piazzolla.

Performing with Cantando this year are the Menaka Singers, who will collaborate with the cellists in a selection of show tunes guaranteed to send you home humming. The concert proceeds will be donated to the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation. Tickets and box plan will be available at the Lionel Wendt office.

1 comment:

  1. Magic indeed. Maestro's name will forever be mentioned wherever Sri Lankan music is mentioned.