Kala Korner by Dee Cee


The Sinhala touch at Sydney Opera House

To perform at the Sydney Opera House is indeed a prestigious for any artiste. For renowned musician Rohana Weerasinghe September 3 will be a night to remember when he leads an orchestra of 25 to provide music for some of the finest artistes from Sri Lanka in a performance.

Sri Lankans are bound to fill the Opera House to hear and enjoy the voices of their favourite singers who will sing Rohana’s compositions just as they did four years ago at the BMICH when they rallied to pay tribute to his musical career spanning three decades. The show was fittingly titled 'Beloved Rohana'.

At least 15 members of the Opera House youth orchestra will join Rohana's troupe from Sri Lanka to provide the music. They will form the string family of the orchestra. Notations have been sent to them and they have already started rehearsing. Ten big names among the local instrumentalists will accompany Rohana.

The singers include Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe, Edward Jayakody, Deepika Priyadarshani and several others. They have been with Rohana for many years helping him in his endeavours to improve the quality of Sinhala music. A special attraction will be the child singer Harshana whose award winning song in 'Sooriya Arana' is still being talked about.

After the show in Sydney, they will move on to Melbourne to perform there before returning to Sri Lanka.

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Tony in the sixties

As I was reflecting on Tony Ranasinghe's career spanning over 50 years when he was being felicitated in style, I remembered an incident dating back to the mid 1960s when he had taken the stage by storm as a member of Sugathapala de Silva's 'Ape Kattiya'.

Tony at the felicitation ceremony

It was an evening at Lumbini - the Mecca of Sinhala Theatre in the sixties. The show was due to begin at 7. At 6.50 Tony, the key man was missing. A packed hall was waiting impatiently for the curtains to go up. They had heard so much about the play. The other players were getting uneasy. Everyone wondered whether he would not turn up. But Sugath was cool. He was confident Tony would turn up. At 6.55 the man arrived. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. He had rushed from Kandy where he was on location that afternoon shooting a film. With a bottle of orange barley in one hand and the script in the other, he retired to a corner to brush up his lines.

Within a few minutes he was walking through the audience to reach the stage with five other players - the opening sequence of the much-talked about 'Harima Badu Hayak', a thematic adaptation of Pirandello's 'Six Characters in Search of an Author'. (Walking behind Tony were Prema Ganegoda, Malini Weeramuni, Wickrema Bogoda, Anura and Kamani Ganegoda). Clad in a white bush shirt, a dark pair of trousers and wearing a pair of sandals, I vividly remember Tony looking much older than he really was. He was playing the role of a father with grown up children.

Tony was a regular in Ape Kattiya. He had made his mark as a happy-go lucky type on 'Boardingkaarayo' (1962) followed by the highly controversial Dharmasiri Wickremaratne's production 'Ran Thodu' (1963) and was adjudged Best Actor, 'Tattu Geval' (1964) and 'Harima Badu Hayak' (1965).

Tony played a key role in bringing back the audiences to dialogue drama at a time when stylised drama was the order of the day following 'Maname' (1956).
Just as much as Tony was in demand for stage dramas, he was also sought after for films. Lester James cast him as the happy-go-lucky village lad Baladasa in Gamperaliya and also in the lead role of 'Delovak Atara' as a dashing youngster in a rich family.

He also played the role of a carefree youth in 'Ran Salu' and by the time he played the estate supervisor in Gamini Fonseka's 'Parasathu Mal', he had proved his screen talents.

Tony has had an illustrious career and is still in demand. Now he prefers to concentrate on writing - both books and screenplays. Fifty years is a long stint for any actor. Continue the good work, Tony. Chirang Jayatu!

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Eshantha back with his creations

More readily recognized on the local music scene for his appearances as a classical pianist and rock keyboardist, Eshantha Peiris will return to the stage to present a recital of his original musical compositions at the Russian Cultural Centre Hall on August 18 and 19 at 7.15p.m.

Eshantha, who is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Music Composition at New York University (where he also teaches in the piano department), began his training in piano and music theory with Ramya Perera, and later furthered his passion for the creative side of music under the guidance of composers Marc-Antonio Consoli (Classical), Ira Newborn (film) and Jim McNeely (jazz), while picking up a Diploma and of Bachelor's degree (sponsored by Prima Ceylon Ltd.) in piano performance along the way.

The recital programme consists mainly of chamber-sized classical and jazz compositions written by Eshantha within the last four years, with some of the works having been composed/arranged especially for the weekend’s performers. The talented performer line-up comprises several of Sri Lanka’s emerging generation of musicians, including vocalists Anjuli Gunaratne and Eranga Goonetilleke, string instrumentalists Namali Fernando (cello), Amal Abeysekera (viola) and Satish Casie Chetty (violin) flautists Sureka Amerasinghe, Tilanka Jayamanne, Ruvindra Angunawela, Natasha Senanayake, and Johann Peiris (alto flute), drummer Sumudi Suraweera, bass guitarist Alston Joachim, and the composer himself at the piano. Also featured will be a composition each from Sri Lankan composer Natasha Senanayake and Brazilian composer Edmundo Villani-Cortes.

Entrance is by programmes available at the Russian Cultural Centre (open 9 a.m.-7p.m. daily). The main sponsor of the event is F & G Property Developers (Pvt.) Ltd.

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It’s buzzing time again

The Book Buzz series is back in action, this time round giving the audience an opportunity to appreciate the work of two Gratiaen Award-winning writers, Jagath Kumarasinghe and Neil Fernandopulle on Thursday, August 17 at 6 p.m. at the British Council, Colombo. The event is open to all on a first-come first-served basis.

Jagath Kumarasinghe

Jagath is a product of Uva College Badulla. He has worked as a Sinhala feature writer and later as a Sinhala copywriter. His book Kider Chetty Street won the Gratiaen Prize in 2004.

Neil is a stark contrast to Jagath, in that, he calls himself a “molecular biologist by trade and a writer by habit”. When he is not engaged in performing DNA analysis in forensic investigations, he writes, mostly short fiction.

Neil Fernandopulle

He was jointly awarded the Gratiaen prize for 1999 for his collection of short stories, titled Shrapnel. He was again shortlisted for the same award in 2004 for his first novel, This Side of Serendipity, which he still considers to be a work-in-progress.

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